Running with the Bots

I put on my kit, looked in the mirror. Focus. You can do this. There is a running track in our local park, my favourite running track, at least it used to be. It is specifically for running. There is a petition at the entrance to the park to make it for human-use only. That is nonsense and will never happen, where will all the bots run? We sure as hell don’t want them running on our pavements. There is a second petition to make it a bot only track. That will never happen either. I have always been confident that bots and humans can share a running track.

So I get to the park and I admit I have my fit-bot with me. There are a bunch of seats next to the track so I could just get my fit-bot to do the running for me, but no! There is no point to that. Focus. I need to run. I need to get fit, plus there is no space on the seats. They are taken up by everybody else who is getting their fit-bot to run for them. The people all look relatively slim-that will be the diet pills. We don’t seem to have learned, there are tasks that technology can’t do. They are slim but unfit, probably unhealthy and unfit but no one will ever know, because they are slim. I am going to be slim the hard way and fit too.

I have given up the diet pills and am here to get actually fit. I have a device on my wrist as well, how old fashioned is that? The running track is quite full, but I can’t see any other humans. There are quite a variety of bots. None of the bots look human in the sense that they don’t have skin although they generally have two legs and two arms and some kind of metallic thing that passes as a head. Thank goodness its overcast, some of them are quite shiny and when the sun catches them, they can be blinding.

 There are fit-bots running for their humans, their humans are looking at devices while the fit-bot clocks up the miles on their behalf-you won’t see that version of it on social media. There are security –bots, who are presumably here keeping their limbs and equipment well oiled and used, ensuring it stays in good working order-yes bots have to do that too. Security-bots come in a lot of different forms and there are a few different types here. There are coach-bots too, these are designed to coach you in your running, again they will mostly be here to stay lithe and trim- they don’t get much work these days. They can be a little annoying. They refuse to run faster than you and they are constantly trying to pep talk you as you run. You usually end up with a line of them behind you. I have counted three going past me so far as I stand here warming up. I think only one of them spotted me. It will no doubt loop around quickly and be back to see me soon. There are vendor-bots who will try to sell me all manner of things, running related- while I run. They are annoying but most of them have fallen on hard times. You see them in the park sometimes, the locals have dubbed them beg-bots, but they are just trying to earn enough to stay switched on-literally.  Still I don’t want to buy anything from them.

None of this bodes well for my run. The track is very full and some of these bots will be designed to make space for humans but others will not. I can expect to be shaded by the odd security-bot who wants practice in intimidation, only for it to be fended off by another security-bot who wants practice in fending off intimidation. There will be a swarm of coach-bots and a whole variety of fit-bots, some of who will have the miso-setting no doubt.

I am already beginning to wonder why I am putting myself through this. I should have just had a treadmill put into the floor so I didn’t have to be outside. I finish warming up and start to look for a gap. Two bots are jostling for position-they will be jock-bots –that’s a particular model of fit-bot. You can bet they will have the miso-setting. I want to avoid them.

I watch them whizz past, elbowing and shouldering each other. I am long past being impressed by someone who owns a jock-bot so I don’t look to see who on the seats is watching them. I slot in three bots behind them and start running. I want to stay on the outside so I can exit if I need to.  The whole pace of the track is much faster than I would like. Some of the bots are trained to get out of my way, some aren’t. I get bumped a bit but I am doing ok at the 10 metre mark anyway. There is a coach-bot coming up behind me, I can hear it introducing itself. I don’t want a coach –bot. Now there is a second coach-bot, dispensing advice and telling me I can do this. I can’t have run more than 30 metres- of course I can do this. I wished I’d brought ear phones with me. As if by magic, there is a vendor–bot beside me offering me ear phones. I shake my head. It is very persistent, until it sees the security-bot watching. Then it zooms off.

Something else sprints passed me bumping into me. It knocks me into the centre of the track but I stay on my feet. Another bot sees it and starts to pursue the first bot. They are speeding and zigzagging between other bots. Its chaos already and I haven’t even gone 100 metres. I feel bad. There is some sort of altercation up ahead and the first bot is coming back to apologise. Only it doesn’t, as soon as it is beside me it attacks the second bot. They are both security-bots. A third bot intervenes. I just keep running. The vendor-bot is back. I wanted to stay on the outside of the track but I am in the thick of it now-in the middle, with bots all around.  

Another fit-bot goes past me, it has a display on its back. It reads, ‘just running past a fat chick’. That will be the miso-setting on the jock-bot. A security-bot has spotted it. The jock-bot is crash tackled off the track. I feel bad. It looks like something is broken on it. But its not my fault. The owner is clearly not very clever. I spot him furiously complaining on his device to someone. I can see his thumbs, typing in a message. It won’t do any good. He will be fined, even if it was his bot that did the message. You can have a miso-setting but you certainly can’t use it in public. Idiot.

Meanwhile the pace seems to be getting faster. That will be the coach-bots telling everybody I am here and I need a good workout. I am stuck in the midst of four or five bots, one of which is the vendor-bot. The others are coach-bots and maybe a security-bot. It’s all getting a bit blurry now. They are getting faster. I however have limits. I can see there is still some kind of altercation going on ahead. Another bot with a display on its back is streaking past me. This one says ‘Glad to see you human, keep going’. At this point I have done 500 metres tops but the pace is now very fast. I don’t know how to stop. There are bots all around me. Another one bumps me, another altercation. There are fit-bots telling me how many more laps they have done than me. There are coach-bots following me and in front of me, telling me how well I am doing. There are jock-bots, avoiding me because they have the miso-setting on but they don’t want to accidentally commit an offence by displaying a message to me. It feels like chaos and still the pace is getting faster. There are vendor-bots everywhere. I try and stay focussed but they keep getting faster.

I try to make my way to the outside of the track. Its not working. I am sweating and running really very fast now. I am starting to panic. If I stop though, I think they will just run over me. I am really getting quite scared. Then I remember. I know why I like this track. At the 1000 metre mark there is a rescue station. I hit the button on my device as I go past. I hear it before I see it. The rescue-bot is above me. I am freaking out now.  There are bots every side of me, screaming words at me, jostling me. Making me go faster as they go faster. Its like being stuck in a current out to sea. I am being dragged along and battered on all sides. I can see a bot down ahead of me, there is no way I can avoid it. Everything else is parting to go around it. I can’t. I just don’t have the agility and can’t take the bumps. I am in full on panic mode now. Where is the rescue-bot. I can hear it, I can see a flashing light above me. I am terrified. I am going to be crushed if it doesn’t come soon.

The rescue-bot is fast, efficient, gentle. It plucks me out by grabbing me under the arms and places me safely on the grass. I am puffing but eternally grateful. My fit-bot comes over to me. I know it can’t be possible because its face doesn’t move, its just a metallic circular head type thing, but I swear it looks scornful.

I get up off the grass as the coach-bots run past telling me what a great job I have done. The vendor-bots have lost interest in me. A jock-bot runs past with a display saying ‘lightweight’  I walk towards the gate. I sign the second petition-bots only. I won’t be going back.

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