Part 4

It's like this really amazing thing happened today. I ran out of money. The people running my borrowed credit card sent me this really nice letter instructing me to cut my card into several pieces; and a few days later I got a not-so-nice letter instructing me to cut myself into several pieces. I fiddled around with my modem and paid them back. Oh, I also terminated the contract of the fool stupid enough to sign their name on the letters.

It is a quandary. I know the principal is watching over me to look for one mistake. I could, if I wanted to impress, turn up to college in a Porsche. There's a heck of a lot of unnamed money sitting in Switzerland. But then the principal would come down heavy on my case and I can't do anything to him. He has set up verbal and written instruction with loads of people such as the college board, the bank, the government... He tells them to use paper records and not to trust the computer. They probably think he is a nut, but it effectively stops me from messing up his life. I tried it a few days ago. I set his water rates to 250 below the zero mark. They looked it up in their hardcopy, told him not to worry and then took their computer apart for a few days.

Anyway... It looks like I have to get myself a part-time job that I can do after college. The black market looked inviting, but it turned out to be a bit boring. Money is left in one suitcase, weapons in the other. They are about two miles apart. It always goes down at night. Boring. I like interaction. It gives me a chance to size up the "customer" and maybe make them squirm a little. After all, if the customer is always right - why the hell are they asking you for advice?

I walk down the high street. The bank trains internally. The estate agent don't use computers. The repro shop uses horrible horrible Macs from an obscure era when computers and LASER printers had a processor in common. The chemist are looking for somebody. Nosing around, you learn all kinds of cool things like how to apply cream to boils. You don't, you just have to tell the customer (the customer who is always right, remember?). Time to blow chunks and look elsewhere.

On my way home I pass the council building. A great shining edifice to taxation. This wonderful fully air-conditioned multi-storey hole built with our tax money. It'd be a piece of cake to sign up for unemployment benefit, housing benefit, family benefit and a hundred and one other benefits. Could easily rake in 250 a week. But I'm highly paranoid about the government. They have resources I can only dream of and they have the official secrets act. Like all the bad movies say, "People have accidents". And who would miss me?

I pop into the newsagent to pick up the latest Acorn User. There's a nice bit about filling blank spaces on the Internet, not to mention more 3D stuff. The cash till isn't taking SWITCH cards so the girl taps out the number by hand. Six, seven, nine, five, six, zero, one.... I am busy scribbling the number inside the Acorn User. Expires November 1998. Issue three. I close Acorn User and impatiently place my magazines on the counter. Discreetly I look over. It's a NatWest card. Good grief, what kind of name is that? Ah... He's a Doctor. I size the guy up. He is wearing a grey woollen suit and expensive highly polished shoes. Tucked into his jacket pocket is a contactless ID card with a barcode on it. He has bought twelve copies of New Scientist. This guy looks good for a few hundred at least.

Later that night I hang up the phone and rip a mouth-sized chunk out of my pizza, having just bought a shiny new X2 modem and a 32Mb SIMM - payment by SWITCH.

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Copyright © 1998 Richard Murray
Diary Copyright © 1997 Richard Murray