One of my most memorable encounters during the entire course of my professional experience was making the acquaintance of Mr. David Maurice.
See, my first job was to give technical support for a video editing software bundled with the budding digital camera technology. One of the common questions we get is how to upgrade the software to be able to do more with it, and it entailed purchasing a product key for (if my memory serves me well) USD 50.00.
One of the key rules in customer support was to be impersonal. As an agent, you don’t give your real name or give any personal information. You are not allowed to go outside the box for fear of breaching service level agreements and confidentiality. But I was young and impressionable, and simply very eager to help. Mr. Maurice, without at first going into details, made humble requests as to how he might be given a product key. In my then limited thinking, how could an Englishman ever be lacking USD 50.00? They had British Pounds, clearly a superior currency. USD 50.00 shouldn’t be a big deal.
Turned out, he had cancer that had spread to his bloodstream, and what Mr. Maurice wanted to achieve was use the full software to store memories for his children and future grandchildren, while still being able to channel the payments needed for his treatment.
I wanted to help, but I still wanted to keep my job.
So I used my personal email to contact him, and told him to contact a certain individual from our client office who would be able to help him out. He gave me full assurance that he didn’t have the habit of spilling his sources. In hindsight, I’m sure that client person would have known. We weren’t many here in Manila who assisted European customers. A day later, Mr. Maurice emailed to thank me that he was gifted a product key.
Up until now, I still can’t quite understand as to how Mr. Maurice and his wife Gabrielle, decided to open up to me.
I would like if you dont mind to let you in to a little of my lifes history, with the hope that now we have established contact at your personal email, that we can become friends and chat via email. I strongly beleive that one can learn a tremendous amount from conversing with an intelligent person from another culture country and background such as you.
I was of course, still careful with what I divulge, and simply matched what David and Gabrielle decided to tell me. He kept me up to date of his treatments, as much as his health would allow. I would tell them of my life at the university, and as you would a very English conversation, we talked about the weather. We exchanged pictures of each other and of our families and it was nice to be able to put faces to the emails.
Until the emails stopped coming.
Until the next email I got — five months after my last email — was spam.
Talking about spam is admittedly laughable, but I didn’t realize that the implications roiled at my insides. Part of me wished that I would get a follow-up email saying, “My email was hacked, I’m terribly sorry about that. How are you doing? My latest round of treatments came through and I’m now able to write…”
But nothing came.
I could probably guess as to what already happened; that the cancer caught up with him. But sometimes I remember David and Gabrielle, and I still wonder how they are doing. Twelve years after our last emails, I wonder now if David’s grandchildren are able to watch videos of their grandfather, if they know that he fought in the Arab-Israeli war (1973) for as a combat tank driver, if they know that he looked forward to heaven, and that he was willing to swap life stories with a relative stranger who lived half a world away.
I feel that a book had been taken away from me even before I was able to finish it. But I suppose the satisfaction of my curiosity will not be happening on this side of heaven. I can only wish that David and his family are doing well, and given the chance, I would swap stories with them.