Help Desk: Fury Road
Notes from the federal government’s IT department
The federal government’s IT Help Desk staff logged onto their computers and phones. It was that limbo period that began each workday. If someone didn’t kick off conversation, before federal government workers started calling in with their computer issues, it could make for a long, awkward shift.
“There’s so much TV now,” Gary said to no one but also to everyone.
“Are you watching ‘Peaky Blinders’ yet?” Robin asked disinterestedly.
“No. Are you watching that show on HBO?”
“You know, I always mean to but I don’t know how to stream,” Robin jotted down a note to herself to learn how to stream. Ask kids?
“It’s easy to stream. You just — ”
“I like to go to bed early on Sundays,” Cindy announced. “A Tylenol PM on Sunday nights about 7 o’clock is my one indulgence,” she said, like she didn’t keep a handle of brown liquor in her desk drawer.
“Has anyone else noticed that ever since Trump got here the questions have been less IT related and more existential in nature?” Art asked philosophically.
Everyone ignored Art because they were still mad at him for not inviting any of them to his wedding a few weeks ago, his third or fourth.
“Last week,” Art continued, “we had that data scientist from the Department of Education who had to ensure that Betsy DeVos’s personal iPad always stays connected to office wifi. And then that park ranger who tracked every bald eagle he spotted, with latitude and longitude coordinates. His new boss wanted photos, strong visuals, he said, not numbers.” Art opened his Greek yogurt and skimmed the water from the top.
“And that US Attorney who was directed to prosecute every dead person who cast a vote for Clinton. He didn’t know what good a database of dead people would do. Is that existentialism or nihilism? Neither? I haven’t used my philosophy degree in a long time.”
Gary, Robin and Cindy all exchanged glances. They hadn’t noticed what Art was referring to.
“Fedgov Help Desk. How can I help you?” Robin asked as she picked up her phone.
“Hi. I’m at the Environmental Protection Agency and I need help. I have all these files and I want to save them after my agency is dismantled. That way if I decide I want to do the whole Calexit thing I have a template. Like why reinvent the wheel if we have a perfectly good agency already?”
“Okay, that sounds like a fairly routine task. Can you tell me who I’m speaking with?”
“My name is Gale.”
“Hi Gale. Have you considered printing them?”
“I don’t want to print them because that wastes paper, but I also don’t want to email them to my personal email because I don’t trust the administration to not be reading all my emails.”
“That’s sensible, Gale.”
“Oh fuck. Gotta go. Mike Pence is here to give us all Communion. I’ll call you back.” Gale said. “He’s early today,” she said as she hung up her phone.
“Fedgov Help Desk. This is Cindy speaking.”
“Hi. I found this number taped onto my monitor. I am one of the clerk typists and I need help.”
“You called the right place. What’s wrong with your computer?”
“Nothing, I don’t think? The stickie says Help Desk with this number I just called. It’s taped right on the monitor like it’s a saying from a fortune cookie.”
“Okay, well, this is the IT Help Desk. We help with, like, password resets, if you need a printer connected, if your email inbox needs more storage, that sort of stuff.”
“He said he poisoned the water cooler this morning so anyone who’s taken a drink since 10am might get really painful diarrhea. Is that IT?”
“Who is he, ma’am?”
“Steve Bannon. He’s wearing shorts today.”
“So why again are you calling the IT Help Desk?” Cindy waved Robin and Gary over. She mouthed ‘Bannon’ to them. “Is this number taped to all the computers in your office?”
“I didn’t use the same computer yesterday. We have to find a new seat every morning and we can’t sit next to the same person two days in a row. To avoid humanizing our colleagues, he says.”
Cindy opened her desk drawer and pointed to her whiskey and then to her phone. “What’s your office, ma’am? Do you work for the federal government? This is the IT Help Desk.”
“He cleared out the Office of Legal Counsel. He calls it JUG now. Justice Under God. Today we’ve been assigned to write essays about why the Federal Reserve must shrink the money supply. The winner’s essay will become the executive order and the loser’s will be leaked as fake news an hour beforehand.”
“I think I’ve heard of that,” Cindy said as she opened a work order, and began logging the caller’s information.
“I don’t even know what the Federal Reserve does, only that his t-shirt last week says it should be abolished. He wears that t-shirt or a Harvard Business School one or a Coors Light one, like one of those t-shirts you get for free when you buy something else.”
“Is there an IT problem I can help you with?”
“Can I turn my computer into a time machine, I guess?”
“What’s happening now?” Cindy began typing into her work order.
“He’s slurring his words. He has brown shit, peanut butter, all over his face. He just pulled a dog whistle out from the pocket of his cargo shorts. The German shepherds in the hallway will bark after he blows into the whistle. There must be like thirty of them out there. When they’re all barking, it’s like the world is ending or something. That’s what it feels like.”
“Oh God,” Cindy said to Robin and Gary.
“Now he’s on all four barking along with them. Like he’s really going for it, and one of the dogs is licking the peanut butter from his face. Maybe it’s dog food though, I don’t know. The dog is licking his face aggressively.”
“Can he see you? Or hear you right now?” Cindy asked. “Is this safe for you?” She looked to Robin and then to Gary and then even to Art.
“Now Stephen Miller is here and he is huffing Sharpie markers like a white collar war boy. He is handing the other Steve, older, fatter Steve, a document. It looks official. One of our essays. Here’s Kellyanne now. Steve and Stephen, she’s saying. She’s resting her head on Stephen’s shoulder, younger, skinnier Steve, but he’s not reacting. He’s just, like, breathing shallowly.”
“So they’re all at the Justice Under God office? Right now? With you?”
“She’s addressing the entire room now. Remember, when we’re leaking to the media, she’s screaming to us, this is high level, ladies, and she’s clapping after every word. Don’t clap call clap the administration clap a car wreck clap. It’s not a car wreck. It’s an opportunity for collision shop owners who were badly hurt by eight years of Obama policies. Murdered even. She is telling us to leak that President Obama murdered collision shop owners.”
“Do you want me to call 9–1–1?” Cindy asked. “My boss likes me to put a resolution down before I close out the work order. I can write that you didn’t have an IT problem, per se, but that I called 9–1–1 for you?”
“No, it’s fine. This happened yesterday and it will happen again tomorrow. Thank you.”
“I’ll get this one,” Robin said as her phone rang.
“Hi, Merrick. Welcome back!” Robin said loud enough for everyone else to hear. “We missed you!” Robin cupped the receiver and then put Merrick Garland on speakerphone. “He’s back at the DC Circuit. Judge Garland, you’re on speakerphone just so you know.”
“Thank you for your service,” Art said, both to thank Merrick Garland for his service and also to pander to his co-workers who all seemed to love Merrick Garland.
“Judge Garland, you’ve probably noticed we updated your operating system while you were nominated to the Supreme Court,” Robin said.
“I did notice and I appreciate that very much. I can’t find a document, that’s why I’m calling. I think I had it saved to my desktop, which, I know, I know, it’s bad practice. We should save to a networked drive. It was the last thing I was working on before President Obama called me, and I lost my head for a minute.”
“Judge Garland, this is Gary. I saved everything on your desktop to your Dropbox.”
“Judge Garland, I’m so sorry,” Gary said sheepishly. “Your Dropbox password expired so I reset it to SupremeCourt17. It was back when,” Gary pantomimed a gun to his head, “Well, you know. Next time you log in, change it.”
“Gary, that’s fine. Please don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Who could’ve predicted any of this?”
“Not ‘House of Cards,’ that’s for sure.” Gary winked to Robin, who jotted down, watch ‘House of Cards’ onto her notepad.