APRIL 27, 2014



So anyway, So anyway, Larry Larch had a big problem with the cell phone he got from MegaTel, and he was having a devil of a time dealing with tech support over the phone.

Hello, this is Jake. How can I help you today?

It's about the phone that got delivered today. . . .

(Impatiently) Of course it's about your phone. You are calling MegaTel where Phones are Us. What is the problem with your phone?

I can't use it. . . .

(Interrupting) Are you calling from your phone now?

Of course not. I cannot use the phone you sent . . .

Then how on earth are you talking to me now?

This phone I am using belongs to my, uh, colleague Ms. Light.

All right then. You are using a competitor's product to call me. Is your own phone inoperable?

I am not sure. . . .

Mr. Larch, I see by the code you entered that you are Larry Larch. Is this correct?


Is the phone turned on?

I think so.

You just think the phone is turned on. Is the battery installed and fully charged?

I am not sure.

Are you calling from a construction zone?

Am I what? No, I am at home. If it is about signal interference this is not . . .

I say that because I am hearing a lot of crashing noises coming over the line. And it sounds like you are moving around. Can you see the main screen of your device?

Um that is hard to do right now . . . .

Orient the phone so that the glass faces you. Mr. Larch hold it upright and find the on/off switch. Do it now.

I cannot do it now.

Is the phone in the house where you are now? You say it was delivered.

It was delivered. That is the problem.

That is not a problem -- that is a MegaTel success. Is the phone in your possession?

Not exactly. . . .

Well if the phone was lost or stolen why did you not say so at the beginning?

No, the phone is in the house. It is right here. But I am not able to see the main screen right now . . .

Are you blind?

Beg pardon?

Are you disabled? Can you physically hold the phone? If not, we can activate voice command mode remotely for you.

I am not disabled! I can hold the phone because I am holding Ms. Light's phone right now! I just cannot get the phone!

Mr. Larch please tell me why you cannot get the phone and why this is a problem I need to resolve.

Please don't interrupt me again.

(Sigh) Are you calling from California? Nevermind. What is the problem? Be specific.

There is a bear attached.

Did you say you have a bear attached to your phone?

Specifically a Panda bear.

How did this happen, Mr. Larch?

The UPS showed up with a forklift and unloaded this box. Inside the box was the phone and the bear. They are chained together.

It's clear to me you called the wrong department, Mr. Larch.

What!? You are tech support are you not?

Mr. Larch, I am tech support, but tech support cannot resolve all the world's problems. I fix broken and malfunctioning equipment and weird configuration stuff. I cannot fix animals or mend broken marriages. The department you want is Sales.

Sales? Why sales?

Did you buy a bear Mr. Larch?

No I bought a phone . . . .

Then you must arrange for an RMA and ship it back.

(Distressed) How on earth am I going to get a 500 pound bear back into a box and return it? Can't you help me?

Look I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I know nothing about wildlife. I will transfer you to Sales. Thank you for choosing MegaTel, where Phones are Us. One moment . . .

(Ring, ring. If you are calling to purchase a new phone or add one to your existing line, press 1. If you are calling about billing or want to pay your bill, press 2. If you are calling about changes to your account, press 3. For all other inquiries, press 4 or wait on the line and an agent will be with you shortly. Due to high call volumes you may experience extended hold times. To hear these instructions in Spanish, press 5. To hear these instructions in Tagalog, press 6. To hear these instructions in Arabic, Swahili, or Canadian French, press 7. All other languages, press 9.)

(Northeast Indian accent) This is Soraya. How may I help you today?

I have a problem with my MegaTel phone. I have to have it returned with everything that is attached.

I am so sorry to hear that you are unhappy with your phone and I will be happy to assist you in any way you wish. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking today?

I am Larry Larch.

Very good. And do you have your account number?

Here is the telephone number . . . . (reads the number)

I am so sorry I did not hear that last number. Are you calling from a construction site?

Ah no. From home. It is rather chaotic right now. The refrigerator is tipped over.

That does sound unpleasant. Was that a 9 or a 5 you said as the last number?


OK I see you have purchased the Gumlung Link Line model 500S. What precisely displeases you about this phone, Mr. Larch? Is it the color?

No the color is fine. There is a bear attached.

Come again? Could you repeat that?

The phone arrived chained to a Panda bear.

I see. You do not want the bear.

He is now getting into the cabinets, by the sound of it. Heck, I think he found the five cases of Twinkies. I do not think he will leave a single one of them for me. No I do not want the bear. I never want to see another Panda ever again.

You sound sad about your Twinkies. This is an American food item?


They must be delicious. I think I would like to enjoy one myself.

They are not delicious. They taste wretched.

Mr. Larch, why on earth do you possess five cases of Twinkies if you detest them?

Listen honey . . .

My name is Soraya.

Soraya. Sweetie. The company that used to make them closed the factory. I bought them to resell on eBay. But listen, Soraya, I am more concerned that I have a bear in the house. Can you like use your computer to get this bear out of here?

I see by your contract you are not supposed to get the Panda. That one comes with the Ling Ling Plan, not the Link Line. The Ling Ling plan is designed for public organizations like the San Diego Zoo. That explains everything! Someone made a mistake!

Well I am glad that is all cleared up. Geez, and it had to be me.

Just be glad you didn't get the Leaping Leo Plan. I am so sorry. It looks like someone made a typo. This is not good.

More than a typo, ma'am. My place is a mess and . . . oh no! No, no, no, no! (Sounds of anguish)

What is it Mr. Larch! What has happened!

Soraya no living creature ever should eat five cases of Twinkies in one sitting, not even a Panda.

I am given to understand that they prefer fresh bamboo.

Yeah, well, he is still a bear. And five cases of twinkies along with the pot roast, all the potatoes, the bread and the oatmeal gotta go in one of two directions, up or down.

I am afraid to ask. Which way did it go?

Mother's ottoman. It's ruined! What have you people done to me?!

I am so very sorry Mr. Larch, but you must return that bear quickly or you are going to be charged a lot of money.

Can't you come get it yourself?

I cannot, Mr. Larch.

Why not? Why cannot you come to get your bear out of my house?

I cannot come to you Mr. Larch, although I feel your pain. There is nothing more I would wish than to be there in America to stand beside you and maybe hold your hand, for I sense you are distraught.

O please, Soraya! Help me!

I cannot come to you Mr. Larch because you are calling me in the Republic of Basura Maru which is about five thousand miles away from your location in California. We are not far from the Philippines. Besides, I am only a woman who stands about five three weighing no more than 90 pounds. I simply do not have the skillset to move 500 pound bears. Although I really would love to visit the United States and enjoy one of your Twinkies.

I was kinda hoping you could get someone from your company to do it. After all it was your mistake.

I am just working the call desk for Sales, Mr. Larch. I had nothing to do with this serious error . . . .

No, no, no, I don't mean you personally, Soraya. I meant your company, MegaTel. I really apologize. I am sorry. I am just upset about the bear.

Apology accepted. You sound like a nice man, Larry. What do you do for a living?

Well, I own a business . . .

A business owner! And what kind of business is that you own?

We provide service animals to people with, uh, certain kinds of problems. And therapy.

You sound like an intelligent man. Do you do this alone?

Ah, no the therapist is Ms. Light. And there are the dog trainers. . . .

This Ms. Light is your wife?

Ah, no. I do not think she is so interested in men per se.

Are you married?

Uh, no . . .

You should think about it. You own a business. I see your age here from the credit check . . . . You know I am not married either and people tell me that I am not so bad looking even after I cut my hair short because that shipping clerk Amir kept doing things to my locks. He is probably the one who sent you the bear. You know I am about your age. Younger of course.

Amir? Soraya? Where did you say you are located?

Ah! You are perceptive. We obtained independence from India in 1984. We were annexed by India when they got their own independence from Great Britain.

But that was many years before 1984. I did not know India had any colonies. Oh heck there goes the lamp . . .

Neither did India. It all came out when Hammi Rajaput, our tax collector and Minister of Revenue got sent to prison. He had been taking all the money that was supposed to go to New Delhi and squirreling it away in a private Swiss bank account. India was embarrassed it owned a colony of any kind, so they granted us independence without a fight.

There can't be that much revenue there.

There is fishing -- mostly codfish. We ship a lot of salt cod to Minnesota for some reason. And tourism. You should come visit sometime. It is very very very quiet. I could arrange for you a place to stay . . . .

Uh, thanks for the offer, but I need to deal with this bear. I am very upset about this.

May I suggest Ambien?

Actually I take Trazadone . . . .

No, not for you, Larry. Give it to the bear. Stuff a twinkie with half a bottle. When he's asleep, shove him out the door. We do need to get the phone back though.

I don't have to pay for the bear?

Larry, my darling, for you I will arrange the paperwork so that this thing will look like it never happened. Only because you sound like a nice man and I so much want to make this MegaTel customer happy. You will not have to worry about a thing. As for the bear, if the Ambien does not work, dear Larry, call the police. Just do not mention MegaTel.

Soraya, thank you so much!

My pleasure. And my extension when you wish to speak to me next is 395.

Well I don't know how to express my gratitude.

O I can think of a few things. We'll be in touch.

O really?

After all, I have your number and I know where you live. Bye bye and thank you for choosing MegaTel to be your partner for life . . . .

From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading docks, its ghosts and its weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.