mathNEWS Issue 85.1: Friday, January 19, 2001

An Encounter with Out-of-Planetteers

An account of one who contacts with outsiders

I, Mark McDermot, am a veteran astronaut who had travelled millions of kilometres and visited numerous planets over my career. I faced many dangers and encountered numerous adversities. I met many types of aliens, friendly or not. I have had many adventures and misadventures and I survived them all. Most of my missions were rather uneventful, but there was one mission which I'll never forget.

My journey there went without a hitch, except for a few brief delays, courtesy of my vehicle. When I arrived at my destination, what I saw went far beyond my imagination.

The people here appeared to be listless and tired. The young people carried huge loads on their backs, literally. The older citizens of the place appeared to be knowledgeable, wise, and ready to help the young people. Every hour or so, the streets would be filled with commuters trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible. At weeknights and weekends, if such things exist here, the streets were silent, and there was almost no sign of life.

Without much thought into the matter, I decided to settle here and learn the language and the lives of the locals. It didn't take my long to realize that the local people interests me very much, in an odd way.

The young people were often given an unrealistic amount of work by their boss(es). They often had to stay in their offices and work overnight to get their work done. The young people often expressed their concerns to their bosses, but those concerns were often ignored by their older, higher-ranked counterparts. Every few months the young people were given performance reviews and it took an astronomical amount of effort for a young person to impress his superiors. Many young people were involutarily exiled to various places for "business" purposes. They didn't earn a lot in their "business trips" and they had to pay to have a chance of taking the trip.

As I mentioned before, the older people of the place appeared to be helpful. However, it appeared that an evil entity lived within each and everyone of them and controlled their hosts' every move. The older citizens often hid in their hubs, away from the public. A majority of them didn't seem to realize the amount of workload their subordinates have. However, not all of them were like that. Some of them were truly dedicated professionals, but they were only a minority.

The workers often sit for hours to listen to instructions given by their superior and they appeared to be tired at the end of each session. The only satisfaction they had each day was their meals, of which the company provided plenty of choices.

In time, I realized that people here lived a life similar to mine, with a few notatable exceptions. One day, I decided to check out a place which I had never visited before and what I saw shocked me. The workers there were as lifeless as they can be. Their eyes were glued to what appeared to be cathode ray tubes. They could stay in a sitting position for days and during their "breaks", all they did was controlling cars travelling in a restricted path.

I lived in that place for about 5 years. I left because I realized that I don't really belong here. More importantly, I was ordered to head a mission that was light years away.

Frequently, I hear people asking "on what galaxy did you have this experience?" after I tell my tale.

Every time I hear that, I respond by saying "Galaxy? I was talking about my life when I was a mathie at UW."

This anecdote was recorded by Jason "the Screamer" Lau



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