I haven’t written a journal in a couple of months. Too busy. Arjun told me that the gal who ran the New Harmony Delivery Company had “gone Zoë.” I never met her myself, but I gather she was well liked. I guess that’s how you make the transition: Butter everyone up, treat them with kid gloves… I could hear it in my head: White Glove Customer Service. That was going to be my company motto.
Arjun said New Harmony Delivery Company did intra-regional delivery.
“So who handles the inter-regional delivery?” I asked him.
“No one.” Sometimes I think he answers before he thinks.
“No one? I’ve traveled much of the region and there are no factories here, but we’ve got a lot of manufactured goods. They come from somewhere.”
“I see,” he replied. “Yes, no factories here or in 1819 or 1718 and below for that matter. Well, not many. Only ones situated near streams to use water power. But we didn’t want to recreate the pollution of the technology from the 20th and earlier centuries. The factories in 2021 are clean and mostly automated.”
“How nice. I’d love to see them.”
“So you say. Back to my original question. Who handles the inter-regional delivery?”
“You have Zoës unloading goods at the depot? Angelic beings huffing crates off boxcars? Is that supposed to be credible?”
“Oh, I see what you’re asking. No, we have Bios do that, mostly.”
“Bios from 2021?”
He shook his head ‘yes.’
“So some Bios can be trusted to move between regions?”
“Yes. No. It’s not about trust. It’s about contam… We have them work at night to prevent culture shock by anyone in 1920.”
I knew there wouldn’t be any culture shock. Only the shock of finding out some people could go between regions and others were stuck in Möbiusville.
“Why not have us deliver to 1819?” I asked.
“You have no manufacturing, so there is less to deliver.”
“What if I came up with something? Manufactured something. Could we deliver it?”
“You mean, build a factory?”
“Sure. We’ve got streams. We could build a factory that’s green.”
“The labor wouldn’t be green. It would require laborers.”
“And 2021 doesn’t?”
“No. It would be automated. Once they set it up, the factory is automatic and self-regulating.”
“We’re off topic,” he said.
I can imagine what Edward would think of our conversation. After that we returned to the topic of the New Harmony Delivery Company. With a brief tour or the warehouse and transfer dock by the tracks, I was able to size it up. She ran the place with 9 to 5 hours. Deliveries from 2021 were brought in after closing. Although the city did not have a curfew, people weren’t to loiter around the dock or warehouse after hours. We were also a place where local truck farms could bring goods to be distributed throughout the region.
Yep. I’m looking at the entry and I still shake my head at it. Mind you, I knew long before today that there were few autos in Region 1920. And that makes it weird compared to the world most of us came from. Even the make-believe paradise of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show had cars and radios.
“We need to get a fleet of trucks,” I said to Arjun when we got to the warehouse.
“Sorry, but that would necessitate a fleet of fuel trucks delivering fuel to petrol stations throughout the region.”
“The automobile is not a clean technology.”
“And horses are? With all their horse shit and the flies? That’s clean?”
“For now, the Region will retain animal-based transport except for the interurban and vehicles deemed essential, such as fire, ambulance, and other essential services.”
I didn’t recall seeing the Fire Station ever go into action. And what exactly is ‘essential’?
“Then it actually isn’t Region 1920, is it?” I said. “I have to tell you, it was more than a bit of culture shock for me to find out there were no cars, no computers, cell phones, no Internet. And no TV for God’s sake. What do we have that 1819 doesn’t?”
“The electric lamp and the telephone. And refrigeration. That’s a big thing you know.”
“But those are mostly 19th century technologies, aren’t they?”
“True, but only as the 19th century was about to become the 20th. And the appliances. You do not see them because they are ubiquitous when you were alive. Someone from 1819 would not be used to all your electric gadgets.”
“Damn. I’d hate to live in a region without power.”
“All regions have power. Animal or water or wind power perhaps. But power nonetheless. 1819 has enough electricity for the telegraph.”
I looked around me as if seeing this place for the first time. While I was doing the gardening and little more, it was like being on an extended vacation. I was content to have a “get away from it all” mentality, so no phones, computers, none of that bothered me. My commune childhood fit nicely here. But to run a delivery company with horse-drawn technology?
“Wayne, I can see this is making you uncomfortable,” Arjun said. “Perhaps something less… Perhaps where the interface of commerce and technology is less acute.”
“No, I said. This will do. I’ve been lollygagging around too long.”
So, I became the new boss. The other bios who worked there, Nancy and Arny, weren’t interested in running the place. As if it would be too much to hold all this in their heads. As if the stress and deadlines of a horse-powered delivery company would be too much for them. Nancy would be right at home on Mom’s commune. Arny should be in art school. That way he could stare at clouds all day, paint brush in hand. What kind of world could they build?
Arjun introduced me as the new manager. The word “boss” never came up. He left me to find my way right after that. The hardest part of taking over was figuring out the books in an age of pencil and paper. Nancy helped with that.
“We’re short handed,” Arny said when the first wagon was loaded and he was about to set out on his route.
“What do you mean?”
“We have two routes. When Ann went Zoë, I started doing Louie’s route as well as mine. But today, I won’t have time. Most days I won’t.”
“What happened to Louie?” I asked. Arny shrugged his shoulders then turned away, gave the reins a light flick and clicked a couple times, and he and his horse and wagon took off.
Nancy said to call the resurrectorium.
“Is Louie dead?” I asked.
“No, that’s how you reach Arjun. Tell him you need a new driver.”
The switchboard at the resurrectorium said they’d take care of it, and a few hours later, Reese showed up.
“Long time no see,” I said, but I didn’t extend my hand. Reese had gone native, wearing only a loin cloth.
“Problem?” Reese asked. Reading my face and body language didn’t require expertise. I wanted to telegraph my displeasure. ‘Problem?’ he asks. Where do I begin? If this was the old world, there’s no way I’d give this guy a job. Here, I didn’t even know if hiring decisions were my own. I felt like such a rube not knowing the basics of how to run a company. I didn’t even know if it was my company to run. Who owns this gig, anyway?
“No,” I said, “though the job will require loading and unloaded a wagon, and you’re not dressed to do that. Plus, you represent the company with customers.”
“Oh. I’ve got a jumpsuit I can wear.”
I wanted to say ‘Then why the hell aren’t you wearing that?’ but again, what are the rules here in commune-land?
“Good,” I said. “Consider your jumpsuit your work uniform. I know for certain there are some in the region who are scandalized by the lack of standards.”
“My last job was as a Cultural Translator, so I know about the problem most people have with nudity.”
“Yet you showed up here nearly naked?”
“I haven’t got the job yet.”
“Do you want the job, Reese?”
He straighten up a bit and some of the commune attitude fell away.
“I’ve been going through a rough patch,” he said. “Amber, my Zoë, thinks this job would be good for me.”
“I don’t care what Amber thinks. I may not be here to make money. God knows, no one can get ahead here. But I’ve been asked to run this company, and I plan to run it well. So, if we agree the job is for you, show up for work in your jumpsuit.” I could see that got to him, so he wasn’t a full-blown commune slacker.
“Have you ever handled a horse-drawn wagon?” I asked, moving on from his appearance.
“Nope. Never met anyone in my life who did. Can you?”
“Yes, but that’s besides the point.”
“That is the point.”
He was right, and I had already forgotten my shock when Arjun brought me here.
“Okay,” I said. I decided that he’d figure out how to drive a wagon soon enough. “You’ve got the job. Do you know where the stable is?”
“Go there tomorrow morning, and they’ll get you set up. Come here with your rig, and in your jumpsuit mind you, and we’ll get you started on your route.”
He extended his hand and I shook it.
This wasn’t the same Reese I’d met before, the one that Edward was so impressed with. ‘Möbius man,’ Edward had called him. Reese seemed worn down. Maybe he’d been running the Möbius loop all this time. I remembered a comic book from when I was a kid. A man was running on a treadmill in the sky, clouds and the earth far below him, running as hard and fast as he could, because if he stopped or slipped he’d fall. There were a lot of times when my old life had felt like that. Investment banking could be like that at times. When the markets turned bearish, it was a struggle. I saw that kind of struggle on Reese. I wondered if they sent him to me because they thought he needed a low-stress job. Well, he’s got it. Welcome to commune world, Wayne.