Man on the Phone

The man on the phone
Says I’m more than sixty days behind
He wants me to make a payment
I tell him I will
He wants to know when

I tell him within the next three days
He asks me if I'm sure
I tell him of course

But I know
I may be lying
And he probably does, too.

He wants to know why I’m late…
“Still at the supermarket job?” he asks.
I tell him no
OK, I’ll make a note of that…
So you’re unemployed???
Ok…so you have a NEW job, that’s great!
He sounds excited
But his emotion is artificial.

Look, I'm a starving poet, Sir.
A what?
A poet. And a part-time philosopher.


This excuse does not compute
In his head
It was not in his training book
He doesn't know how to respond

There is more silence
Some stammering
The man on the phone
Is frazzled

He looks over his script
It gives him little help
The starving-poet excuse
Is nothing he's ever heard before.
So he pretends he didn’t hear it.

Um, Sir...uh, three days, you said?
Of course, three days
OK, um, I'll put it in my notes here...

I hear him typing on his keyboard
He's making notes of the conversation
He assures me I won't receive more calls
For at least three days.

“Thank you very much,” I say.
I value this credit system very highly
And I take my credit record very seriously
So I apologize for being behind.

He asks me if there's anything else
He can help me with
I tell him no

We hang up and he goes and does his next call
Turns back to page 1 of the script
And hopes like hell
That the other delinquent on the other end
Of the phone
Sticks to the script…

For I am the man on the phone
I cannot compute
The starving poet excuse
From nine to five
I am not human
And I don’t have free thoughts
I have a script
That I'm trained to follow
That I'm paid to follow
And if you trail from the script
I start shaking
System overload
And I shut down
Like that robot
In that science fiction TV Show
Lost In Something-or-other.


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