Headphones of Social Immunity

Darkness had fallen early tonight, as though a great force of evil was slowly encroaching upon the day, consuming the last remaining rays of sun like a gluttonous monster before plunging the world in to a thick blackness.

Jack, a young wizard, was bent over his forest campfire busily preparing a summoning spell of protective wards. The fire was an unfortunate requirement for the spell but Jack was all too aware of how it was like a beacon, attracting the attention of whatever evils were lurking out there in the darkened forest.

A flash of silver burst simultaneously through the darkness and Jack’s traveling cloak. He cried out in shock as he felt the searing heat of a cursed arrowhead narrowly graze past his back. An inch the other way and he would have been dead.

A second blur and a second near miss. This time just missing his navel.

Thk-thk-thk. Three more arrows fired out of the darkness in a narrow cluster directed at Jack’s heart. As if in slow motion Jack turned to watch them hurtle on their death-inducing path toward his body. A confident smile cracked his face.

The arrows stopped mid-air, mere inches away from his body. Jack carefully brushed them aside with his staff – a gnarled but polished oak tree branch – as he stepped forward to face the darkened wood. In his hand he held aloft a gleaming gold amulet.

Death’s Immunity Amulet.

“Only five arrows? That seems a little unprepared.” He smiled. “Are you coming in or do I have to come get you?”

Jack waited calmly and patiently but received nothing but silence in response.

“Be that way then.”

With a wild flurry of his long grey cloak Jack sprang into the darkened forest to pursue his secret assailant.


 

Writing fantasy is harder than I thought. Especially when it’s actually just a true story poorly converted into an ad-hoc fantasy scene. Substitute forest for office, wizard for software developer, and Death’s Immunity Amulet  for Headphones of Social Immunity, and you have my afternoon.

I love my headphones of social immunity. They make my life bearable. Today was a prime example of the value these headphones serve.

It wasn’t quite the previously mentioned darkened wood with evil hanging in the air but it was close. It was mid-afternoon in the office and I had mentally clocked off for the day. Knowing that I had phoned in the minimum viable performance for the day I was now attempting to write a little story, subtly in my code editor so as not to arouse much suspicion.

“Jack, can you have a look at something?” Nina called out from across the great divide that is our cubicle pod. In my above-average peripheral vision I saw she hadn’t turned around from her screen to look at me. I kept my focus on my screen, hammering away on my keyboard to indicate my busy-ness and to support the pretense that I had not heard her.

Nina wasn’t so bad. She was nice but a little neurotic. She was in her late 20s but I could tell she was going to be a public servant for life. Nina wanted to be a musician and spent most of her spare time in a melodious fantasy world. This job, as a senior software developer for the government, was a rather cushy way to pay the bills and keep her fed.

Except she had fallen for the trap most creatives, including myself, fall for when taking a regular day job to fund a creative pursuit. Finding time and motivation for the artistic endeavours becomes harder the longer you work which in turn makes those little climbs up the ladder at work more appealing, which in turn drains you even more which in turn lowers your creative output. It is a vicious cycle.

Nina had recently been promoted to the role of lead developer which required a level of people management and leadership she had no right to be performing. It’s not that she did not care about the people or the projects she was running but just that she was not a very good leader. But government departments do not promote to management based on skills. They promote based on time served and Nina, having been there since her second year at university, was due for a promotion.

Now, instead of being able to plug her own headphones of immunity in, withdraw from the world, and just smash out code, Nina had to organise things. Such is the price of an extra few dollars every paycheck. The artist in her would have sneered her nose and called her a sell out. The sell out would have responded with “fuck you” and then drink another glass of moderately expensive wine.

When Nina realised that I had not acknowledged her request she turned around and finally noticed I was wearing my headphones. Not an uncommon sight among the younger developers on the floor who understood that peace, quiet, and long uninterrupted blocks of time were critical to getting anything useful done.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Nina pause. I could not see her face but I can imagine the turmoil painted on it. Should she get up from her desk, walk over, and tap me on the shoulder to interrupt me? It would draw attention to her from the rest of the team and possibly expose her lack of confidence as a leader. What if I said I was too busy, or if I just said no? She’d have to retreat to her desk, tail between her legs, losing any credibility she had fought to establish.

There was one other option…

Nina quickly glanced around and, noticing that most other people were deeply engaged in their own work, she spun back to her computer and continued to speak as if she had not noticed I was ignoring her:

“Actually, what you’re working on is more important. I’ll just get this done now.”

It took a lot of effort for me not to break in to a wide smile. My Headphones of Social Immunity had saved the day again. I spent the next hour happily writing and being able to play out a little fantasy world of my own – one where I actually get paid to write stories. Imagine that! A time where I don’t have to wade in these shallow waters of mediocrity, logging enough code to just keep my job, but where I can stretch my wings and be truly free. Where I can write continuously for hours on end rather than squeezing in ten minutes in between mundane office work.

I can dream. But for now I will have to take my writing time however I can get it, with special thanks to my glorious Headphones of Social Immunity.

 

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