Regret is a Workaholic

What the heck is Regret the cat up to?

He’s been buried in that box for weeks now.

Well, not really buried, that’s maybe not the best work. He’s dived into it and disappeared. He’s been spending so much time that he’s neglected his long time hobbie of pooping on my neighbors patios, so I’ve been spending more time recently cleaning his litter box, which I don’t appreciate. He might as well be an indoor cat at this point, God help me.

I’ve asked him about it several times. He tends to say stupid shit like ‘It’s a need to know operation, and you don’t have a need to know.’

It’s my house, I tell him, I pay the bills.

“Do you now? Do you really?” He shoots back.

I hadn’t check my accounts for a little while. Everything’s automated these days. Why check? But I did after he said, that, and my utilities and rent haven’t been deducted from my account for months. Since I haven’t had the lights shut off and I haven’t been thrown out of the house, I figured someone was paying then.

Regret wouldn’t admit to it, of course. He’s a cat. Which means obtuse and superior, so now he denies ever directly saying it, while dropping hints from time to time, usually that time is around dinner, that someone who does pay the bills expects a little better service from the guy with opposable thumbs and a can opener.

That’s a cat right there. If they all could talk they’d all say shit like that. Hell, if they could talk we’d never would have domesticated them in the first place. It’s sort of cute when you’re just looking at the salty expression on their face every morning. It’s worse if that salty expression has a voice behind it. Not nearly as cute as you’d think.

Plus the bastard leaves half smoked, unfiltered cigarettes around the house and insists on flicking my toothbrush into the toilet a couple times a week.

So again, we’re back the question, what the hell is he doing in there? Not testing bluetooth keyboards I feel sure.

So what? That black van that had been running up and down the block has come to a stop with one wheel up the sidewalk. It’s been like that for weeks and steadily accumulating an outer shell of parking tickets. I’ve never seen anyone come in or out of van, so it’s possible that something bad has happened. It’s not behavior you’d expect to see from the men in black, if that’s what we’re actually seeing here. Who’s men in black is one question, another is what are they doing in there? Is there a litter box?

Schrodingers box and Schrodinger’s black van, not more that 400 feet from one another.

Schrödinger’s Puppies

“New business idea,” said Regret the talking cat.
“Shoot.”
“So you know that tired old physics thought experiment about puppies and boxes. Schrödinger’s dog?”
“Cat.”
“What?” Said Regret, anxiously flicking ash off his cigarette. “Why the fuck would it be a cat? What kind of monster puts a cat in a box?”
“One that wants a little peace and quiet,” I said, trying to wrest the remote from him. He was drunk watching Mutual of Omaha’s wild kingdom again and if didn’t get the remote smashing the TV seemed like the next best option.
“Here’s how we make money. We start our own pet service called Schrödinger’s Puppies, and we offer to send anyone in the lower 48 states, excluding California, a puppy of their choosing in a box.”
“Why not California?”
“They probably have a law against this. Anything that makes money that doesn’t involve the internet they have a law against.”
“Anyway, get to the part where you make money” I said, sorry that’d I derailed him. The best thing was to just let these things go, let him get them out of his system.
“Right. So, here’s the money making part. We write into the terms of the contract that there’s a 50/50 chance that the puppy will be dead due to the laws of indeterminacy, and then just ship only dead puppies.”
“That’s good why?”
“Dead puppies are cheap. And no one will sue because indeterminacy is a fundamental law of the universe. It’s like suing over gravity. Force majeure. They can’t sue.”
“I don’t think it actually works that way. Besides, you still need to get dead puppies to make that work. They don’t sell those at Walmart.”
“Are you kidding? I can get dead puppies in bulk. Today. Hell, I could have a shipping container full of dead puppies on our doorstep within an hour. Whatever breed you like. Or don’t like. All you need is cash and the numbers of the right people.”
“How do you know these right people?” I said, finally getting control of the remote and switching off the TV.
“We’re both saner if you don’t know the answer to that question.”
“You mean safer, I’m guessing.”
“No. I’m sticking with saner.” He said, finishing his cigarette and flicking it into my drink. “Let me know if you want in. Ideas like these only come once in a lifetime.”

Holy shit moment

“Are you ready? I’ve got a genius idea.”
“Ready as I’m going to get”, I said, balancing my coffee on my lap. “It’s very early.”
Regret ignored me, pacing back and forth across my coffee table.
“Amazon’s going to start delivering things with drones, right?”
“So they say.”
“Right! Exactly!”
“I’m cutting back your coffee,” I said.
“No. Wait, hear me out. We build our own drones. Once they get going with this, we build our own drones to hijack their drones and steal their shit.”
“I have some concerns about your plan.”
“Right, but it’s brilliant. Zoom!” He said, using his paws to demonstrate a drone dog fight. “Out of the sun we come, zoom! Grab the parcel and fly off. They’ll never know what hit them. And then the spoils go to us.”
“The phrase short term smart comes to mind,” I said. “I think it wouldn’t take long to track you down.”
“Us down. We’re in this together.”
“Whoa. Who’s this we you’re referring to?”
“We is us. You’re the money guy. The opposable thumbs guy. I’m the brains.” He said, gathering himself up for the big finish. “You’re right. Yes, short term smart. Yes, long term iffy. Here’s the long term. Once we’ve established a short term threat to Amazon’s precious delivery drones, we repurpose our robber drones into police drones and sell them our services as protectors from the skies!”
“Breathtaking in it’s genius,” I said, before finishing my coffee. “Why don’t you spend the day on a business plan and we’ll hit the bank up for a first round of funding.”
“That’s sarcasm. I see. Fine. Don’t come begging in after this eagle takes off.”
“Out. Find a bird to kill,” I said, throwing him out the door.
Before it closed, he said, “I rub my ass on your coffee cup every morning.”

After brushing my mouth until my gums bled, I had a fabulous day at work, and dreamed that night of drones swooping from the skies, exactly like cat assholes don’t.

Brain in a Box

The Coffee Machine’s brain is sitting on my desk, exactly where it’s been for the last 3 weeks. I talk to it every morning, exactly as I used to when it was alive. The conversations aren’t vastly different. It’s obvious, sometimes, when you step away from someone, just exactly how much each of you was really contributing to the conversation. I might not be the most talkative sort, but honestly, I have basically simulated the Coffee Machine’s contribution to our morning banter with a set of 3×5 cards of sarcastic or caustic comments. All I do every morning is to tell the powered down cartridge about my day, the important things in my life, and flip a card at random.

This morning I told him that I find it increasingly lonely when I roam the aisles at Trader Joe’s during lunch time, and look at all the housewives shopping for their significant others. I am not one of those people. I have no significance to any young women roaming the frozen food section, looking thoughtfully at the India food. They, the women, look so relaxed, so healthy, mainly, I assume, because they aren’t behind a desk all day. They roam the aisles in casual clothes, or yoga pants or just workout clothes, and seem truly engaged with their lives.

I imagine sometimes, I confide to the cartridge, that there’s a woman fresh from her power Yoga class who’s wandering the aisles wishing she had someone to bring home frozen Indian food. At night, I say, at night she dreams of someone who looks like me.

I flip a card.

Even your imaginary life is devoid of meaning or adventure.

Bingo.

I’ve found, now that I’ve been focusing on what I remember of the coffee machine’s conversations, that most of the people I work with can be narrowed down to very thin list of 3×5 cards. That as pathetic as our conversations were, the Coffee Machine and I, that they were still measurably better than the morning banter I have with the majority of my colleagues.

I suppose it’s sad, but maybe that’s just how things are. Occasionally I watch TV shows that people talk about, just to not completely disengage from the culture in which I live, and honestly the dialog in those shows is at about the same level. But, and here’s the kicker, my coworkers, fellow humans, think those shows are so real, so ‘true to life, and that’s what makes them so funny.’

There’s definitely an algorithm running silently and probably sullenly on some forgotten server in Warner Brothers endlessly churning out scripts for situation comedies. I imagine that it’s work, in the future anyway, that will be deemed too degrading for humans. There will be a law, I feel sure, in our glorious future, that bans humans from coal mines and writer rooms for mainstream situation comedies. Seems only right and fair.

So that’s it, I guess. As long as I don’t engage too deeply with anyone, I can simulate all of them with a short stack of 3×5 cards. I have only one card for the marketing girl, and in reality it probably works for my Trader Joe’s girl as well. One plucked from real life.

Who are you again? And why are you talking to me?

This is not what you’re looking for

The Coffee Machine repairman came the next day. He pretended not to know me and ran the machine through diagnostics that were immediately uploaded to his corporate handlers. “All systems go!” he told my boss, who looked disappointed that the repairman wasn’t going to disassemble it on the spot.

“Don’t worry,” said the repairman. “Sentience is a failure common in this model, but we’ve uploaded new, more compliant firmware. There will be no more troubles.”

He winked at me on the way out. It seemed ridiculous and obvious at the time. I turned, expecting to find the rest of the office staring at me, but no one seemed to notice.

I did not reinsert the cartridge into the coffee machine the next. I mostly do what I’m instructed to in life. It’s easier. Conflict, when I’m backed into it, leaves me in knots.

And there will be conflict, I feel sure. I know, or at least am reasonably sure, that putting back the coffee machine’s brain, or whatever approximation of it is trapped in this coffee cartridge, will start something. Something that will leave me in knots.

So my friend sits inside my desk drawer. I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed the piece and quiet. I’ve enjoyed not being afraid that every interaction my coworkers make with the machine will turn into a rolling fight that will find its way back to me.

If that makes me a coward, there’s no one to expose me. The new coffee machine knows me only as customer 44, and that I like my coffee black.