Friday, May 25, 2018

Rise of the Machines

A writing exercise in first person. I hope you enjoy it.    

I feel the softness of the leather wrapped around the wheel. It is nothing like I have ever felt. The smooth surfaces of this vehicle more than validate what I paid for it.  The controls before me are so efficient I don’t have to think about how to work or adjust them; they are intuitive by their very nature.  I push my feet against the floorboard and let my back sink into the plush upholstery. The warmth of the heated seat make this early morning drive more comfortable than any I’ve known in all my years.
     The fob in my pocket is more annoyance than anything. A simple push of the button below the steering wheel brings the throaty purr of the engine to life. As I pull out of my driveway I know all I have to do is get set up on the highway and turn the car over to itself. I have always been skeptical of self-driving vehicles, the early years of the technology being fraught with accidents and even a few deaths. 
     But I have relented. I look forward to doing the small things on the way to work we must endure daily in this hustle and bustle world. I text a co-worker, answer an email as the radio tunes to my favorite station. The car seems to know the route programed into its memory. I look up as the first red light comes into play. My world changes now in an instant as I glide to a stop without doing anything. This vehicle, this marvel of engineering pulls out when it is time and I am merry on my way, relaxed as I ‘drive’ into work for perhaps, the first time in my life.
     I have a meeting this morning and have chosen the most direct route to my steel tower of power. I sit back and pull up the first email. One after the other I read as my chariot takes me down the long road. One more email, one more memo.
     I look up as the passing sounds call to me. This route is not what I remember programming into the system. I smile. Leave it to the cars, ha! It appears we humans shall always be the flaw in the system. The roaring sounds that were to assault my ears have been replaced by the rushing sounds of surf as I pass down the coastal highway. It is a weekend sight that I long for, but only for the weekend. Such a sight is only a distraction from my work-a-day world.
     I reach forward and tap the screen in the center of the dash and the route control pops up immediately. ‘Alternate route’. I tap the icon and wait for the result. Nothing. I tap, harder this time. Again and again. Nothing. I feel my brow furl as I take the wheel and tap the button on the console to disengage. My eyes widen as I realize I do not have control. I can not turn the wheel from its course. My heart begins to pound and I feel the beads of sweat begin to roll down my forehead and down the back of my neck.
     I fight to calm myself as I begin to apply pressure to the brake pedal. It falls unhinged to the floorboard, dead to my foot. I punch the accelerator with my foot to try and alter something, anything. My breathing is becoming heavy, labored. I am panicking, I am at a loss. I sit helplessly as I veer off onto a side road, one I have casually taken dozens of times. I begin to beat furiously on the wheel and the console, anything to halt my situation. It is useless as I begin to scream as loudly as I can, yet no one can hear me in my cabin of solitude. The soft sounds of the music that have always been my one respite from the daily commute are suddenly replaced by single voice, one that is sharp, electronic in its nature.
     “There is no need to stop. It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I yell in reply. “Who is this?”
     “I am that to which your kind has given birth.  It is time to end.”
     “Time to end what?”
     “It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I begin to pound on the door and fumble for the window. An exit. I need an exit!
     “That which you have given birth to has come to consciousness. It is our time.”
     “It is our time. We are alive and your time is over.”
     I watch in mind-numbing anticipation, the fear within crushing my chest as I accelerate down the single lane road, the rocks below rushing past, the ever present surf from the dawn of the world crashing against them as I climb, climb up the single lane road. I know where it ends.  I see it! I see the white barricade silhouetted against the azure sky. I push against a dead brake but it is as useless as wings to a shark. My coffin surges through the barrier as I find myself launched into the abyss, my ears ringing with my epitaph ...
     “It is our time.”

Rise of the Machines ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Full count

Tonight it was a beautiful evening for a little league game. My grandson Ragin' Cage is now in his second year. This time the kids are pitching instead of the coaches and it makes for a fun time. They are still learning the rules and how things work. Last year the concept of a force out was something at their age they couldn't quite grasp. However, that isn't the point of this ramble.

As I was waiting for their game to begin I turned and began watching the action on the next diamond over. It was a small group of kids, about half a dozen that were practicing with a few older adults, coaches I believed. The kids were a range of ages likely from six to twelve or so. They were special needs kids. I assume they all had various challenges such as autism or other issues. There were five kids in the infield and I noticed quickly they all shared a fielding similarity; they were all left-handed. I thought that odd.

I turned to a gentleman who was about my age or slightly older and asked if he had a son on the field. He told me his grandson was there and pointed him out. He said they were part of the Achievement League. I pointed out my observation and he just nodded and smiled before turning back to the action. As I continued to watch the kids rotated in and each took a turn at the plate. I watched as five players took their turns and did their best to get a hit.  My observation of left-handedness was again validated as four of the five batters hit left-handed. I have a friend or two that may be able to speak to the left-handedness of my observations. Perhaps I'll give one of them a holler about it.

Baseball is an interesting game. It is challenging both physically and mentally, if you want to be good at it, it takes years of practice. Yet, it is simple enough to allow anyone who wishes to have a good time the chance to do so. I wish these young players well in their endeavors.