A10 - Part One

A Short Story

The first thing that a Guest notices is the teeth. There's been a lot of market research - I can show it to you - and what a Guest will most often remark upon, usually negatively, is the sensation and quality of the teeth. A lot of Diamond Class Hosts will do the mandatory shower, the shave (if it's requested), maybe even put on some expensive cologne they've bought specifically for the booking, but most will forget to brush their teeth. Brush and floss and rinse with mouthwash. The teeth are likely going to be your Guest's first impression, and first impressions count. When the transfer is complete and they run your tongue along your teeth, instinctively, as a reflex, do you honestly want them to feel a fuzzy row of plaque? Of course you don't. You want them to feel that smooth, fresh feel of a recently cleaned mouth. But most people forget.

I am not most people. I take an enormous amount of personal pride in being part of the Diamond Class Proxii program and making sure that each and every Guest has an experience that exceeds their expectations. Not meets their expectations - exceeds them. That's because I love my job. I don't treat Proxii like a hobby or "side hustle". This is my full-time employment. I have business cards printed - I can show these to you as well - and I like to think that both my attitude and the business cards reflect how serious I am.

If this level of dedication to Proxii is surprising to you, then it's very possible that you simply don't understand the Diamond Class program. I don't want to make assumptions or sound elitist, but it's just a fact that very few people will encounter the program in their daily lives, and most just assume it's the same thing as Proxii Standard. It is not.

To begin with, pretty much anyone can be a Host with Proxii Standard. You probably know someone who’s in that position. Potentially, you yourself have downloaded the app, filled out the questionnaire, had the implant fitted by your local clinic, and now take Proxii Standard bookings regularly. To that end, please know that I am not casting aspersions on Proxii Standard, which is a terrific and vital service used by millions every day. Whether people are visiting relatives interstate, or attending an international conference, or taking an afternoon trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Proxii Standard has made all that easy and affordable. But Diamond Class isn't that. Diamond Class is a premium service used by discerning professionals for a range of reasons, both business and personal. A booking costs around five times the price of Proxii Standard, depending on the permissions granted, with a larger percentage of the booking fee going to the Host themselves. Entry into the program is, for this reason, very competitive.

For one thing, you need to keep a rating of A8 or higher in order to keep your Diamond status. Proxii Standard lets you drop to B5 before even issuing a warning. My rating is A10. There are 400 Diamond Class Hosts in the city of New York - assuming you don’t count Queens, which I don’t - but only fifteen with an A10 rating. 

You also need to be in very good shape, and I am. In order to maintain the physique I have, I need to spend around five hours per day in the gym. Recently, I switched to an  all-NutroCal diet. If you don't know what NutroCal is, it's a kind of rich nutrient paste you can substitute for conventional meals. It's difficult to substitute it completely - cutting solid food out altogether - but with proper care it can be done. I have to emphasize here that a crash NutroCal diet is not without its risks, and - full disclosure - I did spend two days early on in the program “clinically blind”, but on balance it's a product I still endorse without hesitation.

Between bookings and my health regime, I get very little literal “me” time. I’ve estimated that at present around 70% of my conscious hours are dedicated to either Hosting or maintaining my desirability as a host. 

This dedication is probably why the PR division of Proxii reached out and asked me to do an interview on Good Morning America. When they asked me I was flattered, excited, and honestly felt vindicated. I’ve lost some friends since joining the program - it has, obviously, taken a toll on my social and romantic life - but to appear as the face, the poster boy really, of Proxii Diamond Class made these sacrifices seem all the more worthwhile. I began preparations for the interview more or less immediately, filming myself from a number of angles while answering likely questions that could be asked by the hosts of the program. When I was satisfied, I phoned my parents. I don’t really speak to them since moving to New York, but I told them to watch GMA two Mondays from now if they wanted to know how I was doing. 

There are around one million Hosts working for Proxii in the United States alone, and of those one million, head office wanted me. 

I’m telling you all this not because I want to impress you - although if you are impressed I understand that - but because I want you to know that what happened with Royce Childs had nothing to do with jealousy or anything like that. It had to do with fairness.

Childs actually came to my attention before any of the GMA stuff happened. I was in Wholefoods when I noticed a well-groomed man in chinos and a polo looking at me. After a moment, seeming to make up his mind that I was who he thought I was, he said, “Hey man, I used you!”

It took me a moment to recognise him as Brad Renner, a client from one month prior. Most Hosts wouldn’t remember the name of a client from a month ago, but I tend to research Guests prior to the booking, in case there are any valuable networking opportunities to be had. (Once, I took a booking from a man I learned was a relatively senior producer at MGM, and made sure to “accidentally” leave the treatment of a screenplay I’d been working on in my jacket prior to the booking. I haven’t heard back from him, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.) 

Renner had taken a booking to attend his daughter’s fifth birthday while overseas on a business trip. The whole thing seemed to traumatise his kid (it’s quite difficult to explain Proxii et cetera to a toddler, I guess, and so when this guy just turned up claiming to be her dad she, by his account, ‘lost her mind’) but he still left a glowing review and said he’d use me again soon for a conference down the track. 

We got talking in the Wholefoods. Eventually I asked if that conference was coming up and he looked embarrassed.

‘Oh, yeah man. That was like, last week,’ he said. ‘I meant to, you know, but a friend of mine used this guy - do you know him? Do you guys like, meet up and stuff?’ He took out his phone, opened the app and showed me a profile. That was the first time I saw Royce Childs.

I told Renner that we didn’t really meet up, no. The conversation stalled at that point. Just so I knew, just so I wouldn’t wonder, I asked if there was anything he found unsatisfactory about the booking he’d taken with me.

‘What? No man, like I said. I just went with another guy.’

I took his hand and looked him in the eye for possibly too long, told him I was glad he was enjoying the Diamond Class service and walked off.

This got to me, I’ll admit. The idea that someone would experience a booking with me and then go with someone else on the mere recommendation of a friend - it doesn’t sit right. If you want to understand why I was so surprised, let me walk you through what it’s like to take a booking with me.

You make the booking through the app, attach the nodes, get comfortable in your home, and wait for the transfer to begin. When it does, the first thing you notice is, as I've mentioned, the teeth. Incredibly clean and straight teeth. Maybe you're not used to having a mouth in such good condition, so you take your time to get used to it. Open my eyes - your eyes for the duration booking. Unless you've specified otherwise, you're in the lobby of The Wallflower Hotel in Midtown. If it’s a Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon, there’s some live jazz. You're sitting in a comfortable chair wearing a tailored three piece suit. It's unlikely anything has ever fitted you as well as this suit. There’s a cocktail in front of you. That's complementary. I have a few deals with hotels around Manhattan, and I get the cocktails at a discount, so it's a very small cost to me but it makes a big impression. Enjoy your drink, sit and relax. In the left pocket of the suit jacket you'll find some mints. The mints have also been bought at a bulk discount but to look at the embossed metal tin, you'd expect them to retail for over five dollars. The mints and tin are yours to give away, if you like. In the left inside breast pocket you'll find a printed card with interesting facts about the area in which your booking takes place, and some recommendations for places to eat and landmarks to visit. Read the card at your leisure, take in the jazz if applicable. Finish your drink, stand up. You may notice that you don't need to go to that bathroom, even after the drink. I'll make sure that I'm more or less "running on empty" in both tanks prior to a booking so you don't have to waste your time.

Find a mirror and get used to how you look. The broad shoulders, high cheekbones. The eyes are, it’s been said, a little small, but they are a piercing blue. Did you request stubble? You have it. Clean shaven? It was done that morning by an Italian man who I believe is called Enzio. The suit looks as good as it feels. Are the cufflinks to your liking? If not, there's an alternate pair in the right pocket. The cufflinks are not yours to keep or give away and their cost will be deducted from your deposit if they’re not present at the end of the booking. Make sure you're comfortable with everything before setting out. And then? Then the rest of the booking is yours to do with as you please, within the agreed-upon permissions. 

You'll have been made aware of the permissions I've granted when you made the booking, but they're also available for reference on the back of the printed card with the interesting local facts. You'll find my permissions generous, especially in terms of calorie intake. Some Hosts will cap calorie intake for Guests, which is certainly tempting given, as I've mentioned, how exacting the standards are on membership of the Diamond Class program. I'll admit that it's frustrating to find that a Guest has used the booking to attend a Chinese banquet or binge on dessert or, worse, go on a bender, leaving me to deal with the bloat and hangover. But that’s my problem for tomorrow, not yours for tonight. (A modest cleaning fee may apply in cases of extreme excess.)

Failing to stay within the agreed-upon permissions, or putting yourself through extreme physical stress or potential danger as identified by the algorithm, will see you evicted from the booking and your entire booking fee will be forfeited. This is very rare, and I don’t want to sound snobbish here, but Diamond Class Proxii deals with a very sophisticated kind of clientele. 

Once your booking is complete, you'll be sent a feedback prompt where you will, in all statistical likelihood, rate your experience as "excellent". You may even feel the need to leave an additional comment, as has happened in the past. An actor who is not Gary Sinise but is around as famous as Gary Sinise took a booking with me last fall to attend his niece’s wedding and wrote a touching message of gratitude. ‘Thank you for the mints.’

That’s the kind of experience we’re talking about.

You probably know that the interview on Good Morning America didn't pan out for me. I was called a week later by Proxii PR and told that it wasn’t going to happen after all. This was extremely disappointing but, initially at least, completely fine. Sure, being told you're going to be on Good Morning America one week and then the next being told you're not going to be on Good Morning America is a real gut punch for anyone - you'd sort of prefer to have never been told the first thing - but that's life. I assumed it was a scheduling issue, ran ten miles, and put it out of my mind.

But a week later when I was on the bike at the gym and saw Royce Childs on Good Morning America talking about Diamond Class Proxii, I don't mind admitting that I lost my cool for a time. The explanation I was (finally) given, after phoning Proxii several times, was that they’d decided to take a less personal approach to the story and that Royce Childs could speak better to the program in a more general sense. As for future media possibilities? They would ‘keep me in mind’. I don't want to sound ungrateful to Proxii, but this is not how you treat an employee with an A10 rating.

Looking back, I’ll concede that I did not handle this well. There was some amount of weeping and shouting. My parents phoned to tell me they’d watched the program but I wasn’t on it. Instead of dignifying any of this with a response, I simply hung up the phone and put my fist through a drywall.

I had to cancel two bookings while my hand healed up, which I have never done before, but I couldn’t host with a bandaged hand - not for a Diamond booking, obviously. Imagine making a Diamond Class booking with an A10 only to find that one of your hands is bandaged up like a seal. This was precisely the kind of disappointment I was trying to avoid. During this time, I struggled to sleep and found myself watching the GMA segment on repeat, imagining how I would have answered the questions, how I would have looked on the couch. Eventually I knew the clip so well that I found myself mouthing along to Childs’ responses. I am completely aware - so maybe don’t bother pointing it out - that this was not healthy or constructive behaviour.

Eventually I needed to get back to work, not just because rent was pressingly due, but also for myself. And so one week after the GMA incident, I accepted a booking for the following evening. This was a mistake.

I did the usual preparation for this booking - the candles, the cocktail, both tanks well and truly depleted - sat myself in a comfortable chair at the Wallflower and waited for the transfer to take place. 

As I sat there, I began to feel agitated. Between Childs and the lack of sleep and the time off, my mind just couldn’t settle, and I found it impossible to sit comfortably. I tried to breathe through it, to no avail, and soon I found myself pacing around the lobby, fists balled, breathing heavily through my nose. I knew I needed to calm down before the transfer and without thinking I picked up the cocktail and swallowed it in one belt. My head spun. I’d need to order another for the Guest and get the taste of booze out of my mouth, fast. I fumbled for the mints while trying to get the attention of the waiter to replace the drink. It was while I was doing this, hand in the breast pocket of my blazer and half standing up, head still spinning and the taste of gin on my tongue, that I felt the transfer begin to take hold. 

During a booking, no time at all passes for the Host. You feel the transfer begin, then you find yourself at the agreed upon drop-off zone. I usually opt for Union Square. It’s a short walk from my apartment and it’s a generally pleasant place, quiet enough as not to jar your senses when the counter-transfer occurs. This time, I didn’t find myself in Union Square, but on my hands and knees in an expensive-looking bathroom, drenched in sweat. This was the first indication that something was wrong. I left the bathroom and walked into the corridor of an office building. Based on the view, I figured I was in the financial district. A man and a woman, who had clearly been waiting for my Guest outside of the bathroom, looked at me concerned.

‘What the fuck, Tim?’

I pushed past them, found an elevator, raced through the lobby and out into the street. I could hardly breathe. I received the guest feedback less than half an hour later. 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Booking started terribly. Host was falling to the floor mid-transfer. Alcohol on his breath. Completely unacceptable on its own, but needed to get to meeting, no time to re-book. Felt generally uneasy on the way in a manner I had NOT felt prior to the booking. By the time I got to the meeting, knew something was wrong but, again, no time to reschedule. Started feeling shortness of breath as presentation began, heart thudding in Host’s chest, had to excuse myself mid-presentation to have what I now realise was a full blown panic attack in the bathroom, collapsed to the floor before finally being evicted. Difficult to overstate the damage done by this Host’s unsuitedness for this program. Will be following this feedback up with a formal complaint. 

I looked at this feedback for a very long time, went back to the Proxii home screen, and found that my rating was now ‘A8 - PENDING FURTHER REVIEW’. I put my phone in my blazer, took a deep breath and decided that I would ruin Royce Childs.