We Are Emergencies

Elizabeth McNeill

Kelly tackled the end of the world the way she tackled every business deal. There were potential clients in need of services, and she would be the one to meet them head-on. When the first tsunami wiped out San Francisco, she had her market research team put together a list. When the second tsunami took out LA, she had the guys make their sales pitch. And when reports came in that a third tsunami was barreling down on Silicon Valley, she knew she’d strike it big.

She wasn’t targeting California. It doesn’t take her talent for forecasting to predict that those rich hippies were goners. She knew that the well-endowed governments out East would throw tax dollars at her with Ol’ Big Blue in trouble. But really, it didn’t matter who was getting swallowed up in a tsunami this week, or a forest fire next week. The most important thing was timing. She had to anticipate buyers’ needs, right when their anxiety tipped them over into her tissue- and contract-filled hands. Emergencies were big business.

She had the guys working around the clock. 2020, The Great Year of Government Spending, taught her that government agencies wanted vendors who worked 24/7/365, girlbosses who could crank through a crisis. She knew what she had to do. At last week’s “Sell Your Sale” webinar, she’d told the attendees, “Put in the work, fellas! You never regret a sales call!” Her sales tips were rooted in the toiled soil of America. Now, where did the frozen bacon and canned potatoes that fed this great nation come from? It wasn’t from leaning on pitchforks. Heck, she’d made so much green as the CEO of Roboface the Day that she’d been called Skincare Sales Eve! Give her a craze for AI-generated selfies and she’d plant a goddamn capitalist paradise. An orchard so virile that even grown-man Washington couldn’t chop it down. How did she do it? It wasn’t from sharing her secrets for free. (Sales Tip: Sell your secrets in webinars and charge $150 a head!) Kelly had been preparing for the end of the world her entire career.

As Silicon Valley’s drowning computer chips sent out sparks in the California night, endangering every hoodied nerd trying to salvage their iLives, Kelly nestled into her pillow. She dreamt of touching the mailman’s fingers, his calluses rubbing against her own when handing over the grocery package. Waking refreshed on yet another morning to Chase Your Dreams, she breathed in the faintly charred scent of wildfires in Colorado. It reminded her of steak. She decided to order more food, once the delivery company was back online.

Central Nebraska was a prime spot to watch the action develop. No ocean. No earthquakes. Infrequent twisters, made bearable thanks to the bunker she built with her Roboface the Day severance pay. The Nebraska mornings tasted like warm oak, and she was comforted as she imagined being turned round and round in one of Pigaro’s smokers. After heating up some dehydrated coffee and getting dressed in a gray pantsuit, she stood on her porch and scrolled through her feed. Of course, she was ranked first on the site. She spent her 5-9 on outreach. Her competitors in emergency services weren’t as prepared as she was, no ma’am. Could Taylor at Certain Survival in NYC boast a secluded bunker, sandy land made slightly darker through Eternal Growth Fertilizer®, a Holy Water Tank®, and a postcapitalism-proof business model? “Ha!” she snorted into the gritty coffee. Amateur.

The guys were living all over the country. (Sales Tip: Manage your risk!) She left the porch for her office and, leaning back into her squeaky plastic office chair, dialed up her secretary. “Matt! Where are we at with Florida?” Florida, she learned, was primed for a sale. A big sale. Kelly’s mouth curled into a smirk as Matt explained that Hurricane Roosevelt was making landfall in Tallahassee. The capital city’s agencies were already releasing increasingly distressed Requests for Proposals: Construction Project Management for Various Road and Bridge Projects. Homelessness and Housing Insecurity Services. Drug and Alcohol Collection and Testing. Hazardous Waste and County Department Waste. Virtual Autopsy Services. Kelly briefly wondered if she’d ever see a palm tree again, then recalled the sun blisters from a childhood vacation on Gainesville Beach. She hoped those Floridians could swim.

Kelly opened her CRM and searched under Location for Tallahassee, the seat of the state’s government purchasing. Filled with caffeinated confidence, she aimed for the big guy himself. The administrative staff had fled the white capitol building, so her call went straight through to the Governor. (Sales Tip: Put yourself in situations others would call luck!) “Heeey! Mark! This is Kelly from We Are Emergencies. How ya doin’?” A shaky whimper, barely audible, came from the speakerphone. “Mark? Mr. Governor?” The line broke off. She inserted the timestamp in the CRM and scheduled a Follow-Up Call for the end of the week, knowing the governor would have to act more put-together for the media tour of the hurricane damage.

On to the next call. (Sales Tip: Make all your sales calls back-to-back, otherwise you’ll never get to them!) Since the city government was apparently in recession today, Kelly turned to the city’s healthcare system. The biggest hospital, Tallahassee Memorial, had made a net profit of $704,494,918 in The Great Year of Government Spending, so they had money for top-of-the-line emergency services. There’s no profit in the future without emergency spending today! That’s what she always said. Kelly closed her eyes and nodded, savoring her golden sales pitch.

“Mark!” She checked her notes. Another Mark? Yes. Another Mark. “Mark! This is Kelly from We Are Emergencies.” A snarl: “What the fuck do you want from me?” (Sales Tip: Meet hostility with warmth! That way, you show you don’t want to be a pest, you’re just being amazing at your job!) “Hey there, Mark, I’m calling to see what kind of services your hospital will be needing for the end of the world.” “Oh yeah?! Fuck you to eternity!” The line went dead: Kelly’s signal to insert the timestamp. She made a note in the CRM—“Stage of Grief: Anger”—and scheduled a call for the following day, when he’d hit the next stage of grief: bargaining.

Eternity, bargaining—Kelly had an idea. The government and healthcare weren’t playing ball. And what major money-maker was left? The church! Driving from Tallahassee to Atlanta on what turned out to be her final sales trip, church after church flanked her car. Heck, it was easier to get salvation on Thomasville Road than it was to get a cheeseburger! More market research was needed. (Sales Tip: Don’t be afraid to apply yourself to the keyboard like Special Sauce on a Big Mac!) She giddily opened Safari, only to see that the Internet was now down. Blessed with a genius’ memory, though, she remembered that the biggest Revelationist megachurch was in Florida. The building was so large it could be the Civic Center (they have money!) and located in a retreat city (they had rich congregants ready to give unto the Lord!). Kelly was ready for the Lord to give unto her.

“Pastor Jim! Kelly from We Are Emergencies here. It seems you’ll be needing some salvation.” Nailed it. Out boomed a voice speaking to a congregation of 3,700: “CHILD! DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT THE LORD CALLS YOU? WHY ARE YOU, OH LAMB, CALLING ME?” “Hi! Pastor Jim! Great to hear from you. I’m calling to offer you our premium emergency services. Act fast because we have a special sale going on today only!” “THE WORLD IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE GLORIES AWAITING US WHEN WE RETURN TO THE LORD! BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHO DIED IN THE LORD, THAT THEY MAY REST FROM THEIR LABORS, FOR THEIR DEEDS FOLLOW THEM! THE GREAT AND AWESOME DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING, MY CHILD! WILL YOU LIVE ON AS ONE OF GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE?” “That’s the plan, Pastor Jim. I’m living in Central Nebraska. No Hurricane Roosevelt here. But you—” “NO, CHILD! ARE YOU RIGHT WITH THE LORD? JUDGMENT DAY IS HERE! BUT WILL GOD OUR SAVIOR CALL YOU TO HIS SIDE?” “That’s just what I want to talk to you about, Pastor Jim. I’m calling you about, um, Judgment Day to make sure you and your congregants have everything you need. There are supplies you surely haven’t thought about purchasing, plans you haven’t made, and I’m here to offer you and your congregants the best possible Judgment Day services money can buy.” “WHOEVER LOVES MONEY NEVER HAS ENOUGH, CHILD! THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH!” “Pastor Jim, now, I’m a straight shooter, so I’ll come right out and offer you our best deal. Our premium package for an organization your size is usually $10,000 a month. I’ll offer it to you for a quarter of the price. I’ll even add in free technical support, 24/7/365. How about it?” “AND A SOUL? HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH?” Kelly did some quick calculations and arrived at $73.46 per month but decided to keep that to herself. “Well, let me ask you a question, Pastor Jim. How much is a soul worth to you? I can keep you and your congregants prepared for the current emergency, and all future emergencies, with a money-back guarantee.” “CHILD! I HEAR THE TRUMPETS OF THE ANGEL! GREAT HAIL AND FIRE AND BLOOD APPROACH! MAY THE LORD BE WITH YOU!” Before Kelly could fumble out “And with you,” her potential client had hung up the phone. Kelly inserted the timestamp and made a note in the CRM: “Good chat!” She scheduled a Follow-Up Call for Monday, when the church counted up congregants’ offerings.

It was nearing midday, and Kelly still hadn’t made a sale. Disappointed, she reminded herself that the life of a saleswoman was an endless hunt, and the hunter couldn’t predict the exact moment the bunny ran across the road. Discipline, she needed discipline. (Sales Tip: Discipline turns good saleswomen into great saleswomen! You can never be disciplined enough!) She counted “1-2-3-4-5,” then threw herself on the sticky linoleum for a 1-minute plank. Rejuvenated after 20 seconds, although guilty for not doing more, she crawled back up to her plastic office chair. In tough times, even the greatest saleswomen needed a model to turn to. So, she quietly raised up a little prayer: “What would Jeff Bezos do?” She didn’t have the money to colonize space. Anyways, that hadn’t gone well. And she already had the guys working like little bees (R.I.P.), their every second clocked and categorized through a digital surveillance system tracking mouse movement. How else could she strap that mouse to a treadmill and make it run—faster, faster!—until its little legs gave out?

An idea shot through her cerebral cortex more explosively than one of Bezos’ rockets (also R.I.P.). She would add to her sources of passive income. (Sales Tip: Diversify your income streams, both passive and active! This allows you to work all the time, even when you sleep! Congratulate yourself on achieving the dream!) Her savvy investments—fossil fuels, cryptocurrency, logging, her beloved Roboface the Day—were one thing, but she could always diversify her portfolio more. Having already gobbled up the most sensible financial investments, the trick here was to identify another way to stimulate propulsive sales from flaccid opportunities.

Kelly allowed herself to look out the window for inspiration, then realized she was only looking at dirt and Holy Water®. Usually, she brainstormed by stomping around the office and spilling her brilliant thoughts as Matt, silently on the call, caught them in a Google Doc. Kelly chuckled as she remembered the old-fashioned word “basket case.” Then, she smiled because her subconscious was beautiful. What she needed, she thought as she squished a foam baseball between her hands, was a basket, something that could hold all of her wisdom for the next generation of saleswomen. She didn’t want to host more webinars, which could spin out into endless prep and IT troubleshooting she had to outsource to the guys. (Sales Tip: When calculating unit price, make sure to include even those invisible, personal costs, like the air you breathe and the thoughts you think and the anger you feel when your employees fail you! The client will never ask to see your math!) No more Zoom motivational talks. No more TikTok dances. No more curated Spotify playlists to unleash the Sales Eve in you.

Bored by the view from her window, Kelly turned around and set her hands on the antique mahogany desk. It used to be her mother’s, the person who wrote her first CV when she was 10, setting her up for professional success. Would Kelly have become one of America’s darling girlbosses without her mother reading her bedtime stories about businesswomen or, when she was a teenager, picking up airport books about “leaning in” to business success? Kelly felt a tear form, thinking of how far feminism had taken them.

And just like that, Kelly saw the new line she’d add to her profile: “Author.” Kelly was going to write a book, a book of sales tips. She could crank that out in one afternoon, especially since publishing houses had let go of all their editors and the quality of bestselling publications had slipped achievably low. Yes, she would write the business guide to end all business guides, offering just enough new information that long-time attendees of her webinars would feel required to buy it. (Sales Tip: When giving advice to up-and-comers, always save a secret sliver for yourself! You’ll never know when you’ll need it! In fact, just keep adding secrets, rest assured that secrets work like compound interest!) This book, like her webinars, would have to be online, since paper had gone extinct. She leaned back in her plastic office chair and envisioned the new line on her CV, the rapturous reviews in Business Insider and Harvard Business Review, the adoring followers, millions and millions of them…

After eating her last microwaved hotdog, she settled down to write. “Matt! I’m writing a book and you need to type it.” “Yes, Boss. But the, uh, the power has gone out here in Indiana.” “I’m not paying you to complain, Matt!” “Right, Boss. I’ll record it with my phone on Low Power Mode. Do you have a title?” “Of course, Matt. I’m always three steps ahead. It’s We Are Emergencies, that’s a no-brainer. And the very helpful subtitle is: A Guide to Business at the End of the World. We need to ramp up potential customers’ anxiety, so they’ll buy it.” “Clever, Boss. Where would you like to begin?”

Knowing this was the beginning of the end, Kelly looked out the window, this time taking her gaze from the dirt below to the sky above. Viciously gray clouds had settled down low, and she couldn’t tell whether rain was approaching or a twister. Either way, she didn’t plan on leaving her office until she’d narrated We Are Emergencies to Matt and, just as 5 pm struck, triumphantly shouted, “The End!”