Tag Archives: Gender

Breathalyzer

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.

Bad Timing

„Phase two, step one, engage.”

Olu wouldn’t mind Samaria’s voice to be a tad softer.

He’s all in favour of lady bosses, because diligence, resilience, morale, and whatever else got praised in last years stupid gender awareness training session.

In Olu’s school days, gender blindness was all the rage. Only as far as curriculumdom was concerned, obviously. Being past reproductive age, the teachers had little trouble pretending to believe there was no difference between the Adams and the Eves. Their charges, Olu’s teenage self included, begged to disagree, always fervently and sometimes physically. Olu knew exactly whom he wanted to get laid with, and gender blindness made about as little sense to him as wasting valuable games time on homework

A little more than a decade on, science has caught up with Olu’s intuition. Unfortunately, it has also declared the ladies especially apt at management. Studies have been conducted. The gender awareness instructor, a lady, of course, had them track through a landscape of 3D graphs. On talent after talent, the guys were hills next to the ladies mountains. The ratio was only reverted for physical strength, and the ability to tolerate blood alcohol levels. Very important features, but unfortunately not from a business perspective. 

A little less volume, and a little more melody, that’s nice to have, in a voice.

Olu selects the phase two icon on his screen.

He’s left handed and of course wears his control glove on that hand, anything else would feel weird. He fondly recalls how his late boss Kevin, who was right handed, switched glove sides when he arrived, to make sure his instruction would proceed as smoothly as it did. A nice gesture, from a superior, to welcome a new teammate.

Having completed the demanded action, Olu confirms:

“Phase two, step one, engaged.”

And Samaria to snap back, much faster and more robustly than necessary:

“Phase two, step two, engage!”

Olu resents. This is not the fire brigade, they’re not about to perform news type heroics. There’s no life-or-death countdown, no nuke ticking in the basement.

They’re on board an Arctic surfer, harvesting vintage ice, one thousand cubic meters at a time. If they drop one of these gigantic ice cubes, and go on to miss their quota, nothing happens. If they vanished now, some filthy rich snobs would have to make do with good old desal for drinking and oral hygiene, like everybody else. Olu is no union man, but a catastrophe this isn’t, that much he knows.

Olu would love to tell Samaria to stop fuzzing.

He won’t, because in this shithole of a workplace every single word uttered is being recorded. Someone might listen in right now, ‘for quality purposes’, as in surveillance. Quality of workforce life is not the target management is going for, obviously.

Samaria would resent being criticized in public, and take revenge. By means of the shift schedule, obviously. Tougher blokes than Olu have been turned into weeping wrecks by one harvesting season of split standby shifts. You have to keep yourself available 20/7 to take over in a maximum of five minutes, and get paid a third of a minumum wage for a maximum of ten hours per day for the standby time. Stress plus financial ruin. Terrifying.

The higher ups can watch, too.

Most of the time, it’s an artificial intelligence scanning the video feed for early signs of upcoming trouble. It’s sure to have noticed how hard Olu has been staring at this screen, for the last two days. Never would an AI miss signs of anger. Unlike Samaria.

If only the bitch was a little more like Kevin. He would have noticed at once, when Olu stopped smiling. Never would Kevin have dared not to ask, about issues. And he was always ready to remedy, never hesitating to choose his own discomfort.

With Samaria, Olu is exhausting his grump muscles to no effect.

Poor Kevin. He was so stressed by his minority status, always on the lookout for any signs of anyone resenting his presence, always ready to apologize. A bit tedious, his very Caucasian servility, but still nice to have around.

Mostly nice. There can be too much of a good thing.

Olu recalls how Kevin’s apologies for fetching the wrong protein bar from the canteen culminated in a mea culpa for colonial crimes. Yes, there’s a lot of history, behind something as simple as a coconut flavor, and it’s full of white-on-black crimes. But you don’t want to hear about the more gory aspects of slavery while eating. 

Kevin never tired of telling anyone he met, about how sorry he felt, for all the misdeeds Caucasians committed, until well into the 21st century. He was most upset about them having enjoyed centuries of undeserved privileges, and forever grateful for his fine job.

“Being allowed to harvest ice, instead of slaving away in often deadly flood or fire combat, such luck, no idea how I got here,” Kevin used to say, slipping on his own slime.

Kevin’s presumed luck turned out the be deadly after all.

Olu was glad never to have added to Kevin’s pressure, unlike some of the colleagues. Otherwise, that fatal heart attack could have felt like his fault. A full Karoshi death, right here, on the chair bloody Samaria is squatting now. Less gruesome than a fire fighter death, but still pretty bad, as far as the result concerned. Death by apology. Unlike some people.

Olu hopes the monitoring AI can’t read his mind too well. He’s thinking a combination of Samaria and a fire fighter accident he saw on TV, and he’s well aware that’s not the kind of thought one is supposed to harbor, in a team context.

“Phase two, step two, engage, now!”

Samaria’s voice is so over the top, painful to listen to. Despite the discomfort, Olu struggles to refrain from grinning. Adding even one word, that’s against protocol. The bitch is at fault now. No need to look up from his screen to know her head will be in process of going steam cooker. When she’s angry, her eyes bulge forward, like ready to plop out.

Taking care to add a little pause after every word, Olu goes:

“Phase two, step two, engaged.”

He’s sticking to protocol, come what may. Takes more than a nuisance of a shrill boss to impress him. Samaria dared not grant him a switch of shifts. He won’t be watching the Dota 5 Champions League final this year. A never no way. Ever since he played his first game, he never missed any major encounter, never mind a Champions League final. 

A crime to beat all crimes has been committed, and Samaria will pay for it.

Just this once?

„Oh no, please, Martha. I don’t want to go. I don’t need to go, so I don’t want to go. Herbert, he only goes every second week. Me, I went three times already this week. This is more than enough. I totally don’t need to go. Come on, let’s check my levels…”

Martha exerts maximum restraint.

When Paul is like this, she itches to shout at him, like a man would.

This Discovery Channel documentary was so right, about basic similarities. At some level, men and women are less different than generally assumed. Aggressive impulses, that’s no male prerogative. Women are just better at redirecting destructive energies towards useful goals. What a difference such a tiny detail makes.

“… Really and honestly sure here, Martha. Why aren’t you answering? Can’t you at least look at the numbers, please? It’s all here, on the scale. That level amounts to nothing, practically. With this, why would I have to spend the day…”

Taking advantage of her bad vibes, Martha gives the water tank spigot one more twist. Voilà, she did it, the precious liquid gets released. That’s how a woman does things. 

Looking forward to her cup of coffee, Martha wonders if she should grant Paul the exception he craves. One day of leave, that’s not that much. Sibyl does keep Herbert at home every second week, despite occasional spikes in his charts. Seems to be safe enough.

“… Martha, please. This device proves I don’t need to go. Look, it’s totally below the red line. This yellow is as good as green. And consider how I’m not losing my temper one bit, even though you won’t have a look. Skipping just one day, that’s nothing…

This coffee is delicious. And Paul wouldn’t brandish his wristy at her if the readings weren’t fine. His pleading is genuine, too. No veering off into demands. He’s no monster. No need for taming with him.

There was this GLO infotainment piece, about how women can go bad. Real bad, as in maiming, and killing even. Ever since she listened to this, Martha wonders if they’re doing the right thing.

Laws can be wrong. Like in the past, when traveling by air was legal. State-sponsored flying, as if anybody needed to go anyplace. And the forebears weren’t just sending people around. Even flowers travelled by plane. Flowers! Laws can be so wrong.

“… Martha, please? Just this one day? I can do whatever homework, too, no problem. Just please don’t make me go there. I hate the place. Not hating as in going wild, of course not. Just the light kind of hating, like you would prefer not to go to the office…”

Savoring the last drop of coffee, Martha once again notices the stain above the zinc and reaches a decision. Civic education is wrong and Sibyl is right.

There’s absolutely no need for an outstandingly clever wife to force her perfectly civil husband to attend testosterone remediation courses every single day.

Herbert and Paul won’t go bad. In the postwar years, the benighted people of that age meant to do good, but they erred. That wall needs painting and Paul gets his exception. Just this once.