My Life with a Cupboard in an age of Drones
One day when we were living in Efate Grandma bought me a cupboard. Or maybe it was a wardrobe. I wasn’t sure, because I couldn’t remember seeing one before. Or perhaps a dresser. Whatever, it was like a locker but it was made out of wood and didn’t have any kind of lock. So I called it an “er”.
“That’s lovely, grandma,” I said, gazing up and down over its height. “What’s the ‘*er*’ for?”
“You put things in it dear,” she said. “You can keep all your clothes in it, and even some books if you ever decide to own some.”
“But how do I get them out?” I asked.
“You just open the door.”
This contraption of wood? It wouldn’t autoregister, and I couldn’t see even a manual code on it anywhere. Unless the crack down the front was scan-able?
Grandma grabbed a small protuberance from the front of the *er* and pulled. The crack got bigger and bigger and revealed lots of locker like spaces inside — I rushed to the *er* and tried pulling the er’s
ers, but inside they were just empty spaces.
“But how do you open it if you aren’t there?”
Grandma looked tired. “Well, I’m hoping that now that your father has settled down” — we’d been in Efate on a long contract for nearly 12 weeks, and we would be moving out in a week or two — “ that maybe you mightn’t need to keep calling drones every time you want something.”
It was a delicious concept, and I turned it over in my mind. A locker that didn’t move, that didn’t know what it held, that you could only use if you were in the same room as it was. It was like a magical
Mum had kept a drawing I did on paper back in kindergarten, and she let me have access to call it, but that was in France so it would take a while to get here and I wanted to put something in it. I checked my clothes budget and I had a few days spare from summer when I’d spent most of my time at the beach. I was saving it up for some special occasion, but I could grab some socks without really making a dent in it. They came a minute or two later from some warehouse close by.
While I was waiting someone with access to my feed — probably Zhuanita — prank-freighted me a hat. They did it so well that the hat actually landed on my head when the drone dropped it off.
When the socks arrived, they missed badly and landed a few steps away.
I put them all in the *er* and got Grandma to show me how to shut the door. Then I opened it up again just to make sure they were still there afterwards, which they were.
“Can they stay in there all day?” I asked Grandma, and she replied that they could. Overnight even.
It felt really wasteful to be holding on to something even at night when I wouldn’t be using it, but when I asked my Peers, they thought it was OK as long as it was just a once-off and I wasn’t about to get mum and dad hit with an overuse charge for the month. Zhuanita pointed out that there really wasn’t anything wrong with taking exclusive auth-control over something if nobody else wanted it anyway at the time. It’s not like I wasn’t willing to share. Then she prank-freighted me a can of “Share”-branded cat food.
So the *er* stood in the middle of the room where it had been delivered, and did nothing. Nothing at all, except hold a pair of crisp white socks and a hat emblazoned with the name of some failed politician.
It was still standing there the next morning when I tried to open it up. I carefully replayed my personal timeline from the day before so I could remember how to do it without breaking it. Grab a *handle*, pull in a bit of an arc out to one side: not too hard once you got used to it. I then spent a couple of minutes trying to get “learning how to open a wardrobe” marked as an educational attainment but no-one seemed willing to certify it even after I’d done it on my own a couple of times. Sofhiu then prank-freighted me a five-minute cat rental, so I fed it the cat food and played with it until I had to send it back.
Anyway, because I’d shown some interest in wardrobes some weird course on restoring classic wooden objects came up on my feed and I did some work on that. Hundle prank-freighted me a plank of wood with the word “congratulations” burnt into it. Of course my Peers saw the wood and the course and enough of them tagged along that we got an actual human instructor assigned for a few minutes.
It was a bit sad really, because it turned out that the old man who was assigned to us had died a couple of years beforehand. It had been several years since “restoring classic wooden objects” had been used,
and by the looks of it, it was several generations of learning content engine out of date. So the system probably didn’t know that it couldn’t call on the old man, and just video conferenced us in anyway. We spent the time stuck in a live video feed of his old workshop with nothing to do but look at weird tools and contraptions, all immaculately cleared of rust and dust by one very, very old domestic robot.
Just for fun I spliced the *er* into the scene and we started playing games with it like changing the colour, simulating what would happen if we hit it with one of the old man’s tools and that sort of
thing. There was a “saw” which we could use to simulate opening it up, but we kept having to reset the simulation because we couldn’t figure out how to close it properly afterwards. There was another tool that we discovered could take the *handle* off in-sim, but again, afterwards we couldn’t figure out how to make it open when we did. I still don’t know the point of “hammer” tool, but apparently all of us had learned enough in our exploration to meet the day’s attainment quota so we shut down the workshop feed with a bit of relief and we just chatted. I prank-freighted a hammer to Hundle on a one-minute rental.
I found out that Sohfiu (who was in Burkino Faso that week) was going with her parents to Vladivostok for a while. That gave me an idea.
Dad had been saying that his next gig wouldn’t need physical presence, and Mum said that she wanted somewhere colder for a change. She’s always complaining that because her work is fully remote that she has to bend to Dad’s work needs all the time. So I dug up some promos about Vladivostok, sent them to Mum and Dad and we all agreed. I prank-freighted an engraved ice-cube to Sofhiu to let her know what was going on.
Zhuanita was rostered with her mum’s second husband’s fourth ex-wife for a week followed by her biological dad’s third wife’s father, so she didn’t have much control over her home. But Hundle just asked his guardian and the guardian got funded for a short move-stay automatically out of Hundle’s excursion budget. Three Peers in the one city! Face-to-face cohesion time! I sent everyone a safety pin to celebrate.
In the meantime, though, I needed to figure out what to do with the *er*. Grandma had gone, and Mum and Dad thought I should sell the *er* to a specialist asset owner as soon as possible before
it started losing value. It’s not like any of us knew how to maintain it, even with my 1 micro-attainment in “restoration of classic wooden objects”, so they did have a point. They also wanted the space back in
the middle of the living room as they were planning on renting a dining table for dinner tonight and having a special celebration with fake-silver platters and fancy cutlery. (I suppose they were celebrating Grandma leaving.)
I looked around half-heartedly for a buyer for a few minutes in the afternoon, but it was hard to describe and it was hard to get any good value for it. The best offer was for to use it for “surplus natural wood to be used in a romantic bonfire” whatever that means, and that didn’t look as though there was any kind of lease-back arrangement so that you could use it afterwards.
Then I had an idea. I fiddled around with layover times, bulk costing, maximum number of transitions, restricted routes based on humidity and temperature changes and customs inspection requirements and found the most absurd slow route I possibly could. Efate to Vila; Vila to Noumea; Noumea to Kiribati; and so on via Oslo, Capetown, Dakar — on and on from loading dock to city hub to drone port. 100% on shared, surplus, minimum-bid shipping. I worked out how to get the *er* from Efate to Vladivostok in exactly 6 days, but for less cost than flying that hat in yesterday would have been if it hadn’t been part of the clothing contract. It was all covered within my monthly plan which basically had no limits on piggy-backing on otherwise empty trips.
It had to leave straight away to meet the first leg. I didn’t really tell Mum and Dad what I was doing, and they just thought I’d found a buyer who had organised to collect it.
I spent so much time over the next week checking its status and watching it through the camera that my schooling feed started showing me logistics and geography and some odd bits of local history. Did you know that Kiribati wasn’t always a major transport hub? In the late twentieth century they weren’t even sure if it would continue as a viable country! Without drones island hopping across the pacific it
was just a bunch of coral islands. I wrote a silly essay about it all — and had it reviewed by an i-Kribati teacher — and cleaned up almost a week of attainments then and there.
Everything was looking up and perfect when we settled in to our rental in Vladivostok: Hundle and Sofhiu had some ideas for what we could do together and I was so far ahead in my attainments that I could take as much free time as I wanted for a while. But it all fell apart really quickly: Mum and Dad started having an argument about “I didn’t think you meant this too cold” just because there was a couple of metres of snowfall in the last few hours and all deliveries were delayed because a flock of snowdiggers had been destroyed by the storm. They were shivering and mad because they were about to use up the whole month’s clothing subscription on snow gear and it wasn’t going to come because there was a big delivery happening blocking the queue ahead of the clothing drones which was taking priority on the use of the snowdiggers. Then they got really mad when the *er* arrived in a powered tropical protection locker and it turned out that *it* was the really big delivery that was holding up the network and had had priority because it had been in transit for so long.
I don’t know why some people find moving home stressful. Nearly everyone does it dozens of times per year, so I don’t see why it’s a big deal like everyone makes it out to be just because things go wrong every now and then.
But Mum and Dad fumed and complained anyway. It’s not like we could do anything about it because by then the path through the snow had fallen in again and there was a backlog on snowdiggers being used anywhere in the city. So we found some instructions about how to move a wardrobe manually — there was an attainment for learning how to move heavy objects, which I need to remember to claim — and got it out of the tropical locker. Then we all climbed into the tropical locker and got warm for a while until everyone had calmed down.
While we were in there, we did some research and had a long talk about what to do with the *er*. There are ways of attaching a lock to it, but almost no delivery network will let it be used as a destination unless it has been properly stress-tested. The stress-testing was expensive. Very expensive. And you had to sign waivers that it might be damaged in the process. The testing process really was supposed to be done as a locker was being designed before it got printed, not years after it had been cut out of wood.
It really was quite particularly useless. The only thing you could do with it was store things, and then you couldn’t deliver or pick up from it. You would have to want to *buy and own things* and then not
use them very often and never rent them out, and never do any maintenance on them. What sort of weird personality defect would make someone do that? Collector fetish combined with a destructive trait?
And wardrobes aren’t particularly culturally significant either. We searched for famous stories, poems, art works, everything. They are sometimes used as props in period shows. The best we came up with had
something about a witch and a lion in it too: I can see how you could rent a lion to go with it, but we’d have to employ a witch too and Mum and Dad didn’t want to pay for that as there are only a few hundred who were qualified in the world and they were quite heavily booked up.
Eventually a couple of beds arrived from the local furniture rental. Something had gone wrong with the subscription transfer and instead of getting a sensibly-sized two-person mattress, it was this absurd
arrangement of a single-person frame but with a flowing memory foam that could expand and shrink, so Mum and Dad just filled up the whole floor of one room about waist high with foam (the frame was in their somewhere!) and slept on that. I had picked out a hammock which I always do as a treat for my first night anywhere. Hundle prank-freighted me a piece of string about the length of my finger, as he usually does whenever I have a hammock.
Just before we went to sleep we all agreed that I could keep the *er* until the next day and we could get rid of it as a Peer activity.
Hundle and Sofhiu had seen it before, of course, but sometimes it’s nice to touch something for real, without augmentation. “It’s really not very interesting, is it?” said Hundle after a bit of contemplation.
“Not even a bit”, Sofhiu and I said at once.
They had a try at opening it (grab the handle, pull toward yourself and then to the right in a bit of an arc) and closing it (grab the handle and then push). Sofhiu wondered what would happen if you tried
standing on the other side of the door when you were closing it, but she just found herself inside.
She began to panic, because there wasn’t a handle on the inside. We told her we could open it up from the outside but she insisted she wanted to figure it out.
Zhuanita was watching it all remotely, and she tried to be helpful by freighting in another handle, with delivery to Sofhiu herself. But when the drone came, it didn’t know how to get into the *er* either,
so it floated around for a while, beeped, and then flew off. A few minutes later Zhuanita video-called us screaming and giggling with excitement. She showed us a genuine delivery-failure receipt.
We begged Sofhiu to stay there, and not try too hard to figure out how to open it. Hundle and I freighted Sofhiu some chocolates, a teddy bear, a block of rancid and mouldy cheese and finally a paperclip. The drone bringing the paperclip was a tiny little thing that tried very hard to get into the crack in the *er*, but even if couldn’t get through. Dutifully and apologetically we received four notices of non-delivery brought to us by a series of liveried and official-looking drones.
Then Sofhiu ordered a sandwich, which of course couldn’t get to her. A minute or two later, in flew a drone to bring her non-delivery note, which couldn’t delivered, which caused *another* drone to bring a non-delivery note of the non-delivery note, which also couldn’t be delivered. We kind of hoped that we might have a drone fly in every couple of minutes while Sofhiu stayed in there, but eventually they
stopped coming and Sofhiu just got an official notice in her feed and an apology from the Vladivostok director of delivery.
Hundle immediately found a buyer for all these non-delivery notes, and we bundled them up and sent them to their new home. We didn’t get much out of it, but it was enough to pay for this ad.
So, now is your opportunity to rent this wonderful *er*. You can use it for private solitude time where you can’t be interrupted by a delivery. You can use it to get away from annoying friends, stop any prank-freight and even make it hard to receive official notices.
Renter pays transport costs. Rentals from 1 minute up to 1 week.