Brian Robinson looked at the invoice. He was coming to a slow boil. His classmates in high school had named him "Smokey" or
"Smoke" for two reasons. First, it was because Smokey Robinson, the singer, was popular back in those days. But the real reason
was that he would always get mad slowly. If something bothered him, he would be like a small smoking chimney and then after
a bit erupt into a fiery volcano. When he was angry, it was over small things. The large issues just left him numb.
Smokey inspected the invoice once more and called the drug company. The phone at the other end answered in two rings.
"Hello, Acme Drug, this is Dr. Robinson down here in Springfield."
"This phone call is being monitored for quality assurance," said the voice from the other end.
"Hello, Hello," cried Smokey finally realizing that he was talking to what now seemed to be a robot.
"All our representatives are currently busy. Your call is now number four."
Dr. Robinson was starting to show red glowing cracks in the basalt veneer of the volcano. He waited.
Mindy Jefferson popped her head in the door of the office and stated that there were two rooms waiting, and Mrs. Adams was
already late to her hair appointment.
Smokey swiveled back and forth in his office chair and circled his right hand in the air trying to communicate with everything
except the English language, jesturing that he was on the phone and waiting for a reply. Seeing that Dr. Robinson was amid
some sort of nervous breakdown, Mindy retreated to the laboratory next to the office.
Just as the lava was beginning to flow, a dull voice came on the other line.
"Acme drug, this is Sharla. How may I help you?"
"This is Dr. Robinson in Springfield, I need to talk to someone about the price of these nose drops I got in today. These
drops cost $150 for 5 cc. Now what am I supposed to tell my client?"
"Dr. Robinson, you have called our office in Akron, Ohio. You will need to call our number in Kansas City. I believe they
can help you."
"I get all my shipments from Akron; my representative is from Akron, and my wife is from Akron," he said acrimoniously.
"Yes sir your shipments come from Akron but all product questions are addressed in our office in Kansas City."
Dr. Robinson mulled this over for a millisecond and then blew forth from a hidden stream of magma.
"Miss Sharletta, or whatever you name is, I have been on this phone for 15 minutes, and I need to talk to someone somewhere
on the planet that can help me with this issue — and I want to talk to them right now," Smokey screamed from somewhere south
of his toenails.
Mindy was watching from the lab. She could almost see the lava flow from under the office door.
"Just one moment, and I'll transfer you now to our Kansas City phone banks," Sharla said blandly with practiced indifference.
In a few moments, another voice activation system connected. As the robotic voice droned on, someone broke in cheerfully in
an unusual voice. Dr. Robinson thought momentarily that the voice sounded vaguely foreign but the English was immaculate.
"May I help you?"
Dr. Robinson reviewed the issue.
"Doctor that is the price. We cannot do anything about it."