The following is a transcript of a recent telephone conversation between a service representative of the Universal Order’s Department of the Meaning of It All (UODMIA) and the 4,278,930,265th dissatisfied customer of the day:
[3:48am EDT, 9/22/10, Call Origination: Paskaloochee, FN, USA]
UODMIA: Blessings. You have reached the Universal Order’s Department of the Meaning of It All’s customer service hotline: providing 24 hours of soothing, teleological calm in the face of self-annihilating mortality. Para español, oprima numero siete, por favor. Please listen to following list of options and choose the one that best suits your reason for calling.
For non-theistic religions, please press 1. For all other religions, please stay on the line.
[Sound of tone-dialing followed by brief silence.]
Please hold while we connect you to one of our service operators.
[Muzak™ arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”]
All of our operators are currently assisting other CUSTOMERs. Please stay on the line and we will address your call in the order in which it was received.
[Muzak™ arrangement of The Kinks “Tired of Waiting For You”]
UODMIA: It’s a great day here at the DMIA. My name is Gabriel. May I have your account number?
CUSTOMER: My account – I, uh, I’m afraid I don’t know my account number.
UODMIA: That’s perfectly alright. I can look it up under your name.
CUSTOMER: Oh, ok. My name is ____ ______.
UODMIA: Could you spell that for me, please?
CUSTOMER: Sure. First name _-_-_-_, last name _- apostrophe _-_-_-_.
UODMIA: Thank you, Mr. ______. I’m pulling up your account now. Hold, please.
[Muzak™ arrangement of the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is on My Side”]
UODMIA: Okay, Mr. ______. How can we assist you today?
CUSTOMER: Well, there seems to be something wrong with my service.
UODMIA: My records indicate you have been a customer since August 16, 1977 and I do not show a scheduled interruption of service for quite sometime. Can you describe the nature of your problem?
CUSTOMER: Not exactly. It’s kind of hard to put into words. It’s just – well, the world just seems off, somehow. It’s like it’s all one, writhing mass of meaningless chaos – violence, illness, death, futility, inequality, injustice – you name it.
UODMIA: Yes, Sir. And what seems to be the problem?
CUSTOMER. I, uh – Wait. What? I just – weren’t you listening?
UODMIA: Of course, Sir, and it sounds like your service is working perfectly.
CUSTOMER: But it’s – it’s all so horrible!
UODMIA: That depends on where in the world you happen to be, not to mention which package tier you can afford. Our coverage area is in constant flux, as well, though you are in an area of relative stability.
CUSTOMER: But that’s just it; I’m completely aware of the terrible service elsewhere. I can’t take a trip or turn on the news without getting depressed at the state of the wider world.
UODMIA: That is hardly our fault, Mr. ______. Might I suggest you just stay where you are and avoid news outlets whenever possible? Your package provides a variety of features to ensure maximum enjoyment from our service, with minimum distraction from the world outside.
CUSTOMER: Are you suggesting I should simply remain oblivious?
UODMIA: That is entirely up to you, Sir. I can’t make those kinds of decisions for you.
CUSTOMER: But it’s already here, in my head, in my heart. I can’t just block it out.
UODMIA: As I said before, Mr. ______, that is hardly our fault.
CUSTOMER: But you provide the service.
UODMIA: We provide the platform, yes, but you provide the content.
CUSTOMER: Hold on. Are you saying this is my fault?
UODMIA: Not yours alone, Sir. You share the blame with the rest of humanity.
CUSTOMER: Excuse me?
UODMIA: If you examine the literature provided to you at the time of installation, you’ll find all you need to know.
[Sound of CUSTOMER flipping through pages.]
CUSTOMER: I don’t see –
UODMIA: Look under Section II, Subsection G: Original Sin, Karmic Debt, and Other Guilt Burdens.
[Sound of CUSTOMER flipping through pages, followed by a long pause.]
CUSTOMER: This thing reads like stereo instructions.
UODMIA: Allow me to paraphrase, Mr. ______. The basic idea is that the state of the world is due either to the consequences of an act of disobedience committed by the prehistoric progenitors of your species or by actions performed by you in a past existence that can neither be proven nor remembered.
CUSTOMER: Well, I must have been drunk off my ass when I signed up for this service. Hell, I don’t recall even signing up for it.
UODMIA: That’s because you were already signed up before you even existed and your specific core package tier was determined by the socio-economic situation into which you were born.
CUSTOMER: Look! I don’t care what the cause is. How do we fix it?
UODMIA: Our service technician is en route, even as we speak.
CUSTOMER: Great! That’s what I want to hear. When will he be here?
UODMIA: Sometime between the hours of 9 and 5.
CUSTOMER: So, you’re saying between now and the end of time.
UODMIA: Exactly, Sir. Unless, of course, you die first, in which case your service will improve or worsen dramatically, depending on various factors.
CUSTOMER: What kind of factors?
UODMIA: Merits earned versus debts accrued, predestination, the public profession and promotion of a specific subset of beliefs that, while true, are utterly indistinguishable from an infinite number of false beliefs in the set of all possible beliefs – things of that nature.
CUSTOMER: Okay. So, I wait until help arrives or I die and am judged based upon the accuracy of my own wild, shot-in-the-dark guess at ultimate truth – but my current service will continue as is.
UODMIA: You have a little wiggle room, but the service will most likely remain as it is, yes.
CUSTOMER: And what am I supposed to do in the meantime?
UODMIA: In the meantime, just follow the instructions in the literature provided to you at –
CUSTOMER: – at the time of installation, right?
UODMIA: Precisely, Sir.
CUSTOMER: The literature that reads like stereo instructions?
UODMIA: Yes, Sir. Have you tried asking your neighbors or a local, service technician to clarify the wording for you?
CUSTOMER: I gave up on that long ago. Everyone I asked claimed to understand the manual perfectly, but everyone’s interpretation contradicted everyone else’s. So, I tried reading it myself, decided it was hopelessly indecipherable at best and contradictory at worst, and ended up tossing it in a junk drawer.
UODMIA: I understand, Sir. How else can I assist you today?
CUSTOMER: I don’t suppose you can cancel my service.
UODMIA: I’m afraid that’s impossible, Sir.
CUSTOMER: Well, then, never mind. I’ll just fix it myself.
UODMIA: If you say so, Sir. Is there anything else I can do for you?
CUSTOMER: No, thanks. I think I’ve been serviced enough for one day.