Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Your green credentials are slipping

I have been stalking someone called Kurt.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Such are the wonders of modern technology that, having ordered something online, I was invited today to track Kurt and my parcel on their journey via an icon on a google map.

And what a frustrating business it turned out to be. My delivery - no. 35 - was scheduled for 12.30, but when I logged on at 9am, lo and behold! Kurt's icon was at the end of my street making 'delivery no. 5'. If I had been a little quicker off the mark, I could probably have rushed out and ambushed him before he got back into his van, in the manner of a slightly less agile trapdoor spider.

Surely, I thought, he has decided to abandon the computerised schedule and tackle his round with common sense; he'll be knocking at the door in a minute. But it was not to be; the icon showed him heading away from the Tavern en route to delivery number 6, half a mile away.

This puzzled me somewhat so, since I was working at my computer, I periodically checked in to see where he was. Had the Tavern been equipped with a widow's walk on the roof, I could have watched him pursuing an elaborate back-and-forth course never more than about five miles away; he even drove past the front door of the Tavern - twice!

(Incidentally, I've often wondered whether those 19th century New England wives appreciated their watchtowers, in part, at least, as an early warning to heat up plenty of bathwater; after several months boiling up blubber on a whaling ship, I dare say the returning heroes were rather more welcome after a good deodorising scrub).

Eventually Kurt and the parcel put in an appearance exactly as scheduled, after criss-crossing the neighbourhood for more than three hours. Since he was, in the nicest possible sense, the monkey, I didn't bother to ask him about the organ-grinder's bizarre system of priorities or why he had driven over sixty miles when it could have been sixteen.

It was undoubtedly convenient to know exactly when the parcel would be delivered, but I was given the time slot only that morning; in theory, there was nothing to stop the computer designing a single route to take in all that day's deliveries with the minimum mileage, especially since, up until the last minute, everyone on the list had simply been told to wait in all day.

It is, therefore, with wry amusement that I noticed, at the same website that showed the courier's convoluted ditherings, the company's logo-ridden jargon-fest of a presentation explaining that every parcel is 'carbon-neutral', as part of their 'Responsibility strategy'. I bet someone got a fat bonus for masterminding that particular piece of propaganda.

But then that's corporate business in today's Britain; never mind reality, feel the pitch.

3 comments:

  1. "Eventually Kurt and the parcel put in an appearance exactly as scheduled..."

    I had 'track & trace' on my new iPhone, was supposed to be delivered between 9:00-13:00. Turned up at 13:50 with the excuse 'We're busy'...

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  2. "nothing to stop the computer designing a single route to take in all that day's deliveries with the minimum mileage"

    Nothing at all - except of course our old friend:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem

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  3. Point taken, WY, but watching the icon zig-zag all over the neighbourhood, it would not have been difficult to reduce the mileage substantially.

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