The Here & Now Project

Divide

Every Friday this summer, The Here & Now Project will post a new short play, written by one of four playwrights selected from across the United States. These plays focus on dramatizing where these playwrights are and what’s happening there now. 

THE TIME: Now.
THE PLACE: A branch of the public library, Toledo.

Public library computer cluster. Maybe it resembles the virtual landscape in Tron. Or maybe it doesn’t. Everyone seated at a computer. Everyone mystified and frustrated, except for TERELL.

FATIMA stands up.

FATIMA
O captcha.
My captcha.
I’m really really mad at you.
I need an email.
Apparently I need an email.
I’m told I need an email address
To create an account
So I can advertise a room
So I can pay bills.
To do that I need an account;
For that I need to have an email
And for that I need to do this captcha
Which is a problem because
I do not know
What is a captcha.

TERELL
It’s just a test. It’s a test to make sure you’re a person and not a computer. A computer can’t read it so when you read it then the site knows you’re not a computer but a person.

FATIMA
Then maybe I’m a computer
Because I cannot read it.
Is that a D or an eight?
Does it try to say “despond?”
Why so twisty, captcha?
Why so swirly and with a line through you?
I can’t read that. So
Maybe I’m a machine.
I just need someone
To rent my room.
I just need the money.

TERELL
Well, if it says you need an email to place the ad—I don’t know, you should probably do the captcha.

FATIMA
And if I do that,
This captcha,
That will fix it?

TERELL
Yep.

FATIMA tries.

FATIMA
I did it wrong.
There is a new captcha.

RUSS stands.

RUSS
O captcha
My captcha
I want to throw my belt from the Gap at you.
I need to apply
For an extension
Of my benefits
Because they didn’t hire me at
The casino or
The university or
The Red Robin or
The cleaners or
The medical center or
The Red Robin.

TERELL
(You already said that.)

RUSS
(No I tried twice, I applied there twice.
I know right?)
So I need to file for an extension
But they have my old email
Which got hacked
(I think by someone in Morocco?)
So I need a new email
With a new username
That no one else in the
Universe has already taken
And plus
I have to do this captcha,
This fucking captcha.

TERELL
If you hit the refresh it’ll give you a different one, a different captcha.

RUSS
A better one?

TERELL
A different one.

RUSS
And that’ll fix it?

TERELL
It won’t hurt.

NOREEN stands.

NOREEN
O captcha.
My captcha.
I’m about ready to go on and slap you.
I need to find the article,
The not-so-long-ago article
About the woman at the gas station
At the corner of Central and Talmadge
Who parked a little too far away from the pump
And so who said to her eleven-year-old niece in the car,
Said “Pull it on up a little closer hon,”
Because what’s the worst that could happen,
And short story short both the car and the pump
Went up in flames. Did you see that?
Did you see that story?
No one was hurt but still: flames.
Anyway
I need to find that story.

TERELL
You uh shouldn’t need an account to—The Blade site is free, why do you need to do a uh—?

NOREEN
I don’t just need to find the article.
I also need to send the article
To my mother
For her to know about
And to think about
For the next time she wants to talk to me about my parenting.
So.
This captcha.

TERELL
It’s just a Turing test. Don’t think too hard about it.

NOREEN
And that will fix it?

TERELL
Just keep trying. It’ll keep giving you new ones.

NOREEN
I don’t want new ones.

TERELL
They’ll never run out.

RUSS
I don’t—Do you think this one says “abject?”

FATIMA
I cannot read it, apparently I am a computer.

NOREEN
I typed "turingtest,"
Is that what you said to do?
It didn't work.

KENDRA stands.

TERELL
Oh my God.

KENDRA
O captcha
My captcha
I’m ready to full-on baseball-bat you.
I need an account
To send a package
To my son in prison
Which you can't just send a package
To your son in prison
You have to go to this place on the computer
I guess
And put it together from the stuff they have to offer
Their snack bags and Dial soaps
And to do that you need an account
And to do that you need an email
And to do that you need to do this...

OTHERS
Captcha.

KENDRA
Right.
And I've got to get this done
Because I said I'd get it done
And they make it all so hard
And everything takes so long
And I can't just take forever
Because I've got to pick up my grandkids from school.

FATIMA
When do they get out of school?

KENDRA
Uhh—half an hour ago.

NOREEN
Would you like to meet my mom?

TERELL
Just do it. Just type it and do it. It's annoying but it's just a thing. It's just a thing that you have to do and it's not the hardest thing, just do it and just do it.

KENDRA
And that will fix it?

TERELL
Sure that will fix it; that will fix everything!

RUSS
I'd like to go to Morocco.

FATIMA
On top of everything it's Ramadan.

NOREEN
Does this one say "surrender?"

RUSS
I'll probably never go to Morocco.

NOREEN
Nope I guess it doesn't.

FATIMA
I would kill now for a Ritz cracker.

KENDRA
Have you ever seen anyone in real life spend this much on a Twizzlers?

RUSS
Are these things harder than they used to be?

FATIMA
Who is Craig and why is it his list?

NOREEN
Does this one say "resigned?"

KENDRA
I think I just turned the computer off.

RUSS
My job thing—
This will fix it?

FATIMA
My money thing—
This will fix it?

NOREEN
This thing with my mother—

KENDRA
This thing with my son—

OTHERS
This life and stuff thing—

NOREEN AND KENDRA
This will fix it?

TERELL
Oh! Come! On!
Can't you people see
That I am trying to enjoy
This pornography?
And it's getting really really really really
Difficult!

FATIMA
—You are looking at pornography?

TERELL
Yes!
Yes!
Yes I am!
And do you know why
I am looking at pornography?

NOREEN
Um.
—Yes?

KENDRA
Yes.

RUSS
Probably yeah, yes.

TERELL
Because it doesn't ask questions.
It doesn't need help.
It doesn't expect anything
From me
All the time!
It just does
What it's supposed
To do.
And you know what else?
No captchas!

RUSS
Um.
What um,
What site... is that? That you're—?

TERELL
Never mind,
You've all ruined it.
I'm outta here.

Pause.

KENDRA
Why, um, isn't he—?

TERELL
I'll get up and leave shortly, thank you.

The OTHERS stand.

OTHERS
O captcha! Dire trickster!
O how you warp and bend,
I prove my life but not enough
To fix it and hit "send."

End of play.

Playwrights Note:
The digital divide is an issue everywhere, though it's easy to feel—in a city where only 24% of the adults have a college degree—like it's more pronounced here. The problem of eleven-year-olds setting gas stations ablaze with their unsophisticated parking skills may well be a more localized phenomenon.

 

 

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Thoughts from the curator

A call to to playwrights from across the United States to bring to light stories representing the whole conversation happening in this country.

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