Wednesday, August 10, 2005

ghost in the machine

Today’s story happened around the time I had to take two buses every day to get to work.

We only had the one car, which MyX had commandeered as she was responsible for bringing the kids to their playgroup.

Since I was the manager of my sports store and had to be there before everyone else, I had to leave home at around 6:30am. Since I am not your fall-out-of-bed-and-head-straight-to-work kinda guy, this meant that in order to be properly ready to leave the house I had to set my alarm for 5am. Yuk.

We were doing ok financially at the time, and had recently purchased our first home personal computer. With it came a video game, a soccer simulation one called FIFA96. It became part of my morning routine to drag myself out of bed, make a huge mug of coffee, and sit down for about 20 minutes to half an hour’s play as I tried to gradually guide my favorite soccer team through a full season.

Luckily my early morning ritual meant my 2-year-old daughter was also asleep, so the house was at perfect silence at this hour. All I had to do was plug in the headphones and I could play away with no fear of waking anyone who would not stir before I left the house.

One of the features of FIFA96 was that it included the real voice of legendary British commentator John Motson. With a feat of technical wizardry his voice would accurately describe the action of the game you were playing, and I could not get over how clever that was – of course over time the technology has become even more advanced and he now has a sidekick with him in the virtual commentary booth!

Back in ’96, however, I was happy with just John’s voice to help my escapism from reality for a brief period as the caffeine helped kickstart my synapses.

Normally his commentary would go something like this :

“And Beckham takes the ball down on his chest, and plays a lovely through ball to Keane, who shoots first time – AND IT’S THERE!!! WHAT A GOAL!!!!”

Imagine my surprise when one morning, shortly after 5am, I hear John say this through my headphones :

“Are you ALWAYS on the computer at this hour of the morning?”

I stopped what I was doing, and shook my head a little. What did he just say?

The computer was switched off in a hurry.

The point of this story is to attempt to describe the way I felt between that moment and when I arrived in work later that morning after two bus journeys.

Was I working too hard? Was I under too much stress? Or was I just going crazy? Did I REALLY hear what I thought I had heard?
From the moment I switched off my computer to the moment I remembered Dave was working that day, this was all I could think about. I had never ever felt anything like this before, always considering myself to be relatively sane.

Luckily one of my staff was a Self-Confessed Grade A Premium Computer Game Geek. Dave used to actually plan his vacation time around the release of new PlayStation games just so he could spend a good 72 hours on the trot mastering them.

“Ah, I know what that is. Are you playing the game on a PC?”, Dave queried when I put my dilemma to him soon after the start of his shift. When I nodded, he went on,

“Yeah, sometimes the game designer programs the game to have a look at things on your PC and ask you questions about them, like “Can you believe it’s July already?” and stuff like that, just to freak you out a little.”

A little?

Then all I could picture was a sad lonely little man punching keys until 4 in the morning thinking to himself, “Ha-this will get them reaching for the valium!”

And ya know what, it nearly did.

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shandi said...

Classic!!! As high strung as I am, I think I would have been calling a priest for an exorcism.

hermione2001ie said...

Dread to think what it would've said to me...something along the lines of "have you always been this neurotic?"