A short story about people and BUTTS – Biped Universal Time Tracking System
As soon as he woke up, he looked at the clock and saw that it was 8:34 am. And he tried to fall asleep again without realizing that he was actually late for work.
But not even 5 minutes passed and he jumped out of bed as soon as he realized that he was late. He got dressed as fast as he could and got out the door.
He took a taxi, got in front of the building, paid $20 (when, in fact, he only had to pay $10) and hurried to enter the building where he worked.
After unconsciously using the tracking device at the entrance, he entered the building and meet one of his colleagues there.
“Woah, did you finally make the decision to join the corporation?” said George.
“What?” Matthew asked puzzled.
George looked at him, smiled, and then looked at the entrance of the building where they were both working. Matthew paused for a second, looked at George, then looked back at the entrance of the building. And he realized that after two and a half years, he had finally done what all his colleagues were expecting from him: he had joined the corporation.
“I’m finally part of the family!” said Matthew, trying to look enthusiastic. And then he quickly left for the office.
He felt both angry and confused and didn’t know how to express the two emotions or if he had to do something with them. He had never wanted to make the move to corporations, although he worked for the company for about three years now. In fact, he hated corporations and was here only because about three years ago, when he decided to get hired, he needed money.
Matthew’s dream was to travel and see at least 50 countries by the age of 50. Given that he was 32, he still had time to travel and fulfill his dream. But that unconsciously taken decision was going to restrict his life for so long.
BUTTS (Biped Universal Time Tracking System) was a technology that had been implemented long ago and was present in the vast majority of corporations. It had been marketed as a revolutionary solution – an alternative to the traditional tracking system.
Following studies in 2076, long before Matthew was born, a new technology was developed that could easily identify people through their saliva. Currently, in the year 2153, corporations used this technology for employee tracking. The technology identifies each employee based on the DNA in the saliva and records the time at which employees came to the office every morning. At the end of the year, the employees received bonuses and were rewarded.
BUTTS was a simple system. Imagine two symmetrical spheres, each the size of a soccer ball. The first thing an employee had to do for daily tracking was to put his forehead between the two spheres. As soon as he was confirmed that his forehead was well-positioned, he pushed his chin forward and had to put his tongue into the opening.
It was a process that lasted 5 to 10 seconds and the employees were displeased. But as time went by, they became more and more comfortable with this system of tracking.
The good part about the BUTTS system was the option of using it. No one was required to use it, but from a certain point in time, given the benefits they had, some employees began to use it.
In most cases, the tracking system was used by people over the age of 40, who thought it was time to focus on the family and raise a child. Thus, the benefits of the BUTTS tracking system seemed to be ideal for those who chose to have a simple life, work 9-to-5 for a single corporation, and raise a child.
But there were some not-so-good aspects.
From the moment you started using it, the company you worked for started to supervise you. They could follow you on satellite and they knew where you were going, how much time you spend there and what activities you have.
Moreover, given that the entire tracking system was based on the analysis of each person’s saliva, the corporations knew what you ate and where you ate. This helps companies to give their employees their favorite food at the office so that they leave the company’s building as little as possible.
Since it was a technology older than 50 years ago, BUTTS had reached the point where corporations used this tracking system to stop employees from changing jobs.
Don’t get me wrong. Any employee could at any time quit and go to any other corporation. But from the first day an employee made the decision to use the tracking system, the company injected into his saliva a substance that had two roles.
The first role of the substance was to make the employee feel energetic and hard-working. It was a kind of drug approved only for corporations and their employees. The second role was related to a horrible taste that you would experience if you left the company.
Shortly after the BUTTS technology came on the market, corporations already existing worldwide signed a kind of contract that obliged each company to add that substance to the tracking system. The substance of each company was different and could only reveal its taste when an employee changed jobs.
The longer an employee spent in a corporation, the more the substance was injected. And when an employee wanted to leave the company and use another company’s tracking system, he felt a horrible taste that forced him to return to the old company.
The taste disappeared after a period of time equal to half the time spent at the previous company. And those who wanted to change jobs most often did so because they had to change the city or country. Otherwise, they were stuck in the same company for decades.
Matthew had just taken the first step. A first step that assumed he would spend the rest of his life in the corporation he was now working for. He was asleep when he left home, so that when he arrived in front of the building, he automatically used the tracking system, without realizing what he was doing.
It was a kind of automatism that he had created through the perspective of other people and of which he was not aware.
Every day, Matthew saw hundreds of people using the BUTTS system and was among the few who refused to do so. At the corporation where he worked there were still 4 people who refused using the system, but only one of the four had more seniority in the workplace than Matthew. The rest were all juniors, 3-6 months old.
It rarely happened to get to work for such a corporation before the age of 35, and those who made the decision to get a job did it for the benefits they had. Thus, after a few months all the employees started to use BUTTS. Matthew had come to this company because he was recommended by a friend and the experience he had accumulated in various projects was useful to the company.
As soon as he entered the office, Matthew thought about resigning.
He was so scared that he uses the tracking system for the first time so that if he does the same thing tomorrow, he will do it for the rest of his life.
“I’m not ready to give up my dream of traveling. I don’t want to give up on it.” These were two sentences that Matthew repeated endlessly.
He had become so frustrated in such a short time that 5 minutes after he arrived in the office, he had a panic attack.
It wasn’t long until Matthew’s manager came into the office and was surprised to see all the chaos in the office. Matthew was one of the most orderly and disciplined members of the department he was a part of, and the chaos in the office made the manager realize that something was wrong.
– I notice that you thought about redecorating.
– Ha ha ha … funny! said Matthew trying to stay nervous even though the remark seemed funny to him.
– You know I liked your office before, but it was too … quiet. Now it looks completely unique. No other office in this organization is so … different.
Matthew started laughing and explained to the manager what was bothering him.
– This morning I used, for the first time in two and a half years, the tracking system. I’m not ready for such a major change.
– Why? What happens?
– I want to travel! I have a dream and I want to see as many countries as possible.
The manager calmed Matthew and told him that he could take up to three sabbaticals, in which he would receive a monthly salary and he wouldn’t have to work at all. Three years in which he travels around the world and fulfills his dream. But for every sabbatical year he takes, he will have to work 10 years in this corporation.
Suddenly, Matthew calmed down. He began to think about all the places he could see in the next three years and all the experiences he might have.
– Look, take the rest of the week for yourself and I’ll wait for you next week with a decision. I’m sure you have to make an important decision for which you need time and peace of mind.
Matthew was unable to say anything else. To him, it seemed like a pretty good plan. He was so excited that he would say “YES” from the moment he heard he could take three years off. He didn’t even think that the next 30 years would have to happen in one place.
While Matthew saw a fantastic opportunity to fulfill his dream, the corporation he was part of developed this plan to reduce the recruiting process as much as possible. It offered employees the opportunity to fulfill their biggest dreams and then those employees worked for the company, most of the time, for the rest of their lives. It was a kind of slavery with which the employees agreed with a smile on their faces.
It was Wednesday, lunchtime, when Matthew left home to think about the important decision he had to make. But for him the decision was as if it was made.
As soon as he got home, he got from his desk the agenda for his travel plan, reviewed it and finalized it. There were 56 countries on Matthew’s list, each with at least 15 tourist attractions.
In short, Matthew was going to have three fantastic years.
It was 11:00 pm and Matthew thought he should sleep. But he was so excited about the major change he was going to have that he continued to think about the next three years and the experiences he would go through so he fell asleep at 2:10 am.
Thursday morning, he woke up scared. He was scared that the decision he was going to make was too big. He was about to make a decision that will establish a trajectory for the next 33 years. So, he reopened the agenda for his travel plan and immediately felt enthusiastic again.
Until the following week, when he had to go back to the office and talk to the manager, Matthew had been on an emotional roller coaster. He had had emotions such as doubt, enthusiasm, courage, fear, but his mind was always at the experiences he could have in the three years.
On Monday, in front of the building, he put his forehead between the two symmetrical spheres, his chin forward and his tongue in the hole of the tracking machine. He no longer cared about the BUTTS and thought his dream was no longer so far from reality.
As soon as he arrived in the office, he called the manager and told him he wanted to sign the contract for the three sabbaticals. It would take several days to prepare the papers, and in those days Matthew no longer had to work.
Even so, he continues to come to the office because he wants to spend more time with his colleagues.
He told his colleagues what he was going to do and a good part of them thought it was a good idea. There were a few who, more than 15 years ago, had made the same decision and seemed to be satisfied. But there were some colleagues who told him that he should think better, without arguing too much.
Matthew was too happy to take his colleagues’ opinions into account. Finally, he was going to travel and fulfill his dream.
A week passed and Matthew took his plane ticket to the first country on the list: Portugal. He spent a few weeks there and then went to Spain, France, Ireland and so on until he saw much of Europe. Then he changed the continents and, in the three years, he got to meet a few thousand people and made several tens of friends with whom he still keeps in touch. He had discovered cultures and traditions that he didn’t even think could exist. He had reached places where his mind and soul had been silenced and he believed that those places can only be found in movies.
At the end of the three years, Matthew was another man. He had completely changed and understood that life is more than career and money and that it seems ironic that people need money to discover that a life in which to be happy needs simplicity, not necessarily money.
Returning to work, Matthew was happy to know that he has a place where he can continue to do what he likes. Each morning he puts his forehead between the two symmetrical spheres and at each meal break he has a story about people to share with colleagues.
Matthew seemed to be pleased. But the longer the time passed, the more he seemed to be in a cage.
Before making his dream a reality, Matthew had made a decision that affected 33 years of his life. That decision had been made by a version of Matthew who had lived in a cage for almost three years and had not necessarily felt that it was bothering him. But the same decision had been made for the version of Matthew who traveled and who felt that the cage he was used to before, now was getting smaller and smaller.
He didn’t know if the decision he made a few years ago was a good decision or not. All he knew was that he was feeling more and more limited, and every time he remembered the experiences from the sabbaticals, the cage he had been part of was becoming less and less fitting.
I hope you enjoyed this short story about people.
With love and optimism,