Centuries later people would still be talking about the day that the processing center in heaven crashed.
It was all because of Jane, that little overachiever who claimed to have found a more efficient way to pray, “streamlining the process between entreaty and delivery so as to maximize our overall time spent contemplating our unfulfilled desires.” Where she picked up these terms is beyond me since she was, after all, only thirteen. Perhaps she overheard her lawyer mom and tech start-up dad discussing some complex case over dinner one night. Whatever the reason, she talked about her “project” (if we can call it that) with such ease that it was little wonder it received the attention that it did.
I first heard about Jane’s project at the kid’s school fair. She had petitioned the school principal to let her set up a booth at the fair for a new and exciting initiative she was spearheading. This was a project that would give the kids an opportunity to get involved in something larger than themselves, she said, they would to be part of a community of like-minded individuals in pursuit of a common good. This project would encourage kids to find moments of quiet contemplation throughout their day, to reflect upon their life and what they hoped to achieve; most compellingly, it would use existing technological resources and leverage kid’s enthusiasm for connecting through digital social media venues which would virtually ensure the project’s success as a tool to establish meaningful relationships and really, isn’t it clear that this – the ability to establish meaningful relationships – is grossly lacking in today’s day and age…?
After a speech like that, who could help but be moved? And moved the principal was. So much so that he gave her a prime location at the fair and even penned a line to the local newspaper about the wonderful things his students were doing and would the local news like to come and check it out on Saturday the 23rd from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.? All kids welcome.
The big day came. Jane was there first thing with a team in tow to help her set up. Her booth was awesome: it was tented with windows and a faux door, the side emblazoned with the logos of mom’s firm and dad’s start-up. Inside she had a large table with a computer and a handful of chairs. On the side was a large cooler with ice-cold bottles of water. Outside she set up a bistro table next to her faux door with more chairs. On the table she had a little flower vase with tiny Roseas dangling their delicate pink buds in the breeze. The other booths paled in comparison, none of them had a tent, let alone a bistro table with flowers. In retrospect, this should have been the first warning sign but at the time, it was such a welcome oasis in an otherwise bland school fair on a punishingly hot day. Needless to say, everyone stopped by and everyone signed up.
The service was simple: open up an account (the first three months were free) and you can immediately start sending in your prayers. They had obviously hired the best web designers of the day, the site was gorgeous and incredibly easy to navigate. You’d be a fool not to sign-up. You had your own page where you could see what prayers you had submitted and their status, you could send feedback on prayers answered (or not), log complaints or send compliments, and even see your friend’s prayer’s status. The best feature was the iPhone app that allowed you to send prayers on the go. This pretty much sealed the deal for Jane and by the end of the day she had signed up over 5,000 users. By the end of the week, she had doubled her users and the end of the month had her rivaling the growth-rate of a certain notorious social networking site.
Unfortunately for Jane, due to a small glitch in the design of the prayer software, all of the virtual prayers went directly into the respective deity’s spam account. At first, the error went unnoticed by the users, Jane’s head of Prayer Delivery Technology or the processing center in heaven. The first few days, users were still keeping to their old habits and being mindful of their prayers. By the end of the month, however, not only had the user-base increased but the service had done exactly what it had promised and made praying so efficient that people upped their prayer count and were now sending in anywhere from 20-100 prayers a day, all of which were being directed into hundreds of spam accounts.
As the virtual prayers increased, people cut back on their in-person prayer activity and things got increasingly quiet in heaven. The deities took this as a good sign and decided to take a long-overdue vacation. Seeing that the bosses were out of town, the staff took advantage and decided to use up their remaining vacation as well. That was why almost everyone was gone when the processing center crashed. The only person who had stayed behind was Mephistopheles who had unfortunately used up all of his vacation time earlier in the year.
Metphistopheles came into work on that fateful day to the dawning realization that all of those hours spent in this dead-end job had finally paid off, all those weekly mandatory meetings about how to achieve our “collective vision” for a common good were over, all his time spent listening to other people’s concerns and trying to find ways to service their needs was soon coming to an end. He gave a small smile as he sat down, put his feet up on his desk and as he quietly enjoyed his cup of morning coffee for the first time in all eternity, he thought to himself “I must remember to send flowers to Jane.”
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