Qwertyman for Monday, October 17, 2022
DOLANDS COULDN’T believe his good fortune; he had received his third SMS message that day offering him a bonus for playing pusoy online. Pusoy—also known as “good-better-best” to its players—was Dolands’ game of choice, allowing him to exercise what he believed was his sharply analytical mind. Dolands was one of those people who felt that life kept dealing him the wrong cards, obscuring his true potential, and he kept waiting for the opportunity to prove himself—to his Papang, to his friends, and to that snooty waitress Letty, who wouldn’t give him the time of day—that he was an achiever.
Today Dolands worked as a troll—a “social media specialist”—in an operation run by the famous Madame Venus, and while the pay was good, the job itself felt mechanical, involving nothing but the methodical execution of orders from the managers in the loft upstairs. Dolands wanted to turn “good” into “better” by becoming one of those necktied managers himself; but “best” was to be his own man, enriched by nothing but his talent, and the online gambling offers he kept receiving seemed to open that door. Sometimes Dolands suspected that his supervisors thought he was stupid, by the way they frowned at his haircut and at his fake Crocs shoes.
Dolands was amazed that whoever texted him knew his full name and had used it in the message: “Rolando Quibuyen, now’s your chance! Here’s a P500 bonus for joining our 24-hour game of Cyber Pusoy at bahaybaraha.com. More prizes await you, including a 2023 Riva Riviera 2.0 in our grand raffle draw. Sali na!” Now, being a troll, Doland of course knew how it easy it was to get hold of mega-lists of people’s names, phone numbers, and email addresses; he knew that Madame Ventura even kept a special roster of influencers’ data for personalized messages, including death threats masked as hypothetical questions. But as lonely and lowly as he felt, Dolands wanted to believe that someone had actually taken the trouble of getting to know him and his penchant for pusoy, to craft a special message for him, and to throw him a lifeline across the water. Never mind that it was probably a bot, a faceless algorithm racing through a library of names and numbers; someone or something out there thought him worthwhile enough to bait; he existed.
He was itching to respond to the text and to click the link on his phone to start playing, but his shift wouldn’t be over for another four hours and any private use of his office computer was strictly prohibited. The managers upstairs not only had a birds’ eye view of the floor, but they could and did tap into any terminal to see what was going on. It was no different from the BPO outfit Dolands had been recruited from, except that that other job was more tedious because you had to talk people into buying this and that, which involved reason, whereas trolling played to the imagination, to what people believed and feared in their deepest of hearts. Everyone wanted to feel a sizzle of power, to say something outrageous without facing the consequences, and the trolls gave them the words for that. It was a lot more fun during the pre-election campaign when Dolands and his gang could attack a candidate’s daughters or the candidate herself with gleeful malice; today, defending the winner’s son or the winner himself when they did or said something incredibly stupid was boring and dulling. Doland looked forward to more challenging assignments where he could prove his mettle, and now he was about to get a taste of that.
“Quibuyen!” said his supervisor on the headphones. “Come up to the loft for a minute. Madame Ventura wants to talk to you.”
Dolands felt a lightning bolt shoot up his spine. He had never gone up to the loft before, nor had the madame ever spoken to him. He wondered what they needed him for, but today was truly his day to shine (although it was just past midnight, so his days were always dark). Things just got better.
Dolands fidgeted as Madame Ventura assessed him from behind her trademark dark glasses and wisp of smoke. He wished he had worn something other than the Nirvana T-shirt a US cousin had bequeathed him, to project a more professional vibe, but it was too late for that. They had to take him for what he was.
“They say you worked for the card verification and security service of a bank? You can spot fake numbers and accounts?”
“Yes, ma’am, I did, but—but I was just testing some software when—when they said, when they claimed, that I was misusing numbers—” Dolands began to sweat, amazed that they had found that sordid detail about his past that he had tried to bury and forget.
“You mean you didn’t actually steal anything?” Madame Ventura sounded disappointed.
“No, ma’am—I mean, I just wanted to prove it could be done, so I did it.” He stole enough to buy a new car with, but he had to give it all back to escape prison, plus plugging all the digital holes he had punched into the system.
She blew another cloud of smoke into his face. “Can you still do it? Work with numbers and fake identities? Are you still that good?”
“Well—if you put it that way—”
“Let me tell you why, Mr., uh, Quibuyen. They just passed a new law requiring all SIM cards to be registered, to be attached to names of people with official IDs. We need SIMs—but we don’t want to bother real people to line up for us. So we need an official-ID generator to go with names, birthdates, addresses, maybe even pictures. Is this something you find interesting?”
“Uhm—yes—at least as proof of concept—”
“Forget concept. I want you to produce IDs for 100,000 SIM cards, just for starters. I know many people who will need this service. You do it and do it well, and I’ll make you a manager in charge of your own division. I think it’s about time we branched out from calling ugly people pretty, and vice-versa.”
Multicolored starbursts popped in Dolands’ mind—shiny shoes, flowery neckties, citrusy colognes. It was like he had been dealt 13 cards that broke down into a straight flush, a full house, and a high pair. I can’t believe I almost fell for those effing scammers, Dolands thought. This was good-better-best in real life.