Frivolous Monsters

Slave to the Machine

I had some unexpected visitations in the run up to Christmas; knocking like spectral clanking chains. But as they all appeared on the doorstep, and there were only two of them, then it appeared that my role in proceedings was something akin to a cut-price Scrooge for the austerity generation. Times are hard, for everyone, it seems.


The first one I answered the door to was a young man dressed in an apron who set about trying to sell me a box of vegetables which, he explained, would be accompanied by customised meal recipes from a celebrity chef who, he admitted, no one had ever heard of. After lowering my expectations thus he then asked hopefully: “have you ever heard of him?

Heard of him, I had not.

The second encounter was odder as it was a parcel man, quite possibly delivering my own digital radio Christmas present, who scanned the correctly-addressed package he was holding and then informed me, apologetically, that we were both going to have to wait.

My main aim with the vegetable boy was, of course, to get rid of him and to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Forcefully announcing: “I am not the homeowner”, is the one statement which usually fends off most people on the doorstep, but not this time as instead he insisted on asking me a range of questions to which the solution to all of them was having a box of vegetables delivered.

The parcel man explained that he couldn’t give me the parcel, which was in front of me with my own address on it, because the machine he was metaphorically shackled to wouldn’t allow him to scan it earlier than he was scheduled to deliver it, wouldn’t allow him to scan it later than he was scheduled also, and he showed me his box of tricks to reveal the ticking countdown at 54 seconds.

He had a window of four minutes to get each parcel to its appropriate destination, which kind-of made each one sound like a bomb he had to race around the streets with, in reckless abandon no doubt, before safely defusing it and then tearing off to the next address his machine warder gave him.

That lifestyle sounds part gameshow, part Hollywood movie, part slavery. My parents said I should have brought him in for a cup of tea whilst we waited. Standing about in the rain seemed a lot easier though.

Also stood in the rain was the vegetable boy who asked me a lot of leading questions, and he kept referring to my mythical neighbour Jodi as if she actually existed, but his most bizarre question, as I was stood on my own doorstep, was: “well, where do you live?”, and my puzzled reply was: “I live here”.

All of his questions, and the photos of prepared meals he wanted to show me, were on a laminated page on his clipboard, with tick boxes for the answers, and I never noticed until halfway through this questioning that he wasn’t just instinctively touching the boxes that corresponded to my replies, with the wrong end of his Biro, but that he was actually ticking them off as I answered. I came to thinking that his bosses who’d sent him out on this fool’s errand had told him that he had an iPad and that he was just another slave to the machine.

At the end of it he asked me if I’d like to have weekly boxes of vegetables delivered and the answer to this I could have told him five minutes earlier, and distinctly remembered doing so.


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9 thoughts on “Slave to the Machine

  1. ‘Four minute window per delivery’ – honestly, the world has truly gone mad. It’s outrageous – some working conditions are becoming more like a reinterpretation of a harsh 19th-century existence (good ol’ Victorian values). I heard on the radio this morning that China is looking for new markets to sell to – that would Martians I’m guessing!

    • My Mum probably had an e-mail saying it’d be delivered between these two times. Didn’t matter to me. It seems crazy. It also seems crazy that Amazon keep talking about delivering parcels by drone . How is that going to work? You’re not going to answer the door to whirring blades so are they just going to drop it somewhere to be rained on or stolen?

  2. Thanks for this post. It made me giggle and that was something I really needed this morning. 🙂

  3. ‘I am not the homeowner’ – or the French equivalent – is what I now say to all sales calls on the phone. It’s like magic – they drop you like a hot brick. I discovered this technique by accident when living in a rented house in the U.K. just before we moved to France and then, of course, I was telling the truth but was amazed by the reaction and wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing it before when it wasn’t true. Now I say it all the time. Luckily we don’t get many door to door salesmen because we are a bit remote but, if a chimney sweep or ‘all purpose’ builder ever chances his arm at the front door I ‘release the hounds’ onto the balcony above and let them look menacing and that, together with my fractured French, is usually enough to see them off.

    • It is the magic phrase isn’t it. It didn’t work this time, but it does with people (cowboys) who want to clean or resurface the drive, or do something with the roof or guttering. They always say they’ll be back later… which I’ve found is always an empty threat.

      Also as I have a great deal of shame, to my situation in life, then when answering the door during the day to young people like the vegetable boy the phrase: “I am not the homeowner”, makes me feel better from preventing such people being down about how someone like me could possibly own their own semi-detached house and still be in at that time of day… possibly in a state of undress.

      I do like the idea of the French roaming chimney sweeps, touting for business, as here they’re so invisible, and seem a throwback to a time gone by, that the times we HAVE wanted the chimney sweeping we’ve had to look them up.

  4. Sounds bizarre. But amusing. And it makes a change from J W’s. …sorry, you’re not a J W, are you?

    • I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, no, but we have had them many years ago now. Strangely the Mormons are a lot nearer, being oddly big in Lancashire, although again I’ve had them come to the door for a long time now. Maybe they have a database which we’ve been ticked off on.

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