Tuesday 2 September 2008

Print this story

Jack Strider is not paranoid

© John Sawyer – September 2008

Jack Strider is not paranoid. Well he’s not clinically paranoid. He just has a very fertile imagination that’s constantly thinking about what might happen next, and after that and after that, endlessly. Jack has learned to live with it. As a software developer, he’s even learned to harness the parade of possibilities passing through his head. What can I do here to make the user happy, what if the power goes off, what if the user presses the wrong button or what if someone reverse engineers the product and steals my ideas? All useful stuff when you’re building something.

Plane travel can be a bit difficult. Jack likes to travel but the time spent in aircraft can cause a fair bit of tension. Takeoff is the worst. Takeoff from Paris is particularly numbing. Paris has lots of terminals, taxiways, demolition and construction zones, wildcat strikes and young policemen with machine guns; an absolute variety of anxiety; a confusion of chaos. What if the pilot of that Ryan Air plane taxiing towards us has a heart attack and the plane ploughs into us? What if a builder’s truck has dropped a packet of nails on the runway and we puncture just as we reach our highest ground speed? What if the air traffic controllers call a snap strike like the customs blokes did when we arrived? What if the power fails in the control tower? Not all potential events end in fiery disaster. What if I get the trots and the toilets are all full? What if I get airsick (it’s OK I’ve just checked the bag)? Meditation helps and so does alcohol; lots of alcohol.

Not all transport modes offer fertile ground for imagination disasters. Despite obvious opportunities, Jack just doesn’t worry about trams, trains, buses or cars; it might be familiarity.

Not that Jack feels very comfortable on a tram. He has an absolute horror of ticket inspectors. Those conformance monitors have arguably more coercive powers than police constables, but they’re largely untrained, underpaid and put in charge of a badly designed and implemented ticketing system that’s fast falling apart. What if the machine does not work? I’d better check all the machines on the tram just in case. No: they’re not working, but what if they suddenly start working as the ticket inspectors get on? God, the printer’s not working, how can I prove I validated. What if I get one of their testosterone laden body builders staring at me and accusing me? Guilty until proven innocent and they confiscate the evidence. What if my response is too smart by half? What if he doesn’t like my nose and rearranges it? What if they use the fat one to sit on me until the cops come? He doesn’t do anything but stare at me and the other smart-arse obvious criminals who make up the bulk of Yarra Trams’ customers?

Jack insists on carrying extras just in case; lots of extras: a spare 10 trip 2 hour ticket, a spare 5 trip all day ticket. That's 10 days of spare travel; just in case. When Jack visits a client or attends a writing workshop he takes 3 notebooks, 5 pens and at least one pencil; just in case. His rucksack normally has spare socks and extra undies; just in case. Jack also has a tightly folded airsick bag in his wallet; just in case.

No, Jack Strider’s not paranoid. He’s not frozen by fear and he doesn’t stay in bed worrying. Jack just harnesses his imagination and writes fiction. Err - fiction like this.


Unknown said...

Good one Jack - and remember, we're watching you.

Visit my Techo Blog