Various news forums have been reporting on an experiment taking place in Texas where homeless people are being used as mobile wireless hotspots. At first the article prompted amusement at its absurdity (‘my wifi has wandered off’), before horror at what was described as ‘the commoditisation of people.’ A subsequent tangential riff at work prompted this silly, slightly more benevolent slant on human behaviour…
…Tobias wasn’t about to give his heart away to any old woman – ohhh no – he was waiting for the one – someone who didn’t mind that he was a little bit podgy and dull, or that he didn’t have two pennies to rub together, or that he wasn’t particularly great around people. So when Phyllis came along with her lovely ringlets and her patience Tobias gave a satisfied sigh of relief and whispered ‘I have found her.’
However, Phyllis turned out to be something else entirely and, when the season changed, she blew through Tobias’ world like a tornado, taking with her all of his hopes and dreams. Desperately, desperately distraught and unsure of what to do Tobias went for a drive in the dead of night, but he couldn’t see for tears and crashed his car into a tree.
‘Could be ten years, could be tomorrow,’ the doctor informed Ralph; Tobias’ one and only friend. ‘He may never wake up.’
Ralph sat beside the bed for a long, long time, and it was only when the sun was rising for a second morning that he was struck with a wondrous idea.
The faked note proclaimed that ‘in the event of my falling into a coma I should very much like you to stick me on an exercise bike and stimulate my muscles with tiny electrodes.’
‘It’s a very unusual and specific request,’ the doctor replied somewhat bemused, ‘but it would help prevent atrophy setting in, and I suppose no harm can come of it.’
Ralph burned the midnight oil customising the exercise bike so that his friend’s involuntary actions would spin a dynamo that, in turn, generated electricity.
Tobias looked rather dapper in his emerald tracksuit as they fixed him into position. Tiny sparks animated his dormant body as he unknowingly burned through 1000 calories and filled five large batteries with energy. The first trial was such a success that the doctor agreed to repeat it five times a week.
Ralph sold the batteries to the national grid and deposited the money in his friend’s account.
News of Tobias’ strange treatment spread, first through the hospital, then the town, then across the country. Well-wishing cards began arriving from the farthest flung corners of the globe.
‘You’re looking good’ Ralph informed his friend as he peddled alongside. ‘You’ve lost weight, but you’re a little pale. What you need is some sun.’
Tobias apparently had no opinion on the matter.
Getting outside once a day turned out to be impractical, so Ralph had a tanning booth installed around the bike. ‘That’s better,’ he said. ‘Girls love a man with a healthy glow. Please say something.’
But his friend was lost for words, so Ralph resolved to maintain his silent vigil and dug in for the long haul.
And in this state Tobias remained for seven years – cycling, tanning, generating and networking, until one day, quite unexpectedly, he awoke - a bronzed Adonis, known and loved the world over and rich beyond his wildest dreams…