The Government Comptroller tallied up all the monthly violations with a click, and looked blankly at Ms. Dempsey.
"That'll be $410.86, ma'am. Debit or credit?"
Rebecca Dempsey looked at him incredulously. "Are you kidding me?"
The Comptroller, Doug Higgins, not understanding a rhetorical statement, looked over the list again to make sure. "No, that's $410.86, plus consumption tax of course. The energy it took to run this computer during our meeting, you see."
Rebecca rolled her eyes. "So I suppose that'll be another hundred."
Mr. Higgins, also oblivious to sarcasm, started the calculations. "Let's see...0.0013 kilojoules/hr, divide by three...plus CBEG (carbon-based energy generation) surtax-"
"It's not my fault we still have a coal generating plant here. I shouldn't be charged the surtax."
The Comptroller just looked blankly at Rebecca over his round glasses. "Ms. Dempsey", he said, "the environment is all our concern. Now your consumption tax is... an even $22.00"
"Sorry..." a flurry of keystrokes. "$22.38...including the cost of calculating your consumption tax."
Rebecca sneered. "And I suppose you'll have to add on the calculation of calculating the tax."
He looked up at her from his screen, mildly annoyed. "No. The third calculation is always rounded down to zero, otherwise we'd be calculating into infinity."
"And we wouldn't want that."
"Well of course we wouldn't". The Comptroller blinked repeatedly. "Think of the resources that would waste." He took the receipt from the printer and handed it to her. "Here's your billable charges, itemized by date for your convenience."
Rebecca scanned the list. October 1st...3 pcs. recyclables in trash, $13.12. Oct. 3rd, exceeding twelve (12) flushes per day, $26.90, plus $1.95 per flush...$34.70. Oct. 4th, unauthorized disposal of disposable diapers, $6.95 ea for total $55.60...
"Now wait a minute", Rebecca protested. "I didn't put that in my trash, I put it in a community disposal bin. How did you even know?"
Higgins looked at her with disdain. He got this complaint a lot. "Well if you read the brochure we sent to you, then you'd know that disposable diapers are exempt from community disposal bins, since each diaper takes thirty-two years to fully decompose, which normally would incur an offset tax of thirteen dollars each. So we're actually saving you money. And in any case, you should know that all the new bins have density sensors which can tell exactly what, and how much, you put in. Cross-reference dump time with CCTV feeds, which is way more efficient now that it's automated, and voila, there it is on your bill" Higgins felt a rush of satisfaction swell in his chest. "It really is amazing isn't it, modern technology?"
Rebecca scanned the rest of her bill with a sour look. "Well I work two jobs to support my Eowyn, I just don't have time to be constantly washing reusable diapers. They cost like $30 each, anyway, for the CSA approved ones."
He didn't even have to think about it. "Well, if we're going to save this planet, we're-"
"-all going to have to sacrifice. I know. I get it." Rebecca sighed. "But it's been pretty cold this year."
Which was a statement easily ignored, since everybody knew that unusually cold years were actually greater proof of global warming. Higgins restated his main concern. "Debit or credit?"
"Debit, I guess." Even if she had good credit, Rebecca doubted anyone would extend it to her; dependants, no spouse, marginal jobs, that was three strikes right there. "But you should know that you're literally taking food out of my baby's mouth."
Higgins laughed, inappropriately, but it was his first reaction. "It's not your fault you know. You come from a dependant background, and-" another flurry of keystrokes - "it says here you were diagnosed with Socially Preferential Intelligence in high school. Well that intelligence bracket does have its applications, like customer service, client services, personal buyers, there's plenty of opportunites for someone like you."
"But you can't get any of those good jobs with bad credit anymore."
"That's ok, it's not your fault that you're an Impulsive Purchaser, our brains are hardwired to seek out pleasure-giving actions. Endorphins and such. You can apply for monthly Impulse Shop bursaries from the government - with the proper diagnosis, of course." Rebecca handed him her debit card, and he swiped it in the terminal. She put in her pin, and watched the status on the screen. Processing...processing...
Shit. It's been processing for more than five seconds, that's a bad sign. Higgins frowned. "It says here it's been not approved, I don't want to criticize your financial management skills but-"
Rebecca stood up and leaned into Higgins' face. "Fuck you. Blood from a stone, dick. You're not getting fuck all from me." She grabbed the handle of her stroller and started walking out of the Federal building. Eowyn shrieked with delight. "Go to hell."
Slogans were the only recourse for Higgins. "But if you're not part of the solution, you're-"
Rebecca looked back. "a fucking asshole." She stormed off with her baby carriage into the crisp autumn afternoon.
Doug just sat at his desk and adjusted the knot in his tie, momentarily stunned. Well, that was unusual, he thought. Oppositional Defiant Disorder? He typed it into Wikipedia. Let's see...irrational response to rational discourse, check; non-compliant attitude, check; open displays of anger in social settings...check. Poor girl, he thought, she must not be on a proper symptom management regimen.
He exited the firefox browser and selected an option in the Meeting Outcome drop-down menu; Non-Finalized Transaction. The screen prompted him to put in the desired interest rate for non-finalized billings. He knew the standard rate was 5%/month, and would get in trouble for putting in less, but...
Underprivileged. Undiagnosed with ODD...dependant, no spouse...poor girl!
He typed in 2% and pressed enter. He figured he would give her a break this month.