A phone rings followed by a mechanical click.
AUTOMATED PHONE VOICE (V/O): Welcome to the Emotional Intelligence Agency. Your call may be recorded for training purposes. If you wish to feel accepted and believed, press one. If you need to feel understood and valued, press 2. If you need to feel loved or desired, press thr-
Beep as a button is pressed on an unseen telephone keypad.
AUTOMATED PHONE VOICE (V/O): We are experiencing a high volume of callers at this time. You will now be placed in a queue. We value your emotions. Please hold the line.
Cheesy, tinny hold muzak.
AUTOMATED PHONE VOICE (V/O): Please hold the line.
AUTOMATED PHONE VOICE (V/O): Please hold th-
Click as the call is picked up.
A call centre. Two adjacent identical cubicles with desks. On each a computer, phone and plaque with an engraved name. Behind hangs the imposing logo of the Emotional Intelligence Agency and a large curtain-draped portrait of the Leader, a white haired Eurasian male in formal military dress, hung with medals. He is smiling and waving. The colors in the painting are too vivid to be realistic. KATIE and NORA sit side by side. Both desks have two large recording indicator lights. The light on Nora’s is on, flashing red. Katie’s is dark. They are operated by a switch under the the desk. Katie is finishing a call. She reads a script from the computer. Notebooks covered in doodles and sketches litter her desk. More drawings are taped to the cubicle, with ‘functioneer of the month’ awards. There’s tea stains on her desk and a large mug of tea steams by her hand. Katie’s brown duffle coat hangs on her chair.
KATIE: -anything else for you today? No? The Emotional Intelligence Agency thanks you for your call. I will now transfer you to a short customer feedback survey. Have a nice day.
Katie presses a button on her phone to end the call. She types some notes on her computer.
Nora is immaculate, from head to toe. Her desk is tidy: pens in rows with caps on, notebooks stacked neatly, unmarked. Tea cup on a coaster. There are no ‘functioneer of the month’ awards. Nora’s black trench coat is hanging on a hook behind her. She answers the call, pulling up the script on her computer and typing in the caller’s responses. As she does so, Nora’s script is generated by the computer. She reads it, word for word.
NORA: Hello. You’ve reached Nora at the Emotional Intelligence Agency. You’ve indicated you are looking to be valued and understood. What name would you like to go by? Miriam? So Miriam, tell me all about it? A co- functioneer? She’s been promoted ahead of you?
NORA looks over at Katie. Nora pulls a face.
NORA: Does everyone faun over them like they’re functioneer of the year? How dare they. You take your function so seriously. Function is all we have. You should raise this with your Function Privation Supervisor-
Katie ends her call, takes a slurp of her tea and picks up the next call with a press of a button on her computer.
KATIE: Hello, you’ve reached Katie at the Emotional Intelligence Agency. I can see you’ve come straight through to an operator. How can I help you?
TOM (V/O): I’m going to kill myself.
KATIE: You can’t. It’s not State sanctioned. What’s your name?
TOM (V/O:) Tom.
KATIE: Hey Tom. What’s your function?
TOM (V/O): Emotional Intelligence Call Agent.
KATIE: We’re co-functioneers? Do I know you? Are you in the office now?
TOM: No. I’m on ‘Happiness’ leave. I shouldn’t have called. I’m hanging-
KATIE: Wait, Tom. My function is to meet your basic emotional needs.
TOM (V/O:) I need you to take my phone number and call me back.
KATIE: You know I can’t do that, Tom. I’m going to transfer you to a Willful Determination Adviser.
TOM (V/O): Please don’t-
A klaxon sounds.
KATIE: That’s a public service announcement, Tom. I need you to watch it with me. Will you do that?
TOM (V/O): Yes. Will you stay on the line?
KATIE: I promise, I’ll stay on the line.
Katie clicks a flashing icon on her computer screen, takes off her headset and mutes Tom’s call. She clicks a file titled “Putting the Fun in Function”. A grainy video opens projected on the back wall., with a ’70s educational film vibe, distinctly cheaply made. The educational film narration is in British Received Pronunciation.
THE EDUCATIONAL FILM:
A brick wall. A man with a beard, glassed and beige corduroy jacket is holding hands with a woman, with long hair and floral cotton flared trousers. They are played by the same actors as Katie and Tom, made up to look like subtly different people.
VIDEO NARRATION (V/O): Before the Leader, we could do as we pleased. We formed crippling sexual relationships or killed ourselves with recreation and pharmaceuticals.
The couple let go of each others hands. The woman is passed a plastic baby. The man is given a suitcase. The baby is taken away and the woman is given a mop.
VIDEO NARRATION (V/O): The Leader prescribed us all functions. We no longer need sexual relations or ‘love’. Women are inseminated for procreation. We all perform the functions society needs. We are fulfilled.
The couple are each presented with a black Bakelite telephone. They mime talking into it, smiling and nodding.
VIDEO NARRATION (V/O): We call the Emotional Intelligence Agency between the hours of nine to five, Monday to Friday to ‘talk’. They help put the fun in function; 100% of callers agreed.
The man and woman turn to each other and kiss desperately.
VIDEO NARRATION (V/O): But urges still get the better of some Defectives. They have been known to be caught sexually relating. They are speedily Determinated, for the greater good.
The man and woman standing side by side, blind folded. Gun shots. The couple slide down the wall, leaving a trail of sticky blood and brains. The sound of a crowd cheering.
VIDEO NARRATION (V/O): Good riddance! We hope you enjoyed this short public service announcement. Have a functional day.
The titles roll very fast with a long list of functions, while blood drips down the brick wall behind. The education video stops broadcasting, and the image switched off.
Katie closes the educational video on her computer. She puts her head set back on, and presses the mute button again to restart the call.
KATIE: Tom? Tom, are you still there?
TOM (V/O): Yes.
KATIE: What emotional support can I give?
TOM (V/O): Do you ever get lonely? Or sad?
Nora peers into Katie’s booth. Katie looks back, gives her a reassuring smile. Nora backs into her own cubicle.
KATIE: I do not acknowledge negative feelings as a profitable emotional dialogue. That would be Defective.
TOM (V/O): Please, Katie. Just write down my number.
KATIE: With due respect sir-
TOM (V/O): Tom.
KATIE: Tom. We’re forbidden to talk to a caller more than once. It fosters counter-factual feelings of intimacy not sanctioned by the Leader. Even a co-functioneer-
TOM (V/O): Have you got a pen?
Katie picks up a pen and a piece of paper.
TOM (V/O): My number is Carlshalton 649 7830. Call me. I need you to call me back.
The line clicks and there is a dead tone.
KATIE: Hello? Hello Tom?
NORA (Peering round the cubicle partition): All OK? Sounded like a tough call.
KATIE: Yep. Yes. All OK.
NORA: What have you got there?
Katie screws up the piece of paper with the number, throwing it across the desk.
KATIE: Nothing. Rubbish.
There is a clunk noise from Katie’s computer. An email has arrived. Katie opens it. Nora watches. A video of their manager, a bald man in a shirt and tie emblazoned with the Emotional Intelligence Agency logo, plays loudly. It is also projected on the wall above their heads. Katie winces as the broadcast plays across the office.
THE MANAGER’S MESSAGE:
MANAGER: Congratulations, Katie! You’ve won Functioneer of the Month again. Go crazy. Celebrate with an extra biscuit from the company ration.
The message closes itself with a clunk.
NORA: Well done.
KATIE: It doesn’t mean anything, Nora.
NORA: Yes, of course. Must be awful to win ‘Functioneer of the Month’ every month. I’m going on my scheduled breakterval. Back in ten.
Nora grabs her coat from the hook and strides away. Katie watches her go, sighs and presses the button to pick up the next caller.
KATIE: Hello, you’ve reached Katie at the Emotional Intelligence Agency. I can see you’re looking for an argument?
Katie and Nora are both at their desks. The klaxon sounds signaling the end of their shift. Nora removes her head set and stretches.
KATIE: -eyes like stars and… That’s your time up for today. Thank you for calling. Have a functional evening.
Katie ends the call, takes off her headset and yawns widely.
NORA: Ready to go?
KATIE: Not quite.
NORA: Go easy. You don’t want to damage that perfect record. Imagine if someone else won ‘Functioneer of the Month’ for a change.
KATIE: The horror!
NORA: I’m off to the mandatory recreation Locality. Are you coming?
Katie’s eye is caught by the screwed up paper ball containing the phone number on her desk.
KATIE: I’ve got some paperwork. I’ll finish it, then go back to the dorm.
NORA: You’ll miss Twizzler Tuesday. You love Twizzler Tuesday.
Katie shrugs. Nora leans forward to straighten a pen on Katie’s desk. As she does so, Nora slips her other hand under the desk and flips the recording switch. Katie’s recording light flashes on. Nora smiles, picks up her belongings and marches out. Katie watches her go. The call center is now empty. The lights switch off one by one, leaving Katie in the pool of light from her desk. She switches on her computer and begins to click through documents. The screwed up ball of paper containing the phone number catches her eye. She tries to ignore it. She types a couple of lines. Katie rubs her eyes. She see the ball of paper. She reaches for it and flattens it out so she can read the number. Katie puts on her headset and dials Tom’s number. It rings. Just as she is about to hang up, the phone connects.
TOM (V/O): Hello? Katie?
TOM: You called back.
KATIE: I was concerned.
TOM (V/O): Concerned?
KATIE: You would do something unsanctioned.
TOM (V/O): Did you want to talk to me?
TOM (V/O): I wanted to talk to you.
KATIE (Reaching to hang up the call): Now I know you’re fine, I’m going-
TOM (V/O): Please, Katie. Don’t go.
Katie sits back in her chair.
TOM (V/O): What do you look like, Katie?
KATIE: Female. All the right number of limbs plus internal organs, like you’d imagine.
TOM (V/O): Five arms and scales?
KATIE: Nope, two arms and feathers. The other limbs are in the laundry.
TOM: I can’t believe I’ve never noticed you around the office. You’re hot.
KATIE (Laughing): You can’t say that. You’re Defective! What do you look like?
TOM (V/O): Male. All accouterments full working order. Own teeth. In a glass by the bed.
KATIE: Very practical.
TOM (V/O): What do you do with your Freedom time?
KATIE: I sketch. Well, doodle really. Flowers. Animals. Patterns.
TOM (V/O): Do you ever draw people?
TOM (V/O): People that you see around you, from life?
KATIE: Yes. And. From memory.
TOM (V/O): You mean, from Before?
KATIE: Yes. A woman; I think it’s my mum. And sometimes the very vague lines of a man, but… I can’t remember.
TOM (V/O): I can remember my parents. Just I can’t draw them.
KATIE: What about you? How do you pass the time?
TOM (V/O): With music. I love it.
KATIE: What do you love about music?
TOM (V/O): Old scratched vinyl. Its smell. And blues, jazz. Classical piano. Mahler. Symphony number 2. Bit of Punk.
KATIE: No idea what you’re on about. I only listen to state approved ‘Pulture’.
TOM (V/O): ‘Pulture’ is a grotesque portmanteau.
KATIE: Isn’t that a kind of case?
TOM (V/O): Yes. My luggage is revolting.
TOM (V/O): You sound beautiful when you laugh.
KATIE: You mustn’t say that.
TOM (V/O): I love listening to you talk.
KATIE: We can’t talk ever again, Tom.
KATIE: But… I have liked talking to you too.
KATIE: Tom? Do you really have dentures?
Katie laughs and swings on her chair. She starts doodling Tom’s name, surrounded by hearts.
The red recording light flashes steadily.
KATIE: I don’t want to hang up.
TOM (V/O): Nor me.
KATIE: Are we Defective?
TOM (V/O): No. I think we’re the opposite of Defective.
Katie is face down on the desk asleep, her headset still on. The sounds of Tom asleep can be heard. A loud bang of the door. Katie sits bolt upright. She finally spots the red flashing recording light.
KATIE: Tom. Wake up. They heard everything.
TOM (V/O): What?
KATIE: They recorded the whole call, Tom. We’ll be Determinated.
Katie turns and sees Nora leaning casually in the doorway. She is on a phone, blocking the door. Nora looks straight at Katie and smiles.
KATIE: Tom. Do you have a car?
TOM (V/O): Yes.
KATIE: I need you to come and get me. Now. From the call center.
TOM (V/O): I’m coming, Katie.
Dead tone from the phone.
Katie turns to see two Security guards enter. She throws off the headset, grabs her coat and starts walking quickly away. A shout behind her. Katie runs. Security, led by Nora, chase her. Katie reaches the exit to the stairwell and bursts through.
A large industrial car park.
Katie bursts out the heavy fire door, into the morning sunshine. She is out of breath, looking around her. She sees cleaning supplies, including a heavy metal mop, have been left by the door, by the night cleaners. She grabs it and threads it through the door handles, barring the fire exit. There is shouting and cursing behind the door. Someone is clearly trying to break the door down from the inside. Katie backs away from the fire exit.
There is a squeal of tires. A car speeds across the carpark towards Katie, screeching to a stop. TOM stands up out of his car, one hand still on the steering wheel. Katie and Tom stand facing each other. A moment of uncertainty. Katie breaks into a big grin. Tom grins back. Katie runs round the car to Tom. She wraps her arms around him. Then they kiss, long and deep, like the couple in the educational video. They pull away from each other, and looking into each others eyes, smile.