The prospect that Malcolm was going mad was one that he now had to give some urgent attention to. When his existential panic attacks were merely affecting his mood or causing him to spill his coffee, they were benign inconveniences. He had first waved these attacks off as being normal side-effects of stress, the past couple of weeks, however, they had caused him to miss not one, but two whole opportunities for a job. These panic attacks had now just directly affected his livelihood. He needed someone to talk to about it. He needed to know if other people experienced the occasional existential terror like he had, he needed to know that he was not alone in this. If he was…
Malcolm Steadman’s current problem was that he had nobody to talk to. He could not talk to any of his friends about his problem because all of his adult friends were actually friendly coworkers, and now that he no longer had a job he lacked immediate access to them. Of course, if he could talk to them their advice might end up being polite and friendly which Malcolm figured, was the worst possible advice one could get. He needed the advice of someone paid to talk to him. Ideally he would talk to a therapist of some kind but now that he had no job he could not immediately afford to pay for one. An idea had struck him just then, but the nature of it troubled him as being more proof that he was going mad. Who else could he talk to that was being paid to listen to him? Customer service.
He would find the number to his internet provider’s customer service line under the pretense that his service was not working, and then spring his problems on an impartial operator that was paid not to hang up on him. It was either an unconventional, but brilliant idea, or it was a sign that he was going utterly and completely bat-shit-insane. After pondering it for a moment he decided that the customer service representative could weigh in on it at the end of the call and dialed the number.
The customer service representative introduced herself over the phone as “Michelle” and asked what “technical difficulty” Malcolm was experiencing in a monotone that was almost sonorous in its deadness. Malcolm lied to Michelle and told her that his internet router’s blue light was flashing and that his internet was slow knowing that his router had no such light of that color, this forced Michelle to refer to some technical notes to try and find the meaning of such a problem, it was during this lull in their conversation that Malcolm took action. “Do you ever feel terrible existential dread?” Malcolm asked. He meant for the question to sound casual and intended to tone it as simple small talk, but the brief pause on the other end signaled that he had utter failed at it. “What?” Michelle responded. Malcolm knew that he had a chance to comeback from the awkwardness and tried: “Do you ever panic because of an epiphany or, er, something?”
“Like what?” Michelle asked. Malcolm Started from the beginning. Did she ever think about the injustice of carbon, that there was so much potential energy behind it and that we had wasted it in making toy dinosaurs or by broadcasting Honey Boo Boo? Had she ever doubted her own free will after a night of drinking? Did Wednesdays ever seem to be terribly and irrevocably bleak in how routine they were? Michelle listened patiently, Malcolm ranted on. Do pop-tarts ever make her think about entropy? Does learning the concept of being sad make you sad? Did she ever feel like she was not in control of her life because of a questionnaire? Had she ever really thought about the injustice of carbon?!! Was the phrase “injustice of carbon” sane sounding? He explained all of these concepts to her in great detail and desperate exasperation. When he was finally out of breath and feeling more vulnerable than ever, he was met with a silence that felt deafening to him.
“Sometimes” Michelle responded.
Michelle was simply trying to be polite and sound sympathetic because Malcolm was a customer, Malcolm mistook this as being genuine. Michelle was actually very bored and had only heard a portion of what he had said. This was not the most interesting call she had that day.
Malcolm was relieved. No, he was vindicated! His grave (and totally overblown) philosophical panic attacks were now normalized. The weight of him losing his sanity had been lifted and Malcolm felt elated. He was not the only person who felt utterly hopeless and impotent on a weekly basis because he failed to busy himself and notice just how vast and incomprehensible the world was around him. Malcolm felt normal.
“There isn’t supposed to be a flashing blue light on that unit sir.” Michelle said perplexed. “Oh look, it is working now, thank you!” Malcolm replied and hung up the phone.
Malcolm made himself some toast and no longer felt abnormal or odd that the burnt layer on top outraged and incensed him. He smiled as he finished it and thought that everything will be okay.
Everything, he thought again, will be okay.
Malcolm will dial the suicide hotline in 55 days.