“You don’t have enough points, sir.”
Harold affected a confused look, as if he couldn’t understand what was happening. He knew what was happening.
“But my counter at home says I have more than enough,” he said to the teller.
“That’s all well and good,” the teller retorted, a weary look on his face as if he’d heard this line thousands of times before, “but if there’s a mistake it’s on your end.”
Harold knew he didn’t have enough Status for the event. He knew it when he left home. But this is something his daughter had been talking about for weeks and he had to try.
His Status currently stood at 547, putting Harold somewhere at the high end of the lower class in Transmerica. It meant he could go to the movies and use the public web hubs. He had a screen for broadcasts that was three generations out of date but still featured decent video quality. But the ballet, even one put on by a community group like this, was out of reach by at least 150 points.
He stood at the teller’s window knowing he was holding up the line. Turning his head slightly he could see at least a dozen people behind him, all looking to verify their Status and secure tickets or access to something. He lowered his eyes, mumbled a “thanks” to the teller and walked away.
It was five blocks between the Status Help office and home and Harold immediately began wondering what he would tell Susan. She was young – only 8 – and they didn’t discuss financial or Status matters often. But she knew enough, he thought. She knew new clothes were only going to be possible once a year, twice if he won a drawing at work. She knew that they shopped at a Level 5 market and that she went to a Level 5 school. This was the only life she knew, but she’d seen what Level 1 looked like on the news and shows on the vid. She didn’t know, though, what it took to rise above your station.
Harold had told her he’d see if he could pull some strings and get her tickets to the community ballet performance, which she’d seen in an ad during some show or another. But he had no strings to pull. He could only try. The government kept careful count of Status, though, and pleading a mistake had been made almost never worked. He’d heard that any teller who allowed for an exception was subject to lose at least 100 points off his or her own Status, making the risk too high for them. “Nice” wasn’t an option.
He arrived at his door sooner than he expected, having been lost in thought for much of the walk. He knew disappointment lay on the other side but there was no choice but to put his hand on the lock and go in.
“Daddy!” Susan shouted as she saw him. “Did you get the tickets?”
Harold saw the look on her face and knew he was going to crush her dreams. There was no choice, though.
“No, sweetheart. My Status wasn’t high enough and there was nothing I could do.”
Susan’s face fell and he felt it pierce his heart. There would be no ballet, at least not this year. If he could get a promotion at work then maybe they could look into one next year.
“I understand. Thanks for trying.” A smile played across her face but her eyes still accused him with her…shame? Yes, that’s what he saw there.
He walked across the apartment and into his private room, Susan still in the living area. He sat on the chair that should have been thrown out four years ago, his head falling into his hands. There was no answer, no solution. It was what it was and his situation was hardly unique.
Harold pondered what brought him to this point. He felt such anger suddenly rising up, thinking instantly of the Status Riots that had dominated his youth, though he’d never participated. Maybe if he had, Susan would have able to go to the ballet. Maybe. Just maybe.