Modern Man

NSA Sublog #007283103x427361N857169W
987 Hampton St, Dorr, MI 49323, Room 4 Floor 2.
BEGIN REPLAY, Date: 2036/10/14. Time: 20:47:17

"Somebody reprogrammed the monkeys at work today." Riley's father, Jacob—Jacob, not Jake, and definitely not Jay—pulls up a chair next to his daughter's computer desk, which is currently occupied with a tablet running her school's homework app.

"And this helps me with my homework, how?"

"Shush. Just making conversation."

Riley, thirteen, runs a neatly-manicured hand through her conservatively-trimmed mohawk. She's been making noises about wanting to go for a more modish look, perhaps a matching set of glow-dreads, but her parents have shot her down repeatedly, at least until she gets old enough to realize the value of not having embarassing class pictures.

"What about your monkeys?"

"Well," Jacob-not-Jay-or-Jake swipes the homework cover page off the tablet's screen and frowns at the first problem, something about cars. "We were running experiments about social dominance structures and things like that. Trying to see if primate nature parallels human. You ready for the first problem?"

"Lay it on me. Also, ew. That sounds cruel."

"They aren't real monkeys, just simulated ones. Remember, we can't experiment on real apes ever since all the real apes were released and granted their own sovereign nation in Montana, along with most of the Freeman on the Land party."

Riley rolls her eyes at her father. She's never quite sure when he's joking or not. She's pretty sure the part about the Freemen was made up. "So?"

"So I come in to work yesterday morning..." He stops to read the problem, then hits the play button on the current slide.

A smarmy, middle-aged and slightly feminine voice begins to recite the problem. For some reason it has a thick Kansas accent: "Mr. Kevin Jones-Oduya buys cars. Each car can carry 4 people. His neighbor, Maria Gutierrez-Dozeman, typically buys SUV's which can carry 8 people each. They have 12 vehicles between them. They want to drive all of their friends and family to next year's CoParty Political Rally. If they can transport 76 people between them at full capacity, how many cars does Mr. Jones own?" And then it pings to let them know it's their turn. A helpful timer begins to increment, flashing red every time the minute counter ticks upward.

"And?"

"The monkeys—"

"Apes, dad. Monkeys have tails."

"I know that. Anyway, they had torn down half their jungle overnight and replaced them with cubicle walls made out of sticks and downed tree trunks. Bubbles had made himself a crude tie out of palm leaves. Each ape was assigned its own pen. If they tried to leave while the sun was still up, Bubbles docked them one banana."

"Are you making this up?"

"No. It's a true story, kid. If the logs weren't sealed under the 2024 Extra-Patriot Privacy Act, I'd show them to you. But I can't. Because it would be illegal. So, how do you think we should solve this problem?"

"The apes?"

"No, the cars."

"This is like last week's assignment, the one with the defectors seeking asylum in Trans-Switzerland. Oh, whatever. Well..." She stares at the screen a bit and then writes down "4x+8(12-x) = 76".

"Atta girl. Why did you do it this way?"

"I'll only tell you if you tell me what happened next with the monkeys."

"Well, Bongo and Lilly became bored with the job. They kept sneaking out to hang out with the baboons on the other side of the valley." While he is talking, Riley starts the next line, modifying the equation to "4x+96-8x = 76".

Jacob continues: "Bubbles doesn't notice because he's now in charge of the whole troop. The water tank is in his office, after all. He organizes meetings about how to take care of monkey business."

"I refuse to listen to any more of this story."

"You asked."

"I didn't—you made me listen as you started to tell the story anyway. And the answer is 5."

"It is?" Jacob tapped the time counter, which bings at them happily. A round of canned applause erupts and Mrs. Not-Really-From-Kansas congratulates them. The next problem bounces onto the screen. "It is. Good work. But the important part is how you got the answer."

"I said I'd tell you after you finish your story."

"How do you know my story actually has an ending?"

"The stupid look on your face says it has a punchline."

"Right, shaggy dog stories are my specialty. Okay, so Bongo and Lilly are slipping out to hang out with the baboons all the time, while Bubbles is taking care of monkey business."

"That joke. Seriously."

"I'll keep using it until you stop being horrified by my juvenile sense of humor."

"C'mon."

"Okay, Bongo and Lilly are sick of Bubbles and his weird obsession with banana counting. But they keep sneaking back. Bubbles doesn't notice because he's too busy strutting around the water tanks with his cool palm leaf tie. Bubbles rewards everybody who also wears a leaf tie by moving their cubicle walls further out so they have more room to hold their bananas."

"Gripping stuff." Riley glances at her phone surreptitiously, hoping her dad doesn't notice. No worries.

"Shush. Bongo and Lilly never get rewarded. After a while, they realize they liked trees better when they were still standing. They went out to hang out with the baboons permanently. Turns out the baboons have better music. The end."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

"I feel a little cheated."

"Okay, fess up." Jacob crosses his arms and leans back in his chair. "How did you solve the problem that quickly?"

"Textbook authors always use the same formulae to come up with these stupid things. Once I twigged to that, I wrote an app for my phone that parses out these stupid things to figure out which formula to plug in. Who the hell needs that many cars, anyway?"

"I feel a little cheated, too. Clever solution, though. Can I see the app?"

"No."

END REPLAY, Date: 2036/10/14. Time: 20:54:36. Commit: Archive AZX.

No comments:

Post a Comment