Dreamt on May 26, 2015. After spending most of that morning jotting down the tidbits, below is what I could put together in the last few days on this glorious vacation. The thing to keep in mind, dear worst-reader, is that I’m over my jet-lag at the time of this writing between May 28-30. Jet-lag works best for me while I’m writing. It’s not so much the lack of sleep but instead the time of day in whatever timezone I’m awake that seems to enhance it. Traveling east > west is always good for writing, too. I’m a morning person anyway and sleeping early and getting up early is best. So with out further ado, here’s…
The Hi Jack
Back in the old office in the city. Like old times. I still can just walk in and no one notices. Wear the right clothes and face and never expect them to actually change the code-keys on the doors and you’re good. Things haven’t changed. Ten years later, not a soul working there that I know. I just walk in, navigate the labyrinth of stairs, avoiding the elevator, find an office and start “my research”. Research is part of getting informed. The news, bulletins, empirical papers from universities and institutes, Library of Congress, past client documents, blogs. This is a place I used to work and those things I just listed are a few of my sources–for getting informed. I go to my old office two or three times a month, sometimes more, sometimes less. I started doing it right after I left the firm. Even though I left with improved financials to another company, the work being very different, the calling of being an Information Specialist has stuck with me ever since. Today I’m not sure if I gave up my calling, if it gave up on me, or if there is something to the idear of freedom from compulsion. Nomatter.
A few times a month I still go to my old office. Yes. I sneak in. I do it for myself and for sanity–not just the sanity of me but of the general public. Which means my work turned into me–or did I turn into it? Again. Nomatter. What’s important is that I’m in once again and it’s easy to sneak in on account of the turnover the firm produces. You know, the up or out corpo-work environment. If you move up within two years then you also move beyond the minions, i.e. the folk like me. The great thing about those who move, though, is that their achievements are not based on their being in anyway better than someone else. They call this crony capitalism, btw. Folk like me, though, are never interested in moving up because, I guess, in a way, we believe in what we do. Unfortunately THEY’LL never be able to get rid of all the people like me because it would then mean THEY’D have to wipe their own ass. And so. That worst-said, it’s more than just work, i.e. compulsion that I do. Information and being informed is a way of life. And I’m still not sure if that’s good. Not sure if all good things, too, must come to an end. For this “work”, this compulsion that I’ve become accustomed to, is different. Very different. But I’m drifting off subject. Again.
Today, for the first time, I get to meet some really honest-to-God Hi Jackers. What? Dear worst-reader, you’ve never heard of the Hi Jackers? No kiddin’? Well, then lets get on with it.
After a day of “work”, scanning networks and databases, old archives of physical material, I get ready to leave when the most crazy thing happens. I’ve just finished climbing down four flights of stairs. I enter the lobby of the office building and suddenly find myself surrounded by a gang of infamous Hi Jackers. At first I thought they might have been that new group that has been tormenting Corporates and Automatons called The Bombers. But I was wrong. These guys were definitely The Hi Jackers. Right in front of me. There they were in the office lobby with guns and bullet proof vests and hand-grenades and buttons on their jackets that read “DIGITAL FREEDOM NOW”, “Stop Government Overreach”, “Aaron Lives In RSS”, etc. Wow. I never thought I’d get to see these guys in action. You know. Interrupting the corpo-world, throwing smoke-grenades into offices, making secretaries cry and whine. That was only a small part of what The Hi Jackers are all about. Obviously their politics was something I didn’t quite agree with but then again, after making my share of credits/cash that would help support a lonely future in comfort, I didn’t care anymore about anything anyway. I found my way out. Right?
The Hi Jackers caused a bit of a ruckus in the lobby with their threatening antics so I just mixed among the rest of the Automatons trying to get away–except I’m not screaming and whining like a bitch. In a way I can empathize with the Automaton plight, especially now that they are under such threat in their daily routine. Obviously the fighters for digital freedom have had a heavy impact on the corpo-world. But as usual, as with labor and with work-benefits, when it interferes with the one-percent making enough to buy the next biggest yacht (of which there is always a newer one) then they resort to all they know. They simply leave the corpo-automatons to themselves. They go elsewhere on the planet with the work and in the mean-time have to pay less in labor costs. Now that’s the ticket, ain’t it? They’ve really figured it all out. And in #americant they’ve turned the whole political system into nothing more than a shill ride for the one-percent to get away with whatever it wants in the name of profits. But profits aren’t everything to the one-percent. Indeed. There is one more thing that is almost as important to the one-percent. And that is: power. Especially power over automatons. The most important creed for the one-percent is to make sure that automatons get no power whatsoever that they can wield over their rulers. And it has worked perfectly.
Enter the gangs, the anarchists, The Hi Jackers. There they are doing their thing. Scaring the beejeesus out of every poor automaton schmuck that has learned to never have an original thought. Just get up and go to work and if you’re lucky, if the one-percent allow you to do it, you get to have a kid or three. AS LONG AS YOU DO WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. And so. During the ruckus the automatons in my old firm were worried about one thing and one thing only. Getting home without being blown-up by anarchists. I’ve even heard that not getting blown up is actually part of a standard resume these days. Luckily most of the automatons would make it home today. Good for them. Not good for me.
One of The Hi Jackers noticed me behind a counter and he yells my code name: WORSTWRITER! I stand at a attention and they take me prisoner, letting everybody else go home. One of the other gang members takes my arm and talks into a microphone somewhere on his person and radios in that they got me. “They got me?” I thought. The police try to raid the office building but the hijackers just change their clothes to look like office schmucks and we get away into the streets. Now I am one of them. Or are they one of me? There’s a small confrontation with police and a few trucks that the gang uses as decoy and camouflage. But. Again. We get away.
The Hi Jackers take me to their layer which is the home of one of their mothers–who I recognize because she worked at the office when I did! In celebration of another successful demonstration–that’s what they call it, not hijacking–I get to eat very dry cake served from an old colleague. Fancy way to take someone prisoner, eh. The cake is made of rainbow colored layers, covered with white icing and red syrup. When I’m served a piece of the cake it looks like a broken painting of a rainbow that is bleeding.
“Tommi,” my former colleague says to me. “Do you remember me?”
“Vaguely,” I respond.
“We’ve been watching you. Why do you insist on returning to the office? You go there at least three or four times a week. Why?”
“It’s habit, I guess,” I say. “I can’t help it. I’m an information junky.”
“Oh I know exactly what you’re talking about. But it’s over now. And as I’m sure you can guess, I’ve turned to the darker side of doing things–as some of us have had to in these patriot-act dark times. But. As you can see, I no longer gather the information for those willing to pay the highest price but instead I hijack it and give it to those who don’t know they need it yet. By the way, have you heard of Aaron Schwartz?”
“Well, then, it looks like you’ve not been utilizing your information gathering skills to their fullest potential. What in the world are you always looking for up in that old office?”
Her name was Astrid. She had been working in the office for a few years when I joined the firm back in the late 80s. Although I was assigned at the time to someone else for initialization, there was no avoiding her expertise in the field of information gathering services–or her legs. Her speciality at the time? Telephone interviews. While most other information gatherers, yours truly, searched literature, journalism, coupon sections and the comics of all major US newspapers, others were better at acquiring information more directly. Did a partner need specific pricing information of a product in order to do a cost analysis for a competitor, Astrid would either call the manufacturer of that product or, if applicable, the retailer selling it. She would craft a storyline to coincide with her call. Some, of course, would call such a storyline a lie but when you were being billed-out to a partner in the firm for two hundred dollars an hour industry ethics are at best… permeable.
There was a short pause between her questions and the preparation of her laptop. Astrid called up a website on her Dell XPS. One of her henchmen, her son I assumed, was apprehensive about showing me information that would connect me to them but he obviously trusted his mother’s judgement.
“And besides,” she said to her son as the other two henchmen finished their bleeding rainbow cake, “Tommi here is an idealist.”
She looks at me and continues. “Were you always an idealist, Tommi, or was there something catastrophic that lead to it?”
“Why would it have to be catastrophic,” I asked.
Astrid turned to her boys. “You see, it’s a subtle form of naiveté. An effective trick indeed. I told you. He’s good. Really good. But is he good enough? Works on most but not on others. Come on now, Tom, why are you in the office?”
Other than the eating of cake the room fell silent as Astrid’s URL began to display the hypertext on her screen and I wasn’t sure if her question held any priority or if it was just some form of rhetoric.
Her website came up. I was surprised how slow it loaded. Then I noticed the proxy systems on her desktop. She was encrypting each hypertext request and re-routing them through numerous anonymous servers. I was familiar with such search tactics because I too used to employ them. But I gave up on it all when I realized that I had nothing to hide.
Astrid’s website was a bland and plain. Grey background with a simple header centered at the top. It read Hi Jack in H1 letters. There were two columns left and right. Left was for site navigation and right was for links to other sources. I immediately took notice of the right column. There were links to websites that I regularly visited, e.g. news sites, rebel sites, sites of anarchy.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You’re connected to those sites? They’re all indexed, you know that, right? They could locate you right now if they wanted to.”
“Of course they’re indexed. And that’s one of the best forms of advertising there is,” she said while navigating to a page of The Hi Jack website. “They’ll never find us. Never.”
“I’ve never seen your site before,” I said.
“And you never will. Unless we allow it.”
Suddenly a list appeared on The Hi Jack website. Astrid tilted and turned her Dell XPS so that I could see its screen clearly. Slowly I read through a list and quickly I realized what she was showing me. It was a precise copy of all the URLs, time-stamped, including duration and both HTTP down and upload speeds, of all the research I had been doing at the office for the past few visits I had made there.
“What the hell?” I said.
“Your encryption is good. The automatons running the system for our old firm won’t notice anything of what you’ve been looking at. But we notice everything. So let me ask you one more time, Tommi. And please, for old times sake, give an answer I can verify. What are you looking for when you sneak into our old company and use their systems to research this stuff?”
At any moment I knew I could break from this digital dream. But my curiosity was awakened. And I suppose I was also somewhat amused. It was great seeing Astrid again. I remember having lunch with her so many years ago, flirting with her–which never went anywhere. I wondered if her son was the product of the man that had stolen her heart. The man so many of us were obviously competing against. She was like Ms. Stainless Steel in that office. No fraternizing whatsoever. And now she’s working with some digital freedom gang? And her son is a henchman? Yeah, right. Weird. Way weird. …. Uh oh ….
Possible continue. Woke up jet-lagged at 4:30am. Went outside to breath Curacao air. I could taste the salt from the south caribbean sea only a few meters away. I sat down to think of the dream that woke me. But I was more curious about the scuba dive that morning and the cute little fishies I would see.
Rant on. -Tommi
PS this post/text initially worst-written on an iPad 4 using both touch screen and a Bluetooth keyboard and some seriously shitty wifi. (Good luck with that, right?)