Escaping some more

I have hours to kill before my scan and results. You probably haven’t noticed (ha ha)  but when I am on my own and discombobulated I like to share a disorderly stream of reflections and anecdotes. Call it therapy if you like – I call it escape.

The hospital accommodation is super posh in a minimalist way. It’s on the fifth floor of a brand new science block. The ground floor is wall to wall labs for UCL immunology students I think. Really really impressive looking kit being manipulated by really really impressive looking students. You can sense the brainwaves circulating as you enter. Access to the accommodation means you need to do fancy things with cards in the lift which confounds all of us wrinklies who were hoping for the presence of an attendant in a maroon uniform sporting a peaked cap. The room is small but the quality is high without being fancy – quite lab like actually – absolutely no complaints. Breakfast is like a child’s pack up from a disinterested parent but is delivered to your room by a charming hostess. Chocolate muffin, clementine, long life croissant, milk, Museli + polystyrene bowl for said – to be honest – yuk – but again this is all on the house, so zero complaints. Only two things could, for some, be a deal breaker, both are somewhat relevant to the human computer interaction  module I teach, so worth documenting in this post. Remarkably it appears (and remember this is part of a super efficient eco build) you cannot turn the TV screen off. You can turn the TV off but the screen glows like a full moon throughout the night smack bang at the bottom of the bed. Insomniacs would go bonkers. I had a look at the back of the telly and it appears that it’s not a telly at all it’s a computer. So now it makes sense. It on permanent standby just in case it gets an instruction to do something important, the fact that it has no means of receiving an important instruction is by the by- It does not know it’s a Telly!

Hey and guess what neither can you turn the air con off. You can adjust the room temperature by accessing a tiny tiny button that gives you about 5 seconds to read the screen and respond appropriately, it’s effectively a wack-a-mole control, should you manage to wack the mole you basically have three times three options: on, on a lot, on a hell of a lot, cold, hot, Sahara, windy, stormy, hurricane. So my night was spent engulfed in a windy, warm, noisy airflow oscillating between so sweaty my tee shirt was wringing and so cold I had to put my cardigan on. 

This and other experiences yesterday have convinced me that some technical innovations are actually based on the principals of gaming. Here’s a few examples.

Rail tickets on your phone. You get sent a link to your ticket. Super all done I have my ticket. What you may not have appreciated is that the link is to your account not your ticket. Now in all probability you set up your account at the last minute in order to purchase the ticket so you haven’t necessarily memorised your account details. So the game is how much embarrassment can you endure when the ticket inspector wishes to see your ticket and your confident ‘here it is’ manifests no ticket but an entertaining game of guess the login details that may include a password reset while entering a tunnel with no internet access.

Paying for the taxi with Apple Pay. The payment device is attached to a side panel inside the cab. The cab is quite dark inside. The device is quite small. Because of early onset cataracts and outdated glasses prescription you can’t see the screen. You know that you have options as to the amount of tip but can’t read them. In your haste to look like an experienced Londoner you press random buttons and hope. You then pass a massive cash tip to the driver just in case you have tipped him nothing at all. He looks surprised as if you had just passed him your gold watch. Which of course is another option.

Paying for coffee at Pret. So I have got the hang of the Apple Pay thing after the taxi debacle. I put on my London face, not too smiley, not too much of a rural grin, authoritative, in a bit of a rush, successful. I hold my finger at the ready as the person before me managed her transaction in a fraction of a second and set a high bar. Go! Pay! I look down – there are three payment machines, any of which could be the right one. How do I know? Should I perform a sweeping gesture over all three or would I have just treated the queue to a full complement of macchiatos? My hesitation had reached an uncomfortable 5 seconds. I mumble something about which one that goes unnoticed she is already onto the next order. Finally one of them lights up and I recognise my order. I press and Siri kicks in. Yes I have over depressed the home button and the Siri game has barged in. More frantic button pressing – it beeps I have paid. No one has noticed, no one cares. A minute or so later the barista confesses her ordering system dropped my order. She apologises nicely, she’s friendly. We bemoan the perils of new technology, little does she know.

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