Today I was in the Time Warner Cable office on 23rd Street between Madison and Park—it’s a dark, first-floor cavern with a long, snaking line of unhappy young slaves at computers, overseen by fat people with ID cards on ribbons around their necks—and while a bored, curly-headed young man with intentionally thick glasses was helping me return my modems and close my account, another client sat down beside me.
He pulled out his bill, flattened it out on the counter in front of him (he had a lot of bling on his fingers, and bling in his teeth), and pointed at the long list of porn films he’d been charged for.
“I did’ent watch these,” he said to the very young Puerto Rican woman helping him.
“O.K.,” she said, not taking her eyes off her computer.
“I don’t need to watch these,” he said, and stabbed the paper with his index finger. “I got my own woman. I don’t need to look at uh’tha women.”
The young woman flicked her eyes at him, and flicked them back to her computer. “I understand, sir,” she said. “We’ll look into the matter.”
“Good,” he said, “because I have a nephew. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
What she understood and didn’t understand got me thinking about the sneaky utility companies, and how I wouldn’t put it past them to have that “If you like that, you’ll like this” program in their billing apparatus, so that when they scam you for money you don’t owe, the things they charge you for that you didn’t buy, are things you might have bought, had you cared to. This guy might have bought “Superfly” or “Nine-and-a-Half Weeks” or “Bonnie and Clyde,” or something, and so they falsely charged him for “Bunny Batting Cage,” “Vampire Bunnies,” and Humpalumpas: Charlie and His Giant Chocolate Factory,” knowing that even he might be confused.
If I got charged for, say, “E.T.” I might pay for it, even though I didn’t buy it—what if I pushed the button wrong when I was ordering all fifteen seasons of “E.R.”? I have Alzheimer’s—how would I know? And if they charged me for any foreign movies concerning once literary women now with Altzheimer’s or debilitating mental illness, I’d have to pay that too. And what if they charged me for a movie about someone who gets unfairly fired by a gigantic, paranoid bastard who reads his employees emails way after they’re gone? I’d surely have to pay then, because, well, how could they know?