Cloud Computing by Frederick Foote

Now, check this out. You know me, I’m smarter than the average bear, right? Now, I see the floods on the east coast and the massive storms in the south. Right here, in my own home town, I can smell the smoke from the monster forest fires burning north of me. My sister, living down in San Bernardino, saw her house washed away in a mudslide a year ago.

And if the ravages of nature weren’t enough, we have a rising tide of bold burglaries in my neighborhood. My neighbor, Chad, came home from an overnight business trip and found that his house had been cleaned out. They took his refrigerator, washer and dryer, his toilet, his dirty clothes hamper full of dirty clothes. They took his clothes from his closets, his rugs from the floor, his chandelier from the ceiling, toilet paper off the roller, and his toothbrush out of the toothbrush holder.

The other neighbors and I thought Chad was moving when the moving van parked in front of his house in broad daylight. Who would have guessed?

This cavalcade of threats from man and nature convinces me that I need to get on the cloud and store my valuable data where it will be impervious to fire, flood, and theft. My friend Alvin always has the hookup. I use Alvin for advice like others use Consumers Report, the Kelley Blue Book, or PC Magazine. Alvin recommends me to Fog Cloud Services Unlimited (FCSU). Alvin claims that Fog is the cheapest service by far and that it has the most robust encryption and superlative customer service. The best he has ever seen.

So, I started with the Fog yesterday. For seventy dollars a year, I received three TB of super secure storage using 512-bit AES encryption, live chat support, artificial intelligence security personal profile development and security management, and ten dollars in cash, via PayPal, for every customer referral I make to the Fog.

It only took me three hours and thirty-five minutes and four chats with tech support to get the Fog software to almost function the way it should. A small price to pay for security and peace of mind. I was concerned a bit when my computer ran about ten percent slower, but the Fog tech support gal said this was just temporary and it should be back to normal operating speed in a week or two or three.

I did sleep better that night with sweet dreams of me and my data drifting across serene skies on fluffy clouds.

That was last night.

This morning I can’t find the work I completed yesterday. Obviously, it’s my bad. I just don’t know how to use the cloud. I spend the whole morning searching for my missing work. I read and reread the FCSU instructions six times. According to Fog’s FCSU User Manual, the entire process should be “seamless and transparent.” I should save my data as always, and the Fog will keep a protected copy online while I have a copy on my hard drive.

I have searched my hard drive multiple times, and I’m becoming convinced that not only is my work from yesterday not there, but a bunch of my other stuff has disappeared. I can’t find my work on my computer or on the Fog site.

By three p.m. I’m near panic. I attempt to use Fog’s live chat support again, but that service is “temporally unavailable.” I call Fog’s customer service line. I’m on hold for one hour and thirty minutes. Finally, a recording explains that customer service is closed for the day and that I should try tomorrow morning again at 6 a.m. local time. So much for Fog’s “superlative” customer service.

At 6 a.m. on the dot, I’m on the customer service line. I’m number one-hundred-eight in the queue. I’m assured that I’ll be served within the next three hours.

Four and a half hours later I finally connect with a customer service representative who informs me that I’m on the wrong customer service line. I’m on the customer service line for Serbia. He says he will transfer me to the US customer service line and immediately my line goes dead. I redial. I’m now number three-hundred-sixty-four in line. I’m instructed to leave my number and wait for a representative to return my call.

I spend the time waiting for my return call checking my computer, and to my dismay, I discover that every file I have ever created is missing. Goddamn, now, I really can relate to Chad’s situation except I’m paying my burglars.

The next day at 4:30 p.m. I receive a call from Fog customer service. The representative has a heavy foreign accent that I can’t identify, and the connection is full of static and cuts in and out.

I provide my customer service identification number three times, my contract number four times, my date of starting service four times, and the make and model of my computer just once, thank God.

“Ah, you have the introductory plan. This plan is not a full-service plan. For $100 more a month you will have the Business Trigger Backup Deluxe plan that will provide you with deluxe services including access to FCSU’s cryptocurrency exchange.”

“Look, I don’t want to upgrade my service. I want the files that I created two days ago. I want access to all the data that you have sucked off my computer without my permission. I don’t want anything else to do with you guys. I just want you to restore my data.”

“No need to get all huffy. In this world, you get what you pay for. Your data is very safe and encrypted. Your artificial intelligence profile indicates that your information is easily hacked on your computer network. Your data is better protected here than on your hard drive. This is an extra layer of protection we provide at no additional cost.”

“I don’t want an extra level of protection. I want my data back as it was so I can work with it when I want to. I need it now. This is my career at stake here. I don’t need to be in your data-consuming cloud. Restore my data.”

“Well, your data are going through the encryption service at this time. It is not currently available. Our encryption process is the best in the world. Better than the Department of Defense encryption, better than the Russian encryption. Our encrypted data has never been hacked. This is an extra level of protection that we provide to you at no additional cost.”

“Come on, that’s bullshit. Encryption is instantaneous; it doesn’t take two days to encrypt anybody’s data. What kind of game are you pulling here? Just give me my goddamn data.”

“You can’t use that tone of voice with me. I’m a human being too. I have feelings. I’m not a robot. Speaking harshly to me will not speed up the retrieval of your data.”

“Okay, okay. Just restore my goddamn data, please.”

“Sir, I will be thrilled to help you. First, you must verify who you are. We would not want to give your data to the wrong person.”

“What? I just gave you my customer service identification number and my contract number multiple times. What more can I give you?”

“Well, if we could verify your social security number—”

“Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind? Let me speak to a supervisor. Let me speak to a supervisor right now.”

“Our supervisors are in very high demand. They have a backlog of calls. I think I could get a supervisor return call appointment for you in two weeks. Will two weeks work for you?”

“Two weeks? No! Give me my fucking data right fucking now!”

“Your language is totally unacceptable. I refuse to work with—”

“Work with this, asshole. I have been recording this conversation. (I haven’t, but I will in the future.) I have you soliciting my social security number. I think the feds would be very interested in—”

“That is reprehensible that you would sink to such a low level as to record our conversation without my knowledge or consent. I’m sure that’s a breach of some law—”

“Not in my state of mind, buddy. Give me my fucking files!”

“Normal procedure is that you fill out an online request which will be reviewed by my superiors—”

“Give me my fucking data, or I’ll come through this fucking phone and gut you!”

“Would you agree to an exit survey? To allow us to—”

“My data, now!”

“I think your attitude is totally unwarranted and your language is terribly offensive and threatening. However, you should be receiving your data at this time.”

“What the fuck? It’s all gibberish. I can’t read this shit. What is this garbage?”

“It’s encrypted with the most powerful encryption in the world. This data is safe from hackers and national governments and—”

“Unencrypt it. Do it now. Return my data to me exactly as it was on my computer.”

“Well, that may take a day or two. We have a slight problem with our artificial intelligence. Currently, we’re unable to unencrypt data.”

“You’re kidding me. You must fucking be kidding me. No way have you encrypted my data, and you can’t unencrypt it.”

“Sir, our technicians and scientists believe they are on the verge of solving this very embarrassing problem and that we should be able to return your data to you unencrypted in the next few days, at least by the end of the week.”

“Oh, shit!”

“Sir, you should know that all of our cloud data has been backed up with another cloud data service, an extra level of protection that other cloud services do not provide and all at no extra charge.”

“Go to fucking hell.”

“And, we will be providing an extra six months to your subscription free of charge. And—”

I hang up. I call Alvin. Alvin says that he has never actually used the Fog Cloud services, but that he had heard about them from a relative or a friend of a relative. Alvin empathizes with me. He has yet to receive the $100 in referral money owed him by Fog.  I tell Alvin that I have someone at my front door. Alvin’s sitting at his mother’s house thirty-five miles away. I grab my baseball bat, jump into my car and set a land speed record getting there. I’m ringing his mother’s doorbell and winding up to smack the longest cloud-high home run of my life.

Since 2014, Frederick Foote has published more than two hundred stories and poems including literary, science fiction, fables, and horror genres. He has published two short story collections, For the Sake of Soul, (2015) and, Crossroads Encounters, (2016). Frederick hosts the Prose and Poetry Meet Up group in Sacramento, Ca, and is a member of the INK writers workshop and is currently preparing a short story collection manuscript. 

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