Thursday, February 24, 2011

Port-a-Potty Fiction - Part 5

"Is that what you call it? The System? Like it's some kind of low budget Sci-Fi movie?" I asked.

"Well, it doesn't actually have an official name, yet. 'The system' isn't in caps like you're imagining. It got kind of tedious to say, "the portapotty teleportation system" all the time. So, you know how it is, people in a hurry, stuff gets shortened. We've been looking....".

I waved my hands in front of my face and shook my head. This was not what I came to talk about. "Fine, okay. No capitals on 'the system', duly noted. I just want to know what happened to me on Wednesday."

"Simple. You teleported. Via portapotty. As far as I know, everyone who utilizes the system completed a safety training course and then obtained a personal passcode to use in conjunction with a smartphone app. So, without that stuff, I don't actually know how you did it. By the way, I wrote the manual for the safety course:  Personal Safety and Responsibility during Transport-a-Potty Travel."  Reggie arched a hand in front of his face, proudly imagining the title spread across the air in front of his eyes.   "Of course, no one - at least, no one I know - really understands why it works, just that it does and that they can use it. When folks get to talking about what makes the system work, fights generally break out. One side demands that it's god. The other side yells back, 'Quantum Theory!'.  Of course, neither side really has a clue what its talking about. Just throwing fancy words around to sound knowledgeable. Their arguing also helps to cement their delusions that they know what's in control of it all. Makes them more comfortable about using the system."

"Can I have a copy of that manual?" I felt like I'd never get any real answers from the philosophizing foreman.

He handed me the thin, spiral-bound safety manual. "So, Eve, tell me. How did it work for you? How'd you access the system? Did you get the app somehow and a passcode too? It just doesn't make sense otherwise."

As quickly as I could, I summarized what I'd seen out my office window and how, on Wednesday, I'd stepped into the john near the trailer to see if I could figure things out. No special Smartphone application involved, no passcode. Mr. Custos wanted to look at my phone anyway. I pulled it from my pocket and tossed it to him.  He fished around for a few minutes and then suddenly he did a little jig in front of his desk and shook his head in disbelief, "Well, I'll be damned. This must be it. This must have been your way in." He launched the culprit application and handed the phone back to me. It was set to something my friend had downloaded onto my phone a month or so ago.

 "Gotta Pee Map App".   "Active". 

We thought it was a joke - that it didn't really do anything. We had configured it to be always on,  pretending that it might tell us the location of the nearest available toilet when we were in dire need.  But we'd never actually tried to use it.  I hit the "start" icon.  A map screen loaded and flashing port-a-potty icons lit up.  A green push-pin marked the john next to the trailer.  Several of the other port-a-potty icons on the screen were marked with red push-pins and others were just grayed-out johns that must have been inaccessible for some reason.

"This is crazy." I whispered. I moved the map around with my finger. It contained all the roads I travel on regularly in my town. When I zoomed the map out, I could see flashing potty icons all up and down I-91 in Vermont, over on I-95 in Maine and all along the NYS Thruway. All the places I regularly travel had lit-up port-a-potty icons. I zoomed-out even further and saw a handful of activated potties and hundreds that were inactive, grayed-out. They waited expectantly on the West Coast, in Hawaii, in France, South America, everywhere.

I zoomed-in  again to the town view. The port-a-potty at the end of  my street, where Bainvoige Construction Corp had been working on a demolition project, flashed green. Before Mr. Custos could stop me, I jumped from my seat and bolted out the door. I ran into the john where this all started. With a shaking finger I tapped the flashing icon located on my street, waited while the request processed and then stepped back out. There I stood at one end of the street, my house at the other. I ran the quarter mile to it, just to make sure it was real enough. I looked in my mailbox - there was my credit card bill ready to go out. I ran up the steps and in through the front door. The smell of maple syrup and sausage lingered from my breakfast.  I stood for a few moments in complete silence. I dropped the teleporting safety manual, which was stuffed under my armpit, onto the floor. Then I turned back out the door and ran down the block, back into the john. Out-of breath and shaking, it took me a moment to successfully tap the flashing green push-pin on the map next to the foreman's trailer. Request processing... Request complete. 

I opened the port-a-potty door, leaped out and plowed into the chest of Mr. Custos.

"Well, I'll be dipped in shit!" he said quietly. "We've got a leak in the system."  He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back into the trailer. "Now then, Eve Stigatus, we can't be having two system apps floating around out there. That'll just muck things all up. We're gonna have to shut you down." He tried to grab my phone from me but I jerked it away just in time.

"Uhn-uhn. No way you're gonna take this away from me now. We make some kind of deal or else I start talking to the public. I can prove it works and I'll expose what's going on here. I've got this application in other places - this is the 21st century, Reggie,  there's never just one copy. So even if you take this phone, I can still make the system work for me." I squirmed out of his grip and stood my ground.

Mr. Custos knew the truth in my words. Any private control over the system would be gone if I went public and so we made a deal.

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