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.