Saturday, December 5, 2020

Chapter 6. Do you take Visa?

"Don't move, vandal! I saw you break that figurine, you will not get away with it!"

I turned around slowly, raising my arms in a sign of surrendering. I didn't know why that was my first instinct, since it had been an accident. However, my mother used to say, if you want to convince someone that you are right and they are wrong, it is better to cooperate and be polite, rather than rude and brash.

To my surprise, the owner of the voice was no towering, menacing security guard, arm at the ready. Instead, it was a short and stocky... man? woman? let's say person, dressed in a guard uniform and without a weapon, but still shooting poisonous arrows out of their eyes. Figuratively, of course. What they lacked in physical presence they more than made up for in psychological power to intimidate.

I stuttered: "I am very sorry, Sir!" the guatd's eyes narrowed, so I redressed "Ma'am!" the guard's eyes narrowed further, so I gave up guessing their gender. "I am very sorry, but I hadn't meant to break the figurine. It was an accident! You see, the clock rang so suddenly, that I was startled and..."

The guard had been slowly approaching me while I was stuttering, their expression becoming more and more dissatisfied. I would have drawn backwards, if I hadn't been afraid of knocking something else off the tables. Finally, they were right in front of me, staring menacingly up at me. I swallowed my words.

"So! You think your excuses can exempt you from your punishment, vandal! You have seen the sign at the entrance: 'You break it, you buy it.' So let's see, inventory number 47334, one porcelain sparrow, cca. 20th century... It is worth 20000 units. Well, let's have the money!"

I take out my wallet and produce a few bills. "I have some dollars... a few euros too. Erm, what is the conversion rate here? Do you take Visa credit cards?"

I could see from their expression that my interlocutor was not happy with the options I was offering. I guess they weren't taking Visa... "Um, ma- maybe I could donate something to the museum as compensation?"

"I do not believe you have anything of value to this collection. It is carefully curated and nothing you have could possibly do!" They scoffed at me and I decided against trying to offer anything from my shoulder bag. It was true... I was a simple girl, with minialist tastes. Nothing I had on me screamed avarice.

"No, I see we have no choice here. You will have to work to repay your debt! Fortunately for you, our archivist has fallen ill and we need someone to fill in for him. Can you read and write?"

I felt insulted. "Of course I can!"

"Well, had you known how to read, maybe you would have had better sense than to go around breaking community property."

I was boiling with rage, but tried to calm down. Remember Mom's words! I pointed at the nearest label and read it aloud. The little guard seemed satisfied.

"Good, you can read. Follow me to the archive room, let me show you what you need to do."

I started behind them, but stopped. The little porcelain figurine was still on the floor, in pieces. "Um, excuse me, about the figurine -"

"Oh, take it with you. You can keep it after you have repaid your debt. You break it, you buy it, it's yours. It would be worthless to us anyway, since it is just a pile of shards."

I took out my handkerchief and carefully placed all the pieces on it, knotted the corners and put it in my bag.

Then I hurried after the security guard.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Chapter 5: You break it, you buy it

The Encyclopaedia of Avarice indeed! The inside was a long hallway, seeming to stretch out all the way to the end of the building. But even more intriguing than the size of the place were the items inside!

Strewn on tables and in glass cabinets, mounted on the walls and ceiling, or even straight on the floor, there were hundreds, maybe even yet thousands, of objects. Each of them labelled and with an inventory number.

Right in front of the entrance was a massive golden chandelier with crystals, hanging from the ceiling. Its label said "Gilded chandelier, circa XIXth century France" and underneath it was a short description "It is believed to have belonged to the royal family, then donated to St Paul's Cathedral. A clear indication that religion, though it teaches humility, is no stranger to opulence." I raised my eyebrows. Such blasphemous ideas! Should't museums, like newspapers, be impartial?

I turned towards the other display opposite the chandelier. This was a shiny new convertible sports car. I had heard before people talking about that coveted "new car smell". My curiosity pushed me closer. It did smell like "new car smell"! It must have been it, even though I had never been in a new car before to know its smell. The label read "BMW M6 convertible car, circa XXIst century Romania". The description explained "Belonged to the youngest child of one of the wealthiest barons in Romania, was donated to the museum after only a few months after the spoiled child allegedly got bored with it and demanded a newer model." I imagined the boy stomping his foot yelling at his Papa to get him a new car, like his friend Billy has, the latest and greatest. Hehe.

I kept going, looking left and right, craning my neck towards the ceiling, looking at expensive paintings, furniture, jewellery, every kind of object anyone would find desirable.

I could go on forever about what I saw in the museum. But what I was most intrigued by were the labels, which seemed almost moralising. Did I feel compelled to take any item? Some were really appealing, but my sense of decency told me to not even touch anything. There was nobody around, but I bet there were some hidden surveillance cameras strewn about.

The museum was oddly mesmerising, and I carelessly wandered about, taking my time examining each object and reading its label, until BANG! BANG! BANG! the grandfather clock near me suddenly and very loudly announced the hour. I jumped startled and accidentally swept a small porcelain figurine off a table and down it went on the floor, crashing into dozens of pieces. I gasped and frantically scrambled to pick up the shards, remembering the warning on the front door "You break it, you buy it".

"Stop right there!" a shrill voice yelled from behind me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Pe românește - Semne de punctuație

Ce nu face omul ca să evite o cacofonie, dar nu știe să reformuleze? Mai nou, la moda este introducerea lui „și” între cele două silabe ofensatoare. Până nu demult, însă, se folosea o virguliță. A naibii virguliță...

Într-o bună zi de vară călduroasă, am mers împreună cu soțul meu la un restaurant. Nici prea-prea, nici foarte-foarte - o terasă micuță ascunsă printre străduțele mai întortocheate ale Brașovului.

Vine ospătarul să ne ia comanda. Eu văzusem în meniu una dintre porțiile de prânz: friptură la grătar cu cartofi prăjiți. Cum de multe ori cartofii prăjiți de la restaurante lăsau de dorit, îl rog pe ospătar sa mi-i înlocuiască cu mămăligă, preferata mea, de altfel.

- Vă rog sa îmi aduceți meniul de prânz cu friptură, dar în loc de cartofi prăjiți aș vrea mămăligă ca garnitură, am zis eu.

Ospătarul sesizează imediat regretabila mea greseală de stil, asa că ține să mă corecteze.

- Desigur, vă aduc friptura cu mămăligă ca „virguliță” garnitură.

Ne uităm fix unul la altul câteva secunde.

- Mulțumesc, dar virgulițe nu mănânc. Doar friptura si mămăliga, vă rog. Și un mujdei de usturoi.

Soțul lângă mine zâmbeste pe sub mustață. Ospătarul, cătrănit, nu mai zice nimic, ia meniurile și pleacă la bucătărie.

Mai stăm, mai bem, dar doar suc de afine, că suntem cu mașina personală. Într-un sfârșit, vine si omul cu mâncarea noastră. Când mă uit în farfurie, mămăliga mea era frumos aranjată în formă de... ia ghici! virguliță. Mă uit din nou urât la ospătar, care se face că plouă.

- Dar bine, domnule, nu v-am zis fără virgulițe? Ce este aici în farfurie?

Iau un moț de mămăligă cu furculița si îl pun în coada virguliței, de arăta acum a semn de întrebare. Și ridic sprâncenele la neobrăzat. El, nimic.

- Dar, domnișoară, vă asigur că nu este intenționat. Așa a picat când l-a turnat bucătarul.

- Biine...

Și a plecat. Soțul râdea de-a binelea. Eu tac chitic și îmi mănânc morocănoasă friptura cu garnitură de virguliță.

Dar nu termin tot din farfurie (mami s-ar supăra dacă ar afla, dar este pentru o cauză... nobilă), ci mai las un pic de mămăligă, pe care o aranjez artistic în formă de trei ghemotoace dispuse liniar.

Vine și ospătarul sa debaraseze și să ia plata. Vede că i-am lăsat cam puțini bani de cheltuială, așa că îi explic:

- Virguliță am mâncat, lecție de limba română am primit, dau bacșiș... trei puncte de suspensie. 


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bitesize fiction. Cable management

I show the guard my badge. He looks at it, then at me, then at the schedule he has in his hand.

"Alright Ms D. You are clear. It is the 2nd floor, cabinet 105A. Do you need an escort?"

"No, I'm good, thanks. I come here all the time."

"Hm. Fine. Go on."

I take the elevator to the 2nd floor and find my way to the correct row and the right cabinet. I could do this with my eyes closed. And since I have to visit this rack every couple of months just shows what lousy equipment our company cheaps out on.

I call up the service desk back at the company to let them know that I am in and starting the work. Here we go...

I crouch in front of our server, which just has to be almost at the very bottom of the rack. I go through the usual troubleshooting routine, checking the cables and lights, rebooting, connecting the console and wishing they didn't have cameras at the data centre so I could kick the stupid machine to make it work again.

The very contorted position is really making my back hurt and I roll my shoulders, trying to relieve the tension. I need a bonus for inhuman working conditions or something.

I call the guys at the service desk again, asking if the remote connection works now. Still no luck.

Still scratching my head, I wiggle the network cable a bit. I then disconnect it and connect it to my laptop. Still no connection. Hmm...

I pick up the cable and follow it out of the server, through the first bundle of cables, then the second. It sure is easy to see, it is the only red network cable in the bundle. Someone's idea of a joke.



Still following the cable, I round a corner of racks and go on further. The snake of cables is getting thicker and thicker, taking in more and more cables along the way. It is turning into a colourful anaconda.

It ends up so big, I can barely see our own cable inside.

I keep going and the racks keep passing and I wonder if maybe all these cables shouldn't get connected to a switch or something. Instead, the monster is just growing and growing. It is also starting to glow faintly. I must be losing my mind.

I end up in a jungle of cables. There are no more racks, no equipment to be seen, just cables and more cables. Thin, thick, grey, colourful, even striped. I'm starting to have to  push aside some of the overhanging cables just to be able to go on. And in the middle of all this mess there is my red network cable. Defying me. Urging me to follow it until its end.

But the other cables are bundling up together around me, rustling softly, glinting menacingly. It seems like they don't want me to find something out. What is the secret behind the plastic vines?

I now have to bend down, almost crouching through a low tunnel surrounded by thousands of cables.

There it is! In front of me! I slide my finger down the red cable down towards its socket. No sooner do I touch it, do I realise it is loose.

The next thing I know, there is an angry rustle behind me. I turn around to see the other cables closing in on me fast. Help!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bitesize fiction. Intruder alert

"Captain, this is Lt. Rosar from Engineering. I regret to inform you that we have an intruder on board."
"An intruder? Who is he?"
"We had only been seeing signs of his presence all day, but now Ensign Vasquez could swear she saw him scurrying behind the hyper drive."
"Scurrying?"
"Yes, sir. The intruder is a mouse. Most likely sneaked in during our last supply run from the granary planet."
"I see. Are you able to apprehend it?"
"It has hidden in the tiny ventilation shafts, we have no way of reaching it. Permission to set up mouse traps?"
"Granted. Request help from Security if needed. I think the Chief has a pet cat."
"Noted, sir. Rosar out."

***

"Captain, this is Lt. Rosar again. About the mouse we saw yesterday..."
"Go ahead Lt. Have you managed to catch it?"
"Unfortunately, no... It has been eating all the bait from the traps without springing any of them. We tested the traps, sir, they are in perfect working order. Ensign Vasquez is in sickbay with a bruised finger from testing them."
"Do not put the people at further risk, Lt."
"Aye, sir. Also, Chief Dallon's cat hasn't been much help either. The mouse ran right in front of it twice and Mr Fuzzy Whiskers didn't seem to register it, just continued to groom itself."
"Mr Fuzzy Whiskers?"
"That is the cat's name. We also searched the computer library and found all sorts of ingenious traps, but the mouse either didn't spring them or just avoided them completely."
"Well, Lt, please keep at it. We can't have the mouse running around chewing on the conduits."
"Aye. Rosar out."

***

"Lt. Rosar, come in."
"Rosar here, sir."
"Status report on our rodent problem."
"Still nothing, sir... We have yet to catch him."
"Well, my mother told me about a trap she used to set and always caught the mouse with it."
"I am listening, sir."
"Take a walnut in the shell, split it in half and use one of the halves to prop up an overturned bowl. Keep the split edge turned towards the inside of the bowl. Make sure you set this up on a flat pane, so you can pick the whole thing up."
"Your mother is a wise woman, sir. I will send Ensign Vasquez to the supply bay right now after some walnuts."
"Glad to be of help. Good luck, Lt!"
"Thank you, sir. Rosar out."

***

"Captain, Lt. Rosar reporting."
"So soon? Have you caught the mouse?"
"Indeed we have, Captain. Your mother's idea worked like a charm. We have the little rodent in confinement. It is very small, that's why it could get away from the traps."
"Damage report. I'm worried about those conduits."
"We have scanned the entire area, nothing has been damaged, no power leaks or short circuits. It seems we fed it so well from the baits, it didn't want to chew on any equipment after all."
"Good news."
"Sir, permission to debark on the next landing. I would like to set our mouse down on a field somewhere. We didn't want to kill it - after all, it hasn't caused any damage."
"Permission granted. Our next supply restock is tomorrow. You may release the mouse on the granary planet."
"Thank you, sir. Oh, and send our thanks to your mother."
"Will do."
"Rosar out."

***

"Ensign, the Captain said we can release the mouse tomorrow when we land for restock. How is the mouse?"
"Oh, Lt., it is just fine. I have put it in a small box and drilled some holes in the lid. I also took a photo to show my little sister back home. She loves cute furry animals."


"That is very lovely, Ensign. Now, where have you put the box?"
"It is on that shelf over there, so it is not in the way."
"... Ensign..."
"Yes, Lt.?"
"The box is empty... and there is a hole in the lid."
"Oh, my! It chewed through the lid? Bad mousey!"
"Go get some more walnuts... And next time, put the mouse in a jar. Let's see it do its escape act from there!"
"Aye!"
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