Almost missed

Thoughts on "human intervention"

Some pre-nostalgic thought here.

In the last 24h, the same thing happened to me twice. This is a clear sign from the universe that I should tell the story.

The first time, I was waiting for my train since a long time, sitting on a bench at the very end of the subway platform. I was not very focused, in fact I was all dreamy listening to music and trying to hide that I had late night drinks. My train passes every 30min so if I miss it, I’m on for another 30min wait, I know because it has already happened to me (but only a 10min wait). By that I mean that I can really easily miss a train while it’s stopping in front of me, my mind experiences some sort of reality disruption and disconnects while my body goes idle. Yes, that is weird. So to compensate that problem what I do is that I frequently look at the dashboard with the time of arrival to remind my mind that the train will arrive in **min, that way my mind can go off again and come back after **min. And usually that works. But this time, when I checked, the board was displaying “Arrival in 0 min”, suddenly my mind came back all crazy, making me check in front of me, but: Huh, NO TRAIN. What? The train has arrived but where is it??! That’s when my mind commanded my body to look in every direction and especially on my right. That’s when the panique really started. Oh damn, the train has indeed arrived but it stopped far away over there —> YOU GOTTA RUN, my mind said. So I ran! I ran! I ran until I was breathless. With all my bags, and my 2kg computer in my arms like some heavy big pet. What an awful sprint! Finally I reach the end of the train, the first door, and I am very surprised the train had not left without me because that was really a long run! Usually the train doesn’t stop that long. As I’m jumping through the first door, I pass in front of the the train driver’s cabin, and there he is, standing outside verifying that his train is ready to depart. This moment has lasted probably half a second, but in my mind it is eternal, I will never forget it. It was one of those slow motion scene like in the movies:

The train driver was standing a bit outside of his cabin to check that the train could depart. As I passed in front of him, he looked at me, and he put that huge smile on his face while I could see his head turning following me get through the door. And boom! I was in. The door closed, and the train departed. That’s just it. But…that smile…! Really uncanny. While I was taking my breath inside I suddenly realized: the train driver must have seen me run from the distance, and wait for me! Awh. I couldn’t even tell him thanks! It’s one of those moments when you think guardian angels really do exist. Yes, sorry grumpy face but you have to live it to understand !!! Anyway, I got home and that was it. That’s my big story: someone waited for me and smiled at me, it is such a big deal !!!

Then again today. No, no one smiled this time. But, same thing, I was running for my train this morning, I could hear the doors bipping to close soon, but I was still afar. The train was not departing yet, I ran for the door, and boom, the door closed and the train departed. I was the last passenger the get in! Again I imagined that the driver must have seen me reach for the door at the very last moment. This time I was at the very back end of the train so he must have seen me rather on the cameras. The train bipped for too long for it to be normal and without human intervention. So this is the point of my article: human intervention. How much longer will it exist?

As transportation becomes more and more automated, do you really think the train would have waited for me as I ran for the door? I don’t think so. This is typically the case that engineers would not include in their design. I would just be left off on the platform, because timestamp is timestamp, madam! I would arrive at the door, and bam, the machine would slam the door at me. Yet, the experience it was for me that the train would wait for me is the essence of what I would miss from “human intervention”. So I wanted to record it here, human intervention was like that.

Can engineers ever code flexibility in machines? I hope you keep that in mind in your design, remember human intervention was all about flexibility over hard rules. I can probably cross the smile off from what a machine could ever provide as an experience, but for the flexibility, if the engineers include it, it can be done. So for some who would think humans can be replaced without loss (me included), this is not true, I realize why now. These little things that make your day because another human being adapted thoughtfully the system for you, are not easily replaceable.

Engineers, remember this.