After meeting Elise for the first time more than a month ago, David was thrilled to see her again on his bus ride to his new job. For weeks since his failed senatorial bid he’s played in his mind repeatedly their serendipitous encounter in the men’s room and the intense emotional connection he felt in that moment.
And to see Elise, again, on the same bus, in a city of nine millions people — that’s fate. David swore to himself that he’d never let her out of his sight again.
They caught up with each other quickly and rather warmly as if they’d been friends for years. Their conversations were unending until David accidentally spilled his coffee on her skirt.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry!” David exclaimed while wiping Elise’s skirt with the one napkin he had.
“It’s all right. Don’t feel bad,” Elise tried to make light of the situation. Then David’s BlackBerry rang and buzzed.
“Oh, that’s my new phone. Please excuse me –” David felt around his jacket to find the company issued phone. He found it in the right pocket.
Before he was able to hit the answer button, Elise grabbed it and threw it into his cup of hot coffee. Bubbles rose from the cup as the BlackBerry continued to ring.
“Now we’re even.”
David cracked a thin smile. “Well let me pay for the dry cleaning then. Why don’t you write down your number?” He handed her a business card and a pen. Elise smiled back.
With Elise’s number in hand, David got off the bus as it stopped near his office. He rushed into the building trying not to be too late for the morning meeting. Since he’s already a bit late and didn’t want to catch grief for ruining a company phone on his first day on the job, he figured he would call the cell carrier first to ask about replacing or fixing his caffeinated phone.
He lifted the handset on his desk phone and dialed the toll-free number for customer service. After hearing the friendly automated greeting by a soft female voice, he pressed zero in hopes of bypassing the IVR menus —
— suddenly he couldn’t speak or move his fingers. He couldn’t move his body. He noticed two black-clad men from behind, each took a hold of an arm and pried him away from the phone, the desk, his office… Moments later, he became unconscious.
When David came to he was sitting on a folding chair, handcuffed, in the middle of an expansive warehouse. Men in black and gray surrounded him. Two of them wore hats, a tall man with silver hair and a shorter man much younger.
“Where am I?! Who are you people?!” David asked, fear clearly melded with his words.
The tall man calmly said, “We are from the Adjustment Bureau. You’re here because you deviated from the plan.”
David rubbed his eyes. “What plan?! I was just trying to reach customer service! My cell phone broke!”
“But you dialed zero, David. At the very beginning.”
“I was pressed for time… I was already late for a meeting!” David offered an explanation.
“We do not care. The plan calls for listening to the menus, making a choice, and getting to an agent.” The tall man took a step closer to David. “That is, if you don’t have to wait in queue.” The other men chuckled.
“Why can’t I speak with an agent directly? Why are you preventing me from talking to her?!”
The tall man gazed at David. “That’s irrelevant. The Chairman writes the plan, and you are expected to follow it. If you deviate, then we get involved. And it’s not always pretty when we do.”
David’s fears subsided and now he wanted to find out more. “So what, you dictate each decision I make? What toothpaste I choose? How I brush my hair in the morning?”
“Of course not, David. The little, unimportant stuff you get to do yourself. We may make things happen to correct the course — in this case, long automated greetings, nested menus, poor speech recognition, et cetera. In the end, we’re just interested in prolonging the time for you receive any customer service.”
He reached to grab David’s jaw. “Just remember — pressing zero is not part of the plan.”
The Adjustment Bureau is a 2011 movie based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi short story “Adjustment Team,” and stars Matt Damon (“David Norris”) and Emily Blunt (“Elise”).