Hard Drive

“Is that a new pager?” Tom’s wife asks.

“What do ya’ think it is?” Tom snaps. Tom didn’t mean to snap. He loves his wife. He’ll regret he was rude two minutes later. But he’s on his way to work, as he puts it, “just like all the other robots in town.” He’s resentful.

Tom enters his car. There’s the same goofy neighbor, who day after day walks up and down the street for exercise. Tom derisively nicknamed him Gumdrop, behind his back, because he’s a retired guy who doesn’t have to work, a worthless sponger who probably gets three pension checks thanks to taxpayers.

“Why don’t you go back inside your house,” Tom grumbles to himself, under his breath, at the neighbor.

Tom fights his way onto the freeway. He looks in the rearview. There’s a tiny woman in a BMW, tailgating him. “Why aren’t you home, baking a pie, making some man happy?” Tom asks. “If women didn’t work, like in the old days, half the cars on the road would be gone.”

There’s a guy in the next lane talking on a cell phone. Tom thinks, what could be so important to a jerk like that, that it would require him to talk on a phone in the car?

Tom had always resisted having a pager, because he saw himself as a Kit Carson-type independent man’s-man, a heroic holdout, who didn’t need gadgets like the rest of the sheep. But his job made him carry a pager. Now, he’s actually considering a cell phone. In case his car ever breaks down, he can call for help.

“I’m turning into a zombie like the rest,” he says bitterly.

A truck passes Tom, even though he’d already passed a sign warning, “don’t pass.” The truck is driven by a tan-looking fellow. “If we could just deport the Mexicans flooding this country,” Tom says to himself. “There would be another half fewer cars on the road.”

A teenager in a banged up Ford attempts to pass. “That’s enough!” Tom angrily pulls to the right, blocking the punk from passing. The punk hits the brakes and falls in right behind Tom, tailgating. “No good yellow-belly sonofabitch!” Tom says.

Up ahead, everybody suddenly slows. Too many cars. The trucker who risked his life and Tom’s passing is one car length in front.

“His name is probably Sparky,” Tom says mockingly of the punk behind him. “Big hurry! Big man! Probably has to rush back to the auto parts store where he’s a clerk, so he can pick his nose and belch.”

Tom’s beeper (pager) is beeping, but he doesn’t know yet how to use it.

He pulls into the parking lot where he works. His boss is already there, getting out of his car. “Sonofabitch!” Tom secretly snarls at him.

Tom exits his car. “Hi!” He smiles at his boss. “Nice day, isn’t it?”

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