Without going into too much detail, I work at home. Ultimately, this is probably good for my workout habits; I can set my own work schedule, for the most part, so I can go to the (generally less crowded) lunchtime classes at my gym, and I’m so desperate to see other humans that the workout is easily the highlight of most days.
Complaining about how easy things are is hardly inspirational, though, and it’s not generally the basis of any epic fiction. Lord of the Rings probably wouldn’t be a classic if it were about a short fella who had to destroy a ring by taking it to the local Jared and having it melted into a nice pendant that his girlfriend preferred. Unless the stated reason why she preferred it was “so she could keep a piece of him close to her heart” and the actual conflict was Frodo’s battle against nausea. Which I would totally watch.
Anyhow, since great inspirational tales require hardship that is often conveniently difficult to fact-check*, let me tell you today of a time when it didn’t go right.
It was during a war-torn, post-apocalyptic time, the kind so popular in young adult fiction and sepia filter manufacturing, and I, an orphan in a decidedly mediocre hat, was scrambling to feed myself and my fourteen younger brothers by creating and selling Information—a currency worth more than gold.**
On this day, I had managed to set up two appointments to acquire Information, one at 9 am and one at 11, as well as a session to receive the intoxicating drug Workout—to which I was so addicted I would surely die without—at noon.
[I think I’ve just demonstrated why most dystopian fiction doesn’t include a detailed schedule of the protagonist’s day. It kind of takes you out of the mood.]
The appointments could be conducted by phone, so my clever scheme was to do the first at home, then travel to a place near my gym that’s public but relatively quiet and that has tables to do the second appointment, and then receive my dose of Workout.*** Any spare time would be consumed with work on my laptop, which while fairly ancient by computing standards is surprisingly easy to keep powered in a postapocalyptic dystopia.
The first interview went as expected, more or less. And I got on the city bus without any particular hassle, despite the fact that most postapocalyptic dystopias don’t have an effective public transportation system.
A little while into the bus ride, however, we stopped. This happens periodically—for some reason, Chicago’s bus system likes to switch its bus drivers in the middle of a route, rather than at an end. But this stop was not due to that, because one thing that postapocalyptic dystopias do have is burning things.
Yep, there was, apparently, a fire. And fortunately we still have a fire department, and most of them appeared to be fighting this one.
(I didn’t actually see the fire, but there were quite a large number of fire trucks, and the road was closed down, and the preceding bus was stopped, so I would assume it was there. It would be annoying if it were just a kitty that was threatening to jump from a building, even though the buildings are reasonably tall there—I just am not certain that a single unhappy kitten is adequate use for an entire fire department.)
Anyhow, after a while of waiting the driver came on the intercom and announced that he would check out what was happening, and after a while longer I decided that it wasn’t worth staying on that bus. Fortunately, despite being a postapocalyptic dystopia, Chicago still had both an active bus network and an operational train system****, and I happened to be only a few blocks from an el stop.
So a quick hike over, and I was all set. Except that the postapocalyptic dystopian operational train system was having some track maintenance being done on this day, causing the (not actually dystopian) train to travel at reasonably dystopian speeds.
Long story short, the fire plus the track maintenance meant there was going to be no way I’d get to the public but quiet spot with tables in time for my interview. Fortunately, I had a brainstorm; there’s a little bagel place near one of the stops on the way. The bagels are terrible (or average, for Chicago; I don’t know why but decent bagel-making technology either never made it here or it didn’t survive the apocalypse), but I figured I’d buy a drink and sit down and make the call. Which I did. I mean, I felt guilty so I left a pretty sillily big tip, and it was a bit louder than ideal, but I had earbuds so it worked out.
Except that I called my interviewee… and he was under a deadline crunch and had to reschedule.
The workout, at least, was delightful.
*Like certain political movements.
**Okay, even I can’t keep a straight face for that one. Just go with it. If I have anything to do with it, it’s gonna get even weirder.
***And yes, the timing does work out – I expected the 9 am call to take about a half an hour, and traveling to the gym takes upwards of an hour, owing to an experiment in living situation that will be ending in a few months.
****Fortunately, no one tries to jump from it. Man, did Divergent suck.