Mario pulls up in front of the driveway. He stops the car and leans his forehead against the steering wheel. “I can't go in,” he murmurs.
The smartphone, as timely as ever, starts talking again: “Would you like to go to the bar on Morosini street? Traffic conditions: congested. Travel time: eight minutes. Three of your friends are already there: Alberto, Gino...”
“No, please. Disable help, updates, everything.”
“Connection to customer service underway.” the device responds.
Mario lifts his head from the steering wheel, reaches for the smartphone nestled in the car's control panel, turns it off and takes out the battery, just to make sure. A light feeling of freedom gives him the strength to turn the ignition back on and park in the driveway in front of the garage.
He gets out of the car and moves towards the front door. He puts his hand on the doorknob. Isabella, his wife, has been waiting for hours and she opens the door, looking for a miracle in his eyes. He shakes his head “no”. She brings her hands to her face to hide the tears starting to fall.
“I'm so sorry. I...” Mario starts. He comes towards her, brushes her arms with his gentle fingers. He draws her to him, puts his hands on her back and kisses her on the forehead.
Isabella uncovers her face and lifts her eyes: “Now what?”
The display on the door activates: “It's Friday night. Would you like to make reservations at Pizza & Joy for eight thirty and a lane at the bowling alley for nine o'clock?”
Mario's eyes are cruel: “Isabella, please, let's turn off all this stuff.”
“We can't, darling, you know that.”
“Yes, yes we can!” Mario goes down to the basement and unplugs the electricity meter. As soon as he gets back to the living room, Isabella's smartphone starts to ring.
“It's customer service,” she says, worried.
“I'll take care of it! Give me that.”
“Please, Mario, let's not make things worse.”
With a firm yet gentle hand he takes the smartphone from her: “Hello.”
“Hello, this is operator three-hundred forty-seven from DataCom customer service. Is this Mrs. Isabella Orsini?”
“No, I'm her husband.”
“Very well. We understand that there was an interruption of DataCom service today in your smartphone as well as your residence. Is there something we can do to help?”
“Listen, we're going through something here. We need a little break.”
“The User Contract expressly forbids enabling pause mode. If we are unable to provide service, we will be forced to suspend access to video, music, TV, reservations, travel and credit card services. In addition, personal photos, files and all data stored on the DataCom servers will be inaccessible.”
Operator three-hundred forty-seven is a virtual entity. Mario, however, has no intention to give up. “Listen, please. Today I lost my job. We just need a break for a couple days. Please, don't take everything away from us.”
“The DataCom jobs service is available after termination of work contracts. You can use it to search for an exciting new employment opportunity.”
Isabella speaks up: “Mario, please...”