Ruth & Alexander
I have an award and it sits on a shelf. I occasionally consider pawning it but have not yet.
I clean it once a year. It builds up stoor and grit and such and eventually I become bored of looking at this lauded object, dismal and faded and so visibly of such little worth that I can not stand it any more. With a toothbrush and soap, I attack it once a year. I tried to polish it once but it just weakened the metallic coating and now the thing is freckled with it’s plastic bones.
It was awarded by people in the know. People, expert in their field, important types who decided that I might be an important type too. That I was worthy of this plastic thing and the columns written about me and my work in important looking type by other important types. Types are important I know.
It was awarded for SociallyMinded Innovations in the Creative Industries for the Proletariat. While others were merited, it was I that received the SMICIP life time achievement award.
Having written an article many years ago, it was published, alongside my manifesto, in Socially Smart (the loungetable magazine of choice for the aesthetically minded and conscientious affluential). It talked of the malaise found in design where the underprivileged in our society were concerned. It demanded radical designs for radical times, that as creatives it was an imperative for us to design a new sort of social within everything we produced, that we must think of the social cost and the social aesthetic. We must give up the old conservatism attached to designing retroactively from brief and we must be the ones to drive us forward, always egalitarian, always to the future.
This article now sits impaled on the top of the award, acting as a protector from falling dirt and moisture. I don’t bother cleaning this or reprinting it. I did encase a copy in transparent coat at one point. Not long after I shredded it, melting the pieces into a cast of the award. It looked like a reject from a dildo factory. Or a tool of torture. It sits next to the original now. I’m not sure which is more depressing.
After one of those important people read my article over a morning beverage, I was commissioned to rethink some of our public services. Initially just to give some pointers, draw up an action plan for how They could perhaps implement elements (within reason of course) of the manifesto.
I think it was about this time I too become a They and not one of ‘them’, although pinpointing the exact time was difficult (and I am now less sure that I was ever ‘them’ and not always a They).
An action plan was draw up, where I highlighted the services I thought could very simply be aestheticised and radicalised. They were all very excited, you see and this was catching as radical things were very easy to communicate; they were different and thus not a fuddyduddy conservatism, difference means action that They had implemented and therefore could gain all the public accolades for (you can’t demand recognition for protectionism), and radical reinforces difference and has a clear outcome. Their marketing loved this, and as They were, for the most part, in the business of promotion, this all worked out well for me. Even if nothing within the action plan was implemented I was getting work, they were able to promote it, and the ideas that I had that weren’t too revolutionary (but saleable as such), were designed and put into practice; Civillian mobile waste management systems and such. This just spotted the cities with modern and high tech ‘useable sculptures’: sleek and edgy ports for food packets and pet droppings.
I had a brain wave one day enroute to a meeting They had scheduled with myself and a policy maker. One of the major issues of the day was workforce transportation and it’s impact on the economy. It was a topic that was flagged up repeatedly in these meetings, editorials in Socially Smart, and by the BPF (Bureau for Proletariat Welfare Ltd). The poor movement system we had for the workforce was resulting in lost hours and decreased productivity across productions. We had pinpointed this was due to it’s impacts on worker health, morale and a lack of integration resulting in extended commutes. While many work places had dabbled with the ideas of remote staffing, without having worked out an effective supervisory system this had also resulted in a belief that workers were being paid excessively for time not worked*. A dual system perhaps was the most radical approach.
There are still marks of my radicalism and I feel nauseous, to see them and to think of the filth built on top of that tacky little award and my roses cheeks and sickly, cheekpuffing smile as I accepted it, on widewise broadcast, from the SMICIP HighManager.
My solution was very simple. I revised and redesigned the Wait-and-Collection Hubs for the Public Mass Transference Solution, nicknaming them WaitCo’s and properly integrating the urban and rural PMTS. It would spread out like a network of nerves from the brain, pushing them out from work along colour coded lines like signals, and the next day they would be drawn back in. Each workplace could pay and manage their line, although all 6 employers would share the same network.
The original PMTS was a sorry thing to see, often, although I had a Mobile Personal Unit and never had to utilise the system, my operator would manoeuvre us past the PMTS, full of them, grey and rain-trodden persons, never sure which way they were going.
I dynamically and enthusiastically set about sketching up my idea, right there utilising the widewise features of the Mobile Personal Unit. My commute was an exciting and integrated extension of my working day so why should my charcoal comrade outside not also feel this vigour, have this opportunity? So much time wasted on a miserable wait when PMTS could be so conducive to them and their optimising.
My plans were well accepted, with some minor changes. The WaitCo’s were world-wise hubs. Modules built from singular Slices that topped and tailed to create a full module. Each Slice had wise-worktops, neat, conjoining, storage/ seat benches, a coat peg and a work board. They tightly double decked and sat side by side. Most modules fitted 20 of these Slices (although we did develop smaller rural ones eventually). The modules also fitted together, so that at WaitCo Hubs that were particularly popular, you would be able to stack the Modules into cubes. The windows I had designed in to each slice were considered frivolous and removed to streamline design, reduce traction and save on installation and manufacture costs.
The PMTS would collect the WaitCo Modules or individual Slices without anyone having to go outside and, with a central Module watch point, the proletariat could be monitored and supervised by all employers. The module could break into separate Slices to send each one down it’s coloured nerve at the integral point. If they wished, as it would be the Employers that would be maintaining and running the PMTS lines, each Slice could be incorporated into the workplace as the permanent workspace. Thus the remote, becomes mobile, becomes the fixed worker.
It was seen to be an ingenious fix to the problem. They found it to economically make sense, aesthetically it would be radical in design, using the most forward thinking technologies and materials, and of course it empowered ‘them’ to never be bound by work whistles or timetables forcing them to stop (at least these were the terms They used to encourage the change). It was also a ‘Nuanced approach to transit that puts the commoners comfort first’, and ‘Never have to wait again’, and ‘Together as one we work, not wait!’ ‘A Mobile Personnel Unit for everyone: How WaitCo’s are changing the social divide’.
So sycophantically did We all enthuse over each others thoughtfulness and ‘withthe-people’ credentials, We might as well have used my ‘home made’ award to stimulate each other. It may have been more worthwhile. We could have cum in a bucket and just left our contribution to the creative industries at that.
The system was rolled out across the city, and then the nation. Glitches were of course met. It was discovered that, as happy as the Employers were to have the system (it met many needs, and the costs involved were outweighed by those recouped through productivity), they were very unwilling to work with each other on the communal lines. And resultantly, the modules were one colour rather than being multicolour at the WaitCo’s. To save money on the number of PMTS’s dispatched, they encouraged employees to live in the same districts. Cities thus became, over a surprisingly short space of time, divided into coloured segments, while They have their Mobile Personal Unit’s, and so along with myself, can live anywhere, in the White**Urban Centre or out in a rural undesignated area.
We also had a last minute quick fix, as due to the long negotiation process of the PMTS’s and the handing of PMTS management over to Employers, I had neglected those who used the PMTS outside of work, those who could not work, never worked or would be using their holiday. We remedied this by designing another module, the same size as the others, to sit atop. It was the only element run by the CC&CC and there was no balanworthless.
This unit (dubbed the Grey unit) needed to carry more and no-one needed to work onboard, so we designed the unit to carry 3 times as many, some laying down for comfort and seats folded around them like a 3 dimensional jigsaw, feet and limbs and bodies folding into one another. There wasn’t the fluidity of the business modules, however it looked like nothing ever done before, especially in PMTSand ALL transit design. It was smooth, modern , world-wise and still saved them, the workless them, from the elements. It was a stylish answer to a problem and was deemed to meet all of the manifesto points I had highlighted as a youth.
We had exhibitions of the designs, concept drawings, models and figure heads involved.My original art works depicting the capillaries of the network ending in distant live buds, feeding back into the heart of the city, vibrantly pulsing and keeping it alive. I, and others on the team, were asked to talk often to symposiums about the work we had done. Latterly I was asked to work on other projects, reworking Welfare for the Underfunded (WundaFUNd), designing Public Food Pods, and integrating the provision of Moral Upkeep Stations in every public building.
The Award from the SMICIP was received and I was beaming, beaming. There is still the odd article on the wonders of the movement, of me at the forefront. The movement went through a bit of a renaissance a while back and it became very much a talking point again, although voices that sounded very much like mine as a youth could be heard whispering and grumbling, in tones different to before.
My Mobile Personal Unit Operator took me out on a ride a week or so ago, just to stop the creeping panic of stasis. We found our way on a PTSD route in a pale dawn light. We travelled swiftly along the live network I was so proud of, lines of colour drawn out in front of us, passing trudgers making the short route from Employee Shelters to the WaitCo’s. We passed the quieter hubs, non-workers clambering and contorting a course on top. Elements had attacked our technological walls, which eventually were maintained and shined weakening the seal to leave them freckled with their bones. We moved towards the heart of my system, large hubs busy with fatigue. Pollutants marked them and scarred them, and bodies leaned against the outer walls taking in the morning sun, fidgeting and ignoring their vibrating wristwatches which demanded a start to the working day.
We drove for a while longer, covering the entire route. I watched the modules folding into one another, PTSDs shuttling people across the city as the light came up. We returned home. The operator slotted the Mobile Personal Unit into it’s block next to the others, exactly measured and designed to be spacialy optimal. I drifted off to stare at my home and let stasis settle once more, and my Operator ventured out into the day to the nearest WaitCo.
*although it had resulted in productivity increases, the projected increases had not beenmet and thus a more effective solution was to be sought
**The lack of employee transport and connected colour resulted in White becoming the default colour of the City Council and Creatives Commission