the words next to the telephone number read 'call for questions.' so i call it.
'how can i help you?' the voice says.
'hi, yes, i'd like some questions, please,' i say.
'beg your pardon?'
'questions. i'd like some questions. is this the right number for questions?'
'yes, sir. what is your question?'
'oh no no, i think you misunderstand me. i don't have any questions; all i have is answers.'
silence, then: 'how can i help you, sir?'
'what i really want is a good question. i miss the days of uncertainty, of puzzlement, of flummoxation. where i am in life now, i've figured everything out.'
'perhaps you should instead speak with—'
'what i really miss is the thrill of the chase. that exquisite moment of valuing all variables, fleshing out all details and being able to say, "yes, here it is, the truth i have sought." i haven't had that experience in years. decades.'
'sir, i don't—'
'look, at this point i could settle for just explaining something to someone. do you want to hear about evolution? gravity? tolkien? existentialism? antimatter? RAID levels? mathematical uncertainty? ask me something, anything. honestly, i'm dying for a conversation, you have no idea.'
'clearly not. look—'
'oh, not when you're on the clock. i see. absolutely. surely though, you can understand my situation. kindergarten was fantastic—the colors! the shapes! the celery and peanut butter! the new faces! a million new connections every minute! but by grade school i had already mastered things my teachers hadn't even heard of. high school and college had nothing for me except going through the motions and jumping through the hoops. what homework there was i did in my sleep; i solved all the real problems in my enormous allotment of spare time and the ridiculously large number of vacation days. my career has been a long string of stopgaps whilst trying to maintain that tenuous balance between sanity and physical survival, but insulting in its lack of new questions. that's the pattern, don't you see? all answers, no questions. no prodding. no problems. it's alarmingly dystopian. i'm a round peg in a square hole and i'm near tears here.'
a very long pause. some typing, some breathing.
'all right, sir, that is the correct password. please hold; God will be with you shortly.'
some elevator music.