– Sir? I really need you to choose one plan. – I just handed the lady in uniform my application form for a free travel card. I wanted one, since my new position was forcing me to move frequently from my current flat downtown to the heart of the City. But I left the plan option empty. I’m not sure about to keep my old flat. My new job is supposed to make big money, so if I’m lucky I could find a better one in a slightly more distant position, like in the next town. Then the company girl started to complain about the hole in the plan thing. Who cares?
– Please explain it to me again. I don’t get it. Is it a free travel card or not?
– It is indeed free. But this is not meaning we need to give it to you without conditions, right? – By looking at her, I’m not able to say if she’s being ironic or just kind. Her face is an iron mask, it could be even electronic camouflage, as far as I know. I refrain myself about to knock on the glass that is separating us to check out if it’s a glass or a very good screen.
– Right. But why so? Why I need to choose what kind of freedom I want? Isn’t to choose one free plan to cut my freedom of choice, so to say?
– Dear friend, I don’t make the rules. Ask your politicians, they make the rules.
– If I see one of them around, of course I will. – I give her my best hypocritical smile. – For the moment, I only have you around. Will you be so gentle as to answer me please, if you can? – She seems to crack her iron mask to produce a very artificial smile, not so different from my canned one. The effect is weird, but I take it as sincere.
– It is very simple. We do need to pay the transport. Everybody is paying it with our taxes. Imagine the next: everybody in EU applies and get the EU-free card. Do you think everybody will be travelling everywhere all the time?- I shake my head, doubtfully. – That’s right. It is impossible everybody travels everywhere at the same time! After all, you do live somewhere. Here it says…
– I know where I live. Please continue. – I look back. I’m creating some kind of queue. I’m not the type of person that is happily waiting, so I sympathize with them. But.
– Anyway. If everybody is free to go wherever they want, we don’t know where to drive our trains, buses or plains. And how long, or from where. We have no idea. – I understand. – Therefore the need to force you to choose. If you don’t choose, we can’t choose also.
– Don’t you have an AI in charge? What’s the AI saying about? What’s the travel plan an AI would choose for me? Can’t you ask her that? Don’t you have simulations or something like that to take care of the planning thing?
– I could ask my AI of course. But why should I? Just picture it. If I ask the AI what does she recommend for your special circumstances, then I may need to ask the AI also what she thinks of the case of the other ten people coming after you. And maybe, to the hundred people coming after these ten after you. And how this all of this end? You will have our AI permanently blocked processing information, making personal travel plans, for the whole day. – She elongates the “whole” day in a way that it sounds like a bad word. – All of it because you – she points to me with her finger, in a rather nasty way – refuse to put a stupid cross on this damned form! – The smile is gone, also the iron mask. I’m not sure but I think I need to stop here if I want to manage to do something today.
– Alright, alright. I understand. Once I get the card, can I change the plan?
– Of course you can’t change the plan! What do you think, that we are playing with LEGOs or something like that? That we can put a railroad here today and move it tomorrow to there? – Now she’s shouting. People on my back start to murmur, a little bit alarmed. – You are supposed to get the free travel card only if you know how you are going to use it! And you don’t know a sh*t about that, I gather!
– Let’s look at it in another way. What can I do if I don’t know where I go or what line I’m going to take? – She seems to find out she’s overreacting and she closes her eyes. I hear a big sigh through the speakers. She opens her eyes and seems to produce some kind of smoking beverage from behind, that she sips three times before speaking again.
– You could… simply… buy a ticket. – She smiles to me again. – And you can keep the piece of paper as a memento of your wandering trip, as the tourists do. – I give up and leave the counter. Buy a ticket. What a funny idea. I may even just do that.
– Thank you very much for your help, mum. It was very instructive. Have a nice day!
– You too, mister. Please come back whenever you know where do you go!