Bump. Soft left turn. Slowdown. Bigger bump. Sharp left turn. Gilbright reluctantly opens his eyes, thereby deactivating his mobile storyteller. No need for an arrival alert to tell him he’s home, his body is familiar with this sequence. The autonomous commuter pod delivers the customary message anyway:
“Dear passenger, 82 Lower GT Drive reached at 15:22. Exit with current attire safe, no additional precautions required. Your next trip is booked for tomorrow, March 6, 2120, 10:12, boarding here same. Please say ‘adjust’ to reschedule or ‘confirm’ for confirmation.”
Gilbright goes “Confirm”, unenthusiastically, and waits for the pod to go through whatever routine always keeps it from unlocking the door at once.
This delay can’t be about cash. He himself had taken a profit motive for granted until very recently and most people still assume as much, but that’s not the rationale..
To celebrate the bonus he got two months ago, Gilbright splashed out on the upgrade to the premium package his mobility provider just happened to offer, by one of those lucky coincidences. He can now ride as many pods as he fancies, whenever and wherever he wants, for a total one hundred and fifty hours or five thousand kilometres per month, whichever limit is reached first, without extra charge.
His commute takes a good thirty minutes in the morning and rarely exceeds twenty in the afternoon. His non-job errands add up to less than an hour per day. He didn’t yet find the time to schedule any of the excursions he had in mind when he awarded himself the premium package. A couple of minutes of idling in the docking port won’t bring him anywhere near the limit. This delay can’t be his mobility provider milking him.
If the recurring lag period isn’t about profit, it might be one more case of government overreach. Always trying to mess with peoples lives, the elected super nannies. Would be like them, to force mobility providers to slow down passengers, under pretext of one more unproven and uncomfortable health benefit.
Well, if this is about forcing him to calm down, it doesn’t work. Gilbright feels his blood pressure climbing by the second. He’s not claustrophic, not the fears kind of guy at all, but a man should be allowed to exit his pod whenever he so chooses, period.
Click goes the door, very softly, finally granting Gilbright his currently most fervent wish. Two steps to his front door. Zoom goes the camera, and green goe… What the hell?!
The intruder alert is meant to startle, but if it gets any more effective at this task it will be a lethal weapon. The light above the door is also flashing red, but this is far less disturbing then the deafening howl of the siren.
Gilbright feels his bones turn into icicles. He’s a licensed resident, not some burglar, never mind one of those Caucasian intruders. He’s a regular citizen, no deportation material.
Unable to move, Gilbright has to endure an eternity of agony before the siren suddenly dies. The light has also switched to green and the door goes:
“Apologies for the false alarm, sir, and congratulations, your new haircut is very stylish indeed. To avoid future inconveniences, please feel free to provide advance authenticated visual notice of any such alterations of your appearance. Or may we suggest to activate breathalyzer authentication? By far the best way to prove your identity. Thanks for your cooperation in making the world a safer place.”
Gilbright is relieved, and proud. His home is well defended, exactly as promised by estate management. There’s this notice to all residents, next to the parcel retrieval area, informing about more stringent safety settings, in the context of a fresh wave of European refugees.
If his new haircut triggers the intruder alarm, his wife has zero reason to worry about Caucasians in the cellar. Last week, there was a dire incident in an estate just like theirs, but someone must have messed up front door security. That’s what happens, when you go cheap on building maintenance, instead of using proper professionals.
Two levels up and one corridor down, Gilbright braces himself for all hell breaking loose again, but no problem. His owner occupier profile has been updated to his new look, the door to his flat opens at once.
Having awarded himself an early beer to celebrate this success, he decides to heed the advice of the system. He can’t waste energy and time on forever updating his profile picture to avoid setting off that hell of a siren. Time to switch to the modern way and activate the breathalyzer, provided this doesn’t interfere with the occasional beer.
He asks his living room:
“Assuming I was to switch to breathalyzer identification, what happens in case of alcohol intake?”.
Always ready to help, the flat management system answers at once, in this wonderfully deep and melodious voice so suggestive of cosy private moments:
“No problem, sir, absolutely no problem. Neither with trace alcohol in pastries, sweets or apple juice, nor with more solidly ethanolic beverages, like beer and wine and even liquor. Zero problem. This particular aspect only constitutes a tiny fraction of the particles lacing your breath. Ethanol is actually ignored in the context of identification purposes, together with other components that vary strongly depending on food and drink intake. For authentication purposes, we rely on components that remain stable past age two, except in very rare cases of metabolic dysfunctions that don’t apply in your case. Please confirm breathalyzer setup sequence initiation.“
Gilbright hesitates. His jumpy microbiologist wife is full of scary tales about snoopy analytics. Her jokes about intercourse frequencies calculated on the basis of mere drops of blood, that didn’t sound good. But breath is far less substantial than blood. And one close call with the intruder alarm is more than enough. The next stage would have been the guard dog bot with the taser. The decision to activate the breathalizer is such a no brainer.
On the next morning, Gilbright is pleased not to experience a delay at the end of his ride to the office. The pod door opens at once. Funny, how some issues resolve all by themselves.