I thought it would be easy. Nothing is ever easy.

Lack of van plus ability to confidently drive van plus friends who need things to be moved in van equals early morning arrival in Kentish Town at a place that has vans to rent. They have lots of vans. Because they’re closed on bank holiday we have to rent it for the whole weekend even though we only want it for Saturday. When I express annoyance they discount it by just £40. Better than a kick in the face I guess. I lower my usual fee to compensate for the fact they’re taking a whack on the rental. It’s good friends, and theatre friends. There was a time one summer a few years ago when I toured with them and they helped me get out of a money and sadness hole. I usually end up friends with people I tour with, but these guys know me well enough to be keepers. They’re ace. Most of my work for decades came through recommendation. And these humans – FanSHEN – have been a part of my friendship group and my mechanism for survival for decades. Theatre is a network. Sure there are neurotics and egomaniacs banging around too, although mostly they’re desperate to get into exclusively telly so they can leave us alone and focus on their makeup. Some of them do. Others don’t and get a job in the city. Those of us who are still left after over a decade start to cluster together for warmth.

I was on a schedule this morning, but thankfully the time pressure was off. I was supposed to be doing the mini golf job for another bunch of lovely humans. I thought it might be possible to’ve done both jobs. It would never have been possible. Never. No way. Thank God they found a replacement for me. I was still on the way to Reading when I would’ve been due to start work.

It was slow to get the van. The guy at the van hire was a smiling mist. He was all insincerity, teeth and vim – all efficiency and front – nothing whatsoever to do with human truth at any point I was with him. I didn’t ask him his favourite colour as it would’ve been too cruel to watch him fail to understand why I’d asked the question, and flounder before saying “White. Because the van you are renting is white.” And then tried to smileZING me away from how that’s just an arsebag response.

I attempted a number of other conversational gambits plunging for humanity but they were shot down by his avian demonstrations of efficiency. He might be an actual Android. Interesting place to trial one I guess, a van hire. Maybe someone made an AI that passes. It’s not great yet though. It’s slow.

Coming to the end of our transaction I give him a different card to the one I paid with. We are going from “Al Barclay” to “AHL Barclay”. For a moment his programming malfunctions. “What’s your middle name?” he asks. “Hugo,” I say. “Because your cards have different names on them…” He continues, as if he’s found the reason why I’m a baddie and must be stopped.

It’s the only moment I slip. “Oh, Jesus Christ!” I utter in frustration, quite loudly, and very directly at him. His boss pops up in the background. The Android looks momentarily floored. Focus is on me. I need this van quicker than he’s let me have it as he’s already delayed me with his “demonstration of efficiency” fuckery. I say, mildly and with absolute honesty: “You’re very efficient.” “Thank you,” says his automatic response mechanism. Because despite this, he isn’t an actual android. He’s a human with a very different value system, trying to be seen to do the best job he can bless him. I’ve run into this value conflict before. Demonstrable customer efficiency > actual customer experience. I hate it.

Then he took me round the vehicle with the same inhuman efficiency. I actually wanted to eat my own head by the time he was finished with me. It made me late starting. Late continuing. Late throughout the day. But I thankfully had no time pressure and I got to catch up with two dear theatre making friends and eat nice food. But FFS. Upgrade the software or allow it more freedom.

Now I’ve got the van until 8am Tuesday anyway.

I don’t want it that long.

But I’ve got it.

So I’ll fucking use it.

I stopped at a pet store and bought like six times more litter than we’d get at Tesco for less than what they charge. Ditto cat food. Bastards at Tesco. Supply and demand. Capitalism. I’m doing it on eBay.

Then I realised I was around the corner from a friend’s, so I’m writing this early. Then I get to have an undistracted evening with an old mate. Out.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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