In the Parking Lot of Limbo's Call CenterSubmitted by Tom Sorrell at 2014-08-05 00:49:22 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 7 ratings (9 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Allow me to set the scene for you: I’m leaned back in a vehicle with the windows down and seem to be sitting in a parking lot in front of a massive building made of glass and steel. Inside they call the grounds a “campus,” even though the call center has little to do with education and isn't really inside a building at all. This makes no sense and perfect sense at the same time. That's Limbo for you. What can you do?
My shift begins in a few minutes. I’m here early, sipping coffee, nursing a hangover, preparing myself for what I might encounter and getting odd looks from passersby on their way inside. I know why they stare. My vehicle – the thing I use to get around in, is a Fiat Illumina, which may or may not mean “Let there be light,” but definitely sounds cool and looks good on paper. Aside from the name, the thing is hideous – its matte grey paint makes it look like the world’s smallest battleship, sailing nowhere on the ocean of time.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Hey Virgil, how do you know what a Battleship is? You were born October 15, 70 B.C.. The first 'real' battleship was the steam-powered Napoléon, built by the French Navy in 1850.” Uh huh ... listen, now's not the time to discuss the maritime history of France. This story is about Bob Mishkin. Just know that I know what things are because time doesn't exist as you know it. I have no reason to lie to you. I’m on your side. It’s the others I like to harass and confuse. For instance, there’s a man approaching wearing a white suit, staring at a pocket watch and muttering to himself. I call him Gertie, because I can't pronounce his real name.
“He who strives on and lives to strive can earn redemption still,” Gertie says in a rapid-fire German accent. “I must ring Charlotte before it's too late." The man stabs a gnarled finger into the air and increases his pace. I lean my head out my window and grin up at him.
“You’re already dead, Gertie,” I say, waving coffee fumes his way with a napkin. The damned fool ignores me, just like everyone else these days. Whatever. To Hell with that asshole. I wonder, for a moment, what the building looks like to him, and who this Charlotte woman is, but I’m interrupted by the shrill whine of a four-cylinder engine and a man screaming “How does it feel?” at the top of his lungs. A moment later I hear a harmonica complaining about being played as hard as it can and I chuckle to myself because I know without looking that Bob just pulled up in his Ford Aspire. He does this every day.
I look over and shake my head at the sight of his shabby vehicle. It’s uglier than mine, somehow, and smaller. It looks like a big red golf ball on wheels, or like one of the bullpen cars they used in baseball back in the 1970s. Inside the vehicle Bob sits in silence, eyes half-closed as he sips from a paper cup of what I can only assume is very strong coffee. The harmonica stops crying and the voice from earlier resumes singing duties.
Bob takes a deep breath and cuts off the engine, but remains in the car. There’s silence for a moment, then a shout from behind me. I look back towards the man in the white suit and see him shaking a fist at Bob, who either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. The man turns, pockets the watch with the hand hidden from view, and stomps into the building. A moment later Bob exits his vehicle and nods in my general direction. I nod back.
“Gertie's going to tell on you again,” I say. "It's your music, Bob. It's too loud."
“To hell with that asshole,” he says, taking a sip of coffee. "All Gert does is whine and pine for a chick in Charlotte."
This is one of the reasons Bob and I get along - we both have the same lack of respect for any perceived abuse of authority, the difference is, he’s an idiot, but you know this already. Still, he's likeable enough and I can’t help but laugh as I exit my vehicle by crawling through the open window. Bob walks ahead and trips over one of his two left feet, spilling his coffee. As he stares in defeat I walk up and slap him on the back.
“Bob,” I say behind a large smile. “Today is a lovely day. Look up and take in the sapphire blue-”
“Up yours, Virgil,” he replies, still staring at the brown puddle. "Don't talk to me about the sky, the trees or the dabbling brook. I don't care, man. What the hell is wrong with you, anyway? And seriously, when are you going to fix your car doors? They've been broken for what, six years?"
I grin and shrug, but say nothing. After being around Bob this long I’ve learned not to take things too personally. Instead I start to walk and the young-looking man falls in beside me. As the two of us trudge towards the building, the front door opens. The man in white pokes his head out and holds up his pocket watch.
“We’re waiting, gentlemen!” Gertie yells. “You better hurry up! You don't want Rex to be upset!”
Bob rolls his eyes and gives me a look. “Someone needs to tell Grover Dill to shut his simple pie hole,” Bob says. “I swear, that dude is so eager to please his beloved Rex. He's like a dog, Virgil. The Smithers to Rex’s Burns.”
I look over and raise an eyebrow. Bob looks back and does the same.
"What?" he says, and I grin.
“How many movies and/or TV shows did you just reference?”
“Only two,” Bob replies with a disappointed shrug.
“Did you even need the one?” I inquire, and Bob looks at me strangely.
"What do you mean?"
"Why not just call him a sycophantic little prick and be done with it? Why reference culture?"
“That's just how I understand the world,” Bob says as we near the door. "I can't help it. I was raised in front of a gleaming box. It's comforting."
I nod and grin as I open the door and allow Bob to enter before me.