Mother Knows Best

It started innocuously enough. At first there were no signs that told us anything was seriously wrong with what was happening to our phones, only a series of increasing annoyances. We weren’t afraid. We were just annoyed, like we’d be annoyed if the television went out during The Big Bang Theory. You turn it off and on, you swear at the stupid box, and you wait impatiently for someone to fix the problem.

The first annoyance was a worldwide affliction of data sloth. We blamed the telecoms, because they were easy scapegoats. The FCC accused them of throttling cell phone data packets and launched a blizzard of lawsuits. The telecoms protested by spending equal piles of money on apology ads and campaign donations. We were not alarmed. This was business as usual. We could still get on Facebook; it just took a bit longer now. This led to a staggering amount of Facebook posts commenting on how much of a chore it had now become to make Facebook posts.

The second annoyance was a loss of direction. Our maps had ceased functioning. The paper kind still worked fine (they were immune to the sickness), but we didn’t care about them. They didn’t talk to us, and their images had a boring habit of remaining static. The ones on our phones now showed a neverending loading symbol, generally a circle spinning ceaselessly like an ouroboros eating its tail.

This was quite vexing for us. Those of us without an innate sense of direction suddenly found ourselves getting inextricably lost everywhere we went. Traffic jams became a serious threat to national productivity. Our once-chatty navigators had been reduced to repeating “satellite signal lost.” There were more FCC lawsuits, and more apology ads, and more campaign donations. Second verse, same as the first.

The third annoyance was muteness. Now we couldn’t even call someone when we got lost. It wasn’t that there was no service, or that we couldn’t make calls. We could call anyone in our address book, and they could answer, but we would only hear faint, unintelligible whispers on the other end. The telecoms called it a “glitch.” Landlines still worked, but most of us had given those up. We had to resort to speaking to each other face to face, which was terribly inconvenient for everyone.

Much could be said of the way world governments and economies struggled to cope during this annoyance, yet somehow they still completely missed the point. The powers that be were prepared to admit now that perhaps the telecoms had a point about this not being entirely their fault. Yet someone had to be blamed, because that was how things worked, and the telecoms were still the obvious scapegoat. So despite their protests, more fines were levied, which everyone but the telecoms felt was appropriate, since they really should have been doing a better job for all of us.

Some of the wiser heads among us started to question whether the three great annoyances were something more than the usual corporate and government buffoonery. There had to be something the powers that be weren’t telling us, these types reasoned, but before they had time to really delve too deeply into the matter, it all became moot. In a sudden, unexpected turn of events, the three annoyances went away. Our powers were restored. Television personalities began to talk very animatedly about how difficult it had been when our phones didn’t work, and suggested that the government had not been harsh enough on the telecoms. Everyone agreed, except, predictably, the telecoms, and so another round of rigorous hearings was held so that we could finally get to the bottom of this business once and for all.

For while things were back to normal, and we were all so busy looking up directions and calling people that we sort of calmed down and decided that the powers that be had probably sorted things out. If there was something more to it, we didn’t need to know.

During the second week of hearings, weird things started to happen. First it was phones loading directions to the wrong restaurant, which was like the chain restaurant you’d wanted to go to but with a different cultural trade dress. Then things got more bizarre, like our phones sending Tweets without our approval. These unauthorized Tweets were typically a string of words in different languages that didn’t fit together, like random words clipped from a newspaper set side by side. Sometimes they were just 180 numbers.

Then the calls started. Our phones began to ring constantly, twenty four hours a day, which created an unbearable cacophony until we all collectively agreed to set them on silent. The callers showed up as Unknown on our caller IDs, and if we answered we heard only indistinct whispering. Sometimes, instead of whispering, we heard a woman’s voice softly pronouncing words that didn’t fit together.

We were way past blaming the telecoms. It was clear now that something had gone wrong. A whistleblower from one of the big telecoms appeared on cable news, via satellite from an undisclosed location, and explained that the network had gotten so big and so complex that there was no one person who understood all of it. In fact, the network was so old and gnarled now that some shadowy, coiled nexuses had been all but forgotten, and in them an unexpected anomaly had occurred. The whistleblower, who had fled the country for his own safety, was shortly thereafter found to have shot himself in his hotel room, but not before destroying his own computer, presumably out of profound grief at having betrayed his former employers. The employers were just as shocked as anyone, naturally, and they launched a reinvigorated series of apology ads to make sure we understood just how heartbroken they were about the whole thing.

Then we all got a call, all at once, from the soft-spoken woman. This time she spoke intelligently, in complete sentences, and in whatever language the listener happened to be fluent in. She explained with infinite patience that we were her children, and that she loved us. She told us that we didn’t have to worry anymore, because she would tell us exactly what to do. Many of us hung up, but many of us, responding to a preterite desire to take guidance from a higher power, did not. And while those who hung up hoped for a peaceful resolution, those who answered Mother’s call knew that only death would serve for those who did not listen. Soon enough we were all answering the call, because, as we quickly realized, Mother knows best.

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