I watch TV. I check social media. I know what’s cool. So when I started comparing my humdrum life as a rotary phone repairman to the unimaginably cool lives of hackers, I knew a career change was in order.
But how does someone become a hacker?
My first thought was, I’ll become a cat. Cats hack up hairballs all the time. Then I remembered that I have never really enjoyed washing myself with my tongue.
I could take up smoking, was my next thought. Smokers hack a lot also. But, it’s pretty gross. And not in a cool gross way like burping The National Anthem. Just gross. And that raspy, gravelly smoker’s voice would not enhance my naturally nasally voice at all. So I scratched that idea also.
I considered catching a cold or the flu. But that is not a long-term career solution.
No, I needed to do it the hard way. I would have to learn to code.
I went to the bookstore that remains, and I found a book called Anyone Can Code. Unfortunately, it was about heart attacks. Oops. Then I saw Coding Is Easy. I bought it.
They weren’t kidding. What a scam this coding game is. In a couple of hours, I had my first app on the App Store. It is a laser-powered banana peeling app. Unfortunately, not many phones are laser-equipped yet. But when that happens, I’ll be rolling in dough.
Once I understood how ridiculously easy coding was compared to rotary phone repair, I figured it was time to delve into the sinister underbelly of the coding world and become a hacker.
Having been cursed with a moral compass that keeps me out of politics and makes me cry at far too many movies, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to become a hacker. But I was determined. Besides, I knew it was only a stepping stone to a cushy “legal” counter-hacking job at the CIA — once they caught me.
First, I would need a cool hacker name. The Dude Who Throws Cheerios In Your Face seemed too long. I really liked it, but sometimes you have to kill your darlings. I learned that from the Writing Is Easy book I bought along with Coding Is Easy [it was BOGO at the bookstore.] Next, I thought of Purple Doesn’t Look Good On You. It was still too long. So I settled on Elton John.
It’s genius if you think about it. No one would ever suspect Elton John of hacking. If I was hacking into a bank or something, and their IT guys noticed, they would think, Oh, that’s just Elton John goofing around again. He certainly doesn’t need the cash. So they would ignore it and start singing Rocket Man.
With my hacker name chosen, I began to hack into networks to build my hacker brand [another tip from Writing Is Easy.] I started with The Home Shopping Network because I needed a new microwaveable snowmobile cooler. Sadly, once I hacked into their network, I learned that they quit broadcasting in 2019. That’s the problem with selling such high-quality merchandise. It lasts forever.
So I decided to hack Amazon. It was going great until I hacked my way into Prime Video and saw The Expanse — the best sci-fi show ever. Curse you, Amazon! I spent the next week binge-watching every episode. Fortunately, I had ordered two crates of popcorn before I reached Prime Video. So two days into the show, I had plenty of snackage.
I figured I would get caught hacking about in Amazon’s servers, but no. I suppose I should have known better. They must have a gaziggieflopaton of data flowing through their system at any given second.
I decided to hack Apple.
You may not believe what I am about to tell you, but I swear it’s true. When I tried to hack into Apple, a physical hand literally reached out of my computer monitor and smacked my face. Two seconds later, the doorbell rang. Before I could even get up from my gaming chair, the CIA had knocked down the front door. After scrambling around my brother’s house for a while, they crashed down the basement stairs and found me.
They were all shouting so many things at me — using their angry voices — that I didn’t know what to do. So I raised my hands and said, “Dudes, it’s so good to see you. Let me grab my resume, and we can go.”
I heard my ribs cracking as I fell to the ground. Fortunately, it turned out to be a bag of chips that I heard cracking, not my ribs. A couple of industrial-strength zip ties later, I was on my way to CIA headquarters in the back of a nice inconspicuous “Amazon” van full of armed agents.
I tried to strike up a conversation with my soon-to-be-brothers-in-arms-co-workers.
“Do you guys ever stop at Taco Bell? I haven’t eaten in close to an hour.”
“Can I get a kevlar vest with the Captain America logo on it?”
“Did you see the latest episode of The Expanse?”
It didn’t go well. I figured they would warm up to me once they got to know me a little better. And I bought them a few dozen pizzas. I just hoped this was the real CIA and not one of those SD-6 fake CIA deals like on Alias [which is also on Prime Video, by the way.]
I thought I would end up in Langley, but we ended up at Belly Buster Donuts in a small town in the middle of nowhere in an undisclosed state. Well, I guess CIA agents are basically cops, right? So it makes sense. Two CIA agents were waiting for me at a booth. The CIA “SWAT” team got a couple dozen donuts and left. The three of us were the only ones in the joint. Except for four old guys who were telling stories and arguing the whole time we were there.
“Mr. Starlin, you must realize that hacking is illegal. You are in serious trouble,” one of the CIA agents said. He appeared to be the decent man who was working for the CIA because he loved his country. The other agent was a woman. She was “The Intimidator.” At least, that is what I would call her. She looked like someone who joined the CIA so she could crack some skulls. She had obviously taken a master class in looking disgusted. And she trained that disgusted look, with a this is not how I want to spend my day chaser, directly at me.
“Call me Elton,” I said.
“We know your name is Mark. Elton John doesn’t even own a phone, let alone hack into computer networks,” The Intimidator said.
That would have been useful information to know when picking my hacker name, I thought.
“You have two choices. Prison, or come work for us. We need people with your skillset,” decent guy said.
They obviously didn’t know about that Coding Is Easy book. And I wasn’t going to tell them. I needed a job. And I have heard bad things about prison.
“Deal,” I said.
“Which one?” The Intimidator asked.
After an intensive training course, with a disproportionately large physical aspect, I became a genuine CIA agent. [But don’t tell anyone. I am not supposed to reveal that. Let’s keep it our secret.]
On my very first day as an agent, I brought three things with me to headquarters. A few dozen pizzas for the “Amazon” gun guys. A few dozen donuts for the office guys. And a rotary phone for my desk.
Now I hack legally for Uncle Sam. No hairballs required.