The Adventures of Me in Comic Books: Startup Escalation 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Phone 2004.

Phones of the Dead!

Me in Comic Books

Phone Company of the Dead

Dedicated to Ron and Bernie. One of them qualified to sign up for the service, and one of them qualified to go on site and deliver it.

"Hit the Street":

The long distance phone company I work for wants me to volunteer to find them customers. According to their theory, I should want to knock on people's doors on weekends because not only am I so proud to work for the phone company, my job depends on it.

They're not used to employing software engineers, are they? If my job goes away, I'll just go work in a healthy industry, like defense or health care.

The phone company also thinks I should use their phone service to call up my mother on Mother's Day. Little do they know she's dead. But this gives me an idea... because I have a target demographic for them, and the distance sure ain't local.

You see, I can talk to the dead. I've been able to do that for years. It started with my mother, whom Death Herself couldn't keep quiet. Mom would visit me, without my asking - then she'd guilt me into visiting her... in the land of the dead. So I met other dead people. Before too long, I met Death Herself... and after a series of strange events, signed on as her agent. Now that I refer to Death as "the Boss", I can visit the dead any time I like.

So, as people are fond of reminding me, Mother's Day is coming, and I have to go visit Mom anyway. If I'm going to have to disturb people with phone company marketeering on a weekend, why not the dead?

  • The phone company said they wanted me to sign up people from Cook County, Illinois where I live now, but they didn't specify living people.
  • The dead have been known to vote in Cook County, Illinois, particularly in the county seat Chicago; why shouldn't they be offered phone service?
  • If the phone company can't deliver to the dead, that's someone else's problem, not mine. But there are rumors they're actually looking into that problem. Thomas Edison reportedly recommended a frequency of 740 MHz for the purpose... in 1967. Really. Do a Web search on "necrophony" or "Plasmic City" if you don't believe me.
  • And so I go visit Mom, loaded with marketing materials.

    "Stand and Deliver":

    Once I get to Mom's place among the dead, I start having second thoughts. It's not like I'm afraid of betraying the phone company; I'm more afraid of betraying Death.

    After all, my office as the Deputy Champion of Death is a solemn responsibilty. I've seen some incredible carnage that way, but I've also seen some indescribable beauty too. For me to soil that responsibility on behalf of a company which can't even pay for all its own marketing, is unconscionable.

    But, as ever, Mom has her own ideas. Once she finds out what I'm doing for a living this year, she can't help but brag to all her friends that her son probably has their sons in his phone database. And once her friends know I do phone stuff, they start talking about all their children who not only don't phone them, they never even visit their graves. If the dead could buy phone service, they'd talk your ears off.


    Then a vigorous-looking man with a white beard and a sheepskin coat comes forward and says, "Well? When do you start selling phone service to the nice people?"

  • "Well, the phone company wants me to, but I doubt they can deliver."
  • "Oh, I think one of my friends can help with that."
  • A man steps forward, dressed like a phone company worker. In fact, he's got that look so much, he looks like that famous comic-book character, The Lineman. This guy is dark-skinned... but that's within the range of representation for the hero in the Lineman's comic book. And the other guy says, "If you can sell it, he can deliver."

  • "Yeah, well, even if he can deliver phone service to the dead, it might just defeat the purpose of Death. And I should know."
  • "Well, yes, but even Death gives gifts. And I should know."
  • And he hands me a scroll... just like messengers from Death always do. It says...

    Let him give his gift.

    So, we gave the nice people a demo. And boy, it's a hit. So much so, I go fetch everyone I can find from the phone company to help take orders. Yes, they're already out trying to find customers on this fine Saturday afternoon, but mostly without success, so they're willing to come help out. No, I don't tell them just where they're going.

    The man in the coat introduces himself to each of us as "Nicholas". As in the Christian saint. I know it's really the actual Saint Nicholas, not that "Santa Claus" ripoff, because Nicholas is actually talking about Jesus, and Claus never does that. Except on South Park cartoons.

    But despite not being that Claus fellow, Saint Nicholas is still handing out gifts. He's given giant lollipops to the phone company staff to give to the children. And he's given me and Mom a warm blanket for all of the phone company to see... but we have to use it together, whenever we use it at all. So we try it out, and everyone says, "Awww".

  • Of course, once I go home, only one of us can keep the blanket. I point this out to Nicholas.
  • He says, there's one way out. One of us has to make the blanket a gift of love to the other.
  • Mom immediately chimes up that she'll give me the blanket because she loves me. And that would solve this conundrum... but do I really want another blanket more than I love my mommy?

    So, I give Mom the blanket as a gift of love. And, of course, the assembled masses of the phone company say "Awww" again.

    Oh well, there are worse things in life (and death) than loving your mommy. And mine really isn't all that bad a sort.

    Besides, Nicholas says I can now expect another gift. I wonder if Death lets him out on Christmas Eve to fill stockings?

    "Infinite Service":

    Ever since Nicholas, the Lineman and I gave the gift of long distance phone service to the dead, the phone company databases are showing increased usage, especially for nighttime and weekend calls involving a certain toll free number.

  • And oddly enough, calls are free from the toll free number too. Or at least, deeply discounted with an alternate payment address of Thule, Greenland. Of course it's practically toll free both ways... because if they charged for it, it wouldn't be a gift, would it. And the dead love it so much, they line up for phone privileges.
  • But the phone company is winning too. Some customers complain of prank calls, but overall satisfaction measurements seem to have gone way up, at least among the customers who access that toll free number.
  • I can only guess what Death gets out of this. Maybe the Boss is thumbing her nose at Gaea, who's now enforcing rules against the dead coming back to life. But there's no rule against the dead making phone calls.
  • (19 May 2003)

    The Adventures of Me in Comic Books: Startup Escalation 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Phone 2004.

    Death, Gaea, and Saint Nicholas are public domain . How about that. But my Mom and the Lineman are copyright © 2004 by Eiler Technical Enterprises.

    Yes, I'm copyrighting my Mom. Wouldn't your Mom appreciate that for Mother's Day?