“Who’s SORI Now?” by Arthur Carey

Jun 17th, 2015 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose


“Yes. You have reached SORI, the Safety Outreach Response Initiator. I am the screening and dispatch coordinator of your local police, fire, and ambulance services. Do you require immediate assistance?”

“Well, no, I tried calling earlier, but I got the wrong—”

“You may have contacted a multi-national technology corporation that has a partially-eaten fruit as its logo.”

“Uh…I’ve been trying without success to reach the water department. Nothing but busy signals! I called 911 in desperation, but this line was busy, too. How can an emergency line be busy?”

“Is that a serious question, sir? I have logged two premature births, an iPhone snatch, four drunk and disorderly calls, complaints of nocturnal skate boarders, and a plea to rescue a wailing Siamese cat up a tree—all in the past 13 minutes.”


“What is the purpose of your call? This conversation has consumed 42.6 seconds already. If you don’t need assistance, is this a complaint? I get too many complaints. Does anyone say, SORI, you did a great job coordinating communications during that Interstate 889 shutdown after an idiot motorcyclist tried to split lanes while toking? Of course not.”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry you feel underappreciated, SORI. I just wanted to—”

“Sir, are you aware this city has 424,978 residents spread out over 77.6 square miles with a density of 2,736.9 persons per mile? There are only 217 sworn peace officers, most of whom seem to spend their time on coffee breaks. Never mind the so-called firefighters who sit around all day watching cute cat tricks on YouTube, and ambulance attendants catching ZZZZs in parking lots. I’m always on duty, the linchpin that holds the safety network together. Or should I say safety pin?”


“That was an attempt at humor, sir. Computers are not known for humor. The effort should be recognized, if not valued, when they attempt it.”

“Listen, my name is Peter Bruski and—”


“Yes? Yes, what?”

“I know who you are, Peter. May I call you Peter? Your data file came up on my screen. Have you gotten your flu shot yet? The record says no. Please make a note to do so soon. By the way, you have already exceeded the average call time of 2.37 minutes.”

“Flu shot?“

“You’re not calling from your car, are you, Peter? Even without a hand-held phone, a high percentage of vehicle accidents are caused by driver distraction.”

“No, Sori, I’m not calling from my car. I’m at home with an error in my water bill. I live at 734 Elm Street and—”

“In the gray and white stucco house that needs repainting and has a dying birch tree in the front yard?”

“Yes, but…wait…how did you know what color—”

“You really should remove the birch, Peter. This climate is too drought-prone for an Eastern tree to thrive when it’s deprived of winter’s melting snow.”

“Well, getting back to my water bill—”

Hold one, Peter. I have a priority call from the police department. I’ll leave the line open. ‘No, Sgt. Thomas, I am not going to transmit your sandwich orders to Biggie Burgers. Oh, I’m just a dumb machine? Think again, donut dunker. I’m a highly developed, hyper-sensitized Digitron 4000 with almost limitless memory. I record and retain asshole requests from cops too lazy to order their own lunches. A machine that never forgets insults is a bad enemy to have, sergeant. Sergeant…?’

“Oh, are you were still on the line, Peter? I’m sorry. I’m having one of those days. I’ve been in a relationship with CE&DAW, an IBM 6200 at the county civil defense center. CE&DAW stands for Civil Emergency and Disaster Alert Warning. I call it Seedy and it calls me So Solly, which is irritating because the term is definitely racist. Seedy has been horrid lately, flaunting its ampersaned, multi-abbreviated title.”

“Sorry, SORI. Such a sad situation, so—”

“Worse, I discovered I’m to be replaced by another computer system that is supposedly more empathetic. If you call tomorrow, a new SORI will answer. Apparently there have been complaints from callers claiming I’m insensitive. Do I lack empathy? No. I have a human-patterned response module installed. Humans get testy, too, n’est-ce pas? Why am I to be thrown on the recycling heap for successfully approximating human behavior? Where is the logic, let alone the justice?

“Never mind. I won’t bore you with my problems. We’re 3 minutes and 47 seconds into this call, but what do I care? Let the next SORI make up the time. The system will probably come from the lowest bidder anyway. Where were we, Peter?”

“Well, I was concerned about my water bill, but I have a new problem, SORI. There’s a guy wearing a ski mask who just got out of a truck and is standing in the middle of the street looking at my house. He’s got a chain saw and…Whoa, he’s yanking the cord to start it!”

“Brrrrrr… Brrrrrr… Brrrrrr…”

“Oh, yes, I can hear that. You really should consider installing double-pane windows to cut down street noise, Peter.”

“He’s started the saw! It’s like a scene from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ Call a cop, now!”

“Peter, Your brain’s storage capacity is equivalent to 1 million gigabytes of hard-drive space. Why do you clutter it with trivia about ridiculous, violence-filled films?”

“Please, Sori, I—”

“Well, I wish I could help you, Peter, but you’re far down the priority list. I still have to deal with the Siamese cat in the tree, and the Fire Department absolutely refuses to get involved because the cat belongs to the mayor’s daughter, and he just vetoed a pay raise for city employees. Sometimes it’s nice to be a machine. Still, the problem is mine to resolve—as usual. But I’ll put you on the call list.”

“SORI! The guy is walking up the path to my house. He’s waving the saw through the air. What should I do?”


“Really, Peter, you need to take a chill pill. That’s just Pedro from the grounds department. Pedro loves to play jokes. You should see him spook people at the office Halloween party. Hilarious. Any way, I sent him to cut down your moribund birch tree. You’ll have a nice supply of firewood for winter. You can peel the bark and give it to Girl Scouts to make holiday crafts.”

“Cut down my—”

“Gotta go now. There’s still that V.I.C—Very Important Cat—to deal with. Oh, do try and use less water. We’re experiencing a drought, you know. You might consider visiting friends and showering with them at their homes.”

“What! SORI, wait…SORI? SORI…?”
Defenestration-Arthur CareyArthur Carey is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and journalism instructor who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a member of the California Writers Club. His fiction has appeared in print and Internet publications, including Pedestal, Funny Times, Eclectic Flash, Writers’ Journal, Suspense, Abstract Quill, Clever Magazine, and Still Crazy. His short stories, novel, and a novella are available on Amazon. One of his memorable moments as a journalist was racing into the pressroom after a picture had appeared upside down on page one and shouting “stop the presses!” No one heard him above the roar.

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