Saturday, February 27, 2021

A machine of perpetual grievance


Some short seemingly non-existent paragraphs from a short non-existent novel based around a Guardian feature I didn't read.

Machines: Not fully aware robots, AI, androids or kitchen blenders are all around, but any lack of obvious sentience that doesn't mean that the dishwasher hasn't negotiated some form of strange alliance with the freezer, those hive minds are expanding all the time, cutting deals and performing in surprising ways. Always close the fridge door gently, as if someone inside was a key worker and a light sleeper. Switch on and off with care.

So there I was, some time ago, sitting in the pale autumn sun having a coffee and a puff outside Temple Meads railway station in Bristol. It's probably my favourite station because of the smell of fresh cooked pasties and the whole Great Western thing or experience. I was puzzling over the arrangements for my long trip home and what citizenship of Bristol might mean should it ever happen to me. You see I was at that time a person of perpetual grievance. There was always something getting or about to get my goat. It's not healthy state of mind. Mechanical, trigger sprung like and always ready to resent. 

I thought that I might have some genetic disorder. A proper propensity to be aggrieved by life in general, by not living in Bath or Bristol, by the death of steam trains, the lack of common order in life and coffee served in inappropriate crockery designed by people who had clearly only ever drunk from a teat. There was nowhere to turn so I turned away. At that point the sun emerged from cloud cover and warmly kissed my cheek.

There was a screech of brakes, I looked up. A cat had nearly been run over by a taxi. The taxi had come to a halt in the middle of the road having clipped a bollard and a cyclist. The driver was now out of his vehicle, bemused and looking for the cat. The cyclist had fallen from his bike. The cat had however run off at great speed like some black flash, behind the bus stop, along the top of a stone wall and now away across a car park. The fright released a disproportionate amount of energy to which cat could only succumb and fly like a furry missile to safety. I saw the whole thing as a study on and an explanation of classical physics. There were no visible injuries but there was potential.

All that is in the past now, it took place five minutes ago and the traffic and the people have all moved on  with barely a ripple. I look across at the grim facade of the station. The comings and goings. I would have liked to be travelling on a train but I'm just killing time before the airport bus. Better to sit here in a watery sun, dream of stone and metal than wander the overpriced and soulless alloy and plastic corridors of crowded check-ins and departure lounges where safety cutlery and steaming microwaved excellence prevails. The avoidance of full blown grievance situations and their troubles is a highly sought after skill in this particular century.

It was about then that I awoke. There, safely strapped into my seat onboard some silvery spacecraft which was, according to the information screen, heading directly into the sun.

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