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Sunday crossing Sunday
Charlie has exploded his transport quota.
To collect vouchers, he must spend several Sundays with Delphine, an old lady.
The young man discovers that you shouldn’t take the elderly for zebras without stripes.
“Hello, Madam. It’s nice to meet you. I like old people,” says Charlie.
“That’s good, because I myself like zebras,” replies Delphine.
Charlie unfolds his lanky body and frowns. It’s not his lucky day. To recover his transport points, he has come across an old lady who has lost her marbles.
“My grandmother also loves zebras,” says Charlie. “She thinks uncultured people are like zebras without stripes… donkeys… get it?”
“Young Charlie, did you know that zebras’ stripes act like a thermostat,” replies Delphine. “Since the black and white stripes don’t absorb heat the same way, they create a draught. This natural air conditioning means zebras can graze for hours at a time in the blazing sun…. By the way, why do you like old people?”
Charlie sighs. The old lady was quietly rambling on and now she’s asking the killer question. He’s not going to tell her he likes old people because they look more like cows than zebras. They spend their days grazing in an armchair, their energy consumption is low, and they are bored. All it takes is two smiles to offload their travel vouchers.
“I like old people because they’re no longer young,” he ends up saying.
“And, of course, old girls and old boys will be old girls and old boys!”
Charlie wrinkles his nose, scratches his head. His movements betray a passionate desire to speak out. When his mates do placements to get their points back, they always find old people who snooze or, at worst, miss the good old days.
“So, to sum up. Government has two problems on its hands. Firstly, the ageing population. Secondly, the need to limit energy consumption. Being clever clogs, our technocrats want to solve both problems at once. They move heaven and earth and out comes a concept, ‘sliver energy’. As a result, since you have exploded your energy quota, you must keep me company for three Sundays to reset the counter to zero.
“Energy quotas are a nightmare for a young person. Move your little finger and hey presto, you lose points.”
“Sounds more like you’re restless. I see on your energy meter that last week you went to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines three times, twice by car!”
“Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines is the suburbs,” says Charlie. “Thousands of people used to work there every day.”
“You probably think it was the good old days. Ask your granny. She’ll tell you how much we used to complain about wasting time in transport.”
“Yes, yes… but young people can’t manage with transport quotas. We work remotely but have to meet our colleagues and bosses. There’s nothing left for us. We’re hamsters going around in circles in cages. We are a generation that is deprived of movement, prevented from travelling and living life. Because of the damage you’ve done to the planet, we’re condemned to immobility.”
Delphine clicks her fingers. Zebras appear on the walls of her living room. A journalist explains how the zebra is the only equine animal that man cannot tame.
“But, Madam… we’re in the middle of talking and you start watching a documentary,” says Charlie, clearly offended. “You just don’t do that.”
“Young man, maybe I’m too old for what’s done and what isn’t done,” retorts Delphine. “I’m just waiting for you to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Today energy quotas must be met to limit global warming. That’s how things are, so there’s no need to go on and on about it. A bonus is that these quotas make sense.”
“Now you’re exaggerating….”
“Not at all. They force you to slow down and look around. This slowness is bringing back time to live. Thanks to them, we’ve stopped chasing our own shadow.”
Charlie’s eyes widen, his mouth drops open. He would have been less surprised to be told the sun had decided not to rise. It is the first time he has heard someone tell him the quotas can have a positive impact. And it comes from an old woman who has lived a life without quotas. Delphine lets Charlie mull things over for a few minutes before speaking again:
“On Sundays, I have my routine. First we’ll go shopping.”
“I, I, I, I… I’m shop-a-phobic,” says Charlie. “Phobic, yes that’s it. Every time I’m in a shop, I pass out.”
“Be honest, young man. What you really mean is you do everything in your power to make sure old people are forbidden from going to the shops on Sundays. I saw your war record on the Web. You developed an app to catch the exoskeletons of senior citizens who venture out shopping on Sundays.”
“They can shop all the other days of the week,” stutters Charlie.
“They can also choose that day to meet young people and not to settle for an old life with old people.”
Charlie turns pale. Knowing his luck, he’s going to have his photo taken arm in arm with an old woman out shopping on a Sunday. His reputation will really take a hit.
“Afterwards, we’ll go for a ride with some girlfriends in an autonomous car.”
“You’re going to burn travel vouchers to chat with girlfriends?”
“We have to spend our vouchers! The adventures of old ‘augmented’ ladies are exciting, you’ll see. We talk about our plastic hips that go soft over time, our implants that go rusty, our sensors that wear out.”
When the conversation ends, Charlie is so confused he flees, arriving for no reason in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, and, lacking the strength to walk back, takes an Uber and yet again explodes his transport quota. To reset the counter, he must spend the next ten Sundays with Delphine. Since life is unpredictable, Charlie discovers what he thought was a nightmare turns out not to be so. Delphine and Charlie don’t go shopping or drive around in an autonomous car with the augmented elderly. They discuss life, love, death, and other trivia that clutters our lives. The Sunday after Charlie’s sentence ends, Delphine opens the door to the young man, who says to her: “Hello, Madam, I’m pleased to meet you. I like old people.”
“That’s good, I like zebras.”
This silly dialogue makes them burst out laughing. Since then, a week hasn’t gone by without Delphine finding Charlie on her doorstep. When he leaves, she never forgets to slip travel vouchers into his pocket.