October 7th, 2019


LJI: Living rent-free in your head

“I’d like a Grande Salted Caramel Mocha with an extra shot of espresso please.”

“That’s so much sugar, Susie, and do you really need all that caffeine?”

The low grade hum at the edge of my hearing told me I’d been connected, but I wasn’t supposed to have any clients today.  I smiled at the man behind the counter as I tapped my card to pay and moved out of the way for the next person to order.

“Susie, he’s cute.  You should start a conversation with him.”

I grimaced a little.  Luckily or not, I recognized that voice.

“Then again you aren’t really dressed to impress.  I see your reflection and don’t know why you think leggings and a sweatshirt are appropriate anywhere but the gym.”

I glanced around and said quietly “Grandma, we can chat in a bit.”

“I’m here, why shouldn’t we talk now?"

I focused on the menu board as the most neutral item in the room.

"Is coffee really so expensive, that’s ridiculous.  How much did you pay for your Coffee-Sugar-thingy?  In my day a cup of coffee was fifty cents.”

My name was called; I took my coffee cup and grabbed a lid on my way out the door.  I made an immediate left and walked quickly to the small park a block away.

“Susie, I need you to answer me.  Is this thing even working?”

I sat on a bench and sighed.  “Grandma, no one but me can hear you.  If I answer you in public everyone will think I’m crazy.”

“Everyone knows about sensitives these days and free-movement clients.  I’m very proud of the work you do.”

“I’m not on duty and I wasn’t expecting to be, so I’m not wearing the vest that tells people I’m linked.  How did you get connected?”

“I told Jerry, our free-movement operator, that you were expecting me and I must have been erased from the schedule somehow.  I brought him some warm peanut butter cookies; it was my kitchen time this morning.  He knows you’re my grand-daughter – I just wanted to drop by.”

I kept looking at the trees, knowing that if I rolled my eyes or shook my head she’d see it with me.  Grandma’s cookies and flattery had done it again.

“Grandma, when people pay for this they don’t want to get coffee.  Mostly I go on hikes, or to museums, or even the opera, no one expects me to have someone in my head doing ordinary things, and I didn’t expect to have someone in my head at all this morning.”

This was a huge breach of security; I was beginning to understand why the company drilled the safeties into us over and over.  And why they didn’t let us take family as clients.

“I thought this would be easier than you coming all the way out here to visit me.”

“I like visiting with you Grandma, and it’s easier to do when we’re two separate people.  The time I spend with clients isn’t about conversation; it’s about taking them into the world to have an experience they otherwise couldn’t.”

“I’m not a client, I’m family.  I don’t have to pay like that country song, you know the one, that one.”

“Yes Grandma.  I love you with all my heart for free, but being in my head is different.  There are rules for a reason.  What if you had popped into my head while I was driving and I crashed?  This could get both Jerry and I into a lot of trouble.”

There was a long pause.

“I’m sorry sweetpea.  I thought it was just a fancy phone call, I didn’t think it through. I’ll have Jerry disconnect us.”

“Thank you.  I’m still coming to see you on Saturday, save a cookie for me.”

The hum went away and I knew I was alone in my head again.  I sipped my coffee and debated how to tell corporate about this.  Putting a client in the head of someone who wasn’t expecting them was dangerous.  I would have to stop working with any clients at Grandma’s nursing home and make sure they scrubbed my neural template from that machine.  Grandma said she understood but I knew she would forget; it wouldn’t be long before she’d be sweet-talking some other operator into trying to put her through.  It would be best if that were impossible.  All of the corporate security in the world couldn’t resist fresh-baked cookies.

***LJI week two.  Read all of the fabulous entries here.  That country song, you know the one, is "Pay No Rent" by the Turnpike Troubadours.***