03 June 2006

Certifiable Mail

(based on an idea that came to me at 7:15am)

I never liked shopping malls - until I realised how very useful they can be. The people milling about were a melange fairly representative of the local population. In one brief session, a curious outsider can discover much about the area he is in. Racial diversity, economic vitality, popular fashion, unpopular fashion, median age, even the populace's general mood might be percieved by someone receptive enough. Should curious extra-terrestrials happen to visit a shopping mall as the first stop in their visit, they might learn many of these things. And if they also heard the popular music that was piped into these places, they would know for certain that humankind was tone-deaf.

"Pardon me, are you Mr. Ludwig?"

Alas, the figures moving in the background never left him alone long enough to complete his thoughts... but perhaps the world was a better place because of that. In keeping with his previous train of thought, Ludwig faced the interloper and attempted to divine its nature.

Dress: businesslike. Not garish like a salesman, nor costly like an financial executive. Shoes clean but not highly polished; thus not an ex-soldier. [Ludwig wondered where that thought had come from - was it dogma that soldiers are doomed to polish their shoes fanatically for the remainder of their corporeal existence?]

Ludwig greeted the newcomer and assured him that he had found the right Ludwig.

"Good morning. You are right on time. Excellent!"

The newcomer's sudden look of bewilderment pleased Ludwig. He did expect to see this man today but there was no appointment set. Not only was it amusing to see how easily different people could be disturbed by relatively trivial concepts like timeliness and deadlines, but it was also instructive to see how well the subject recovered from unforseen stresses.

The man remembered his purpose relatively quickly.
"Er... I have a message for you, sir."

"Which you cannot give to me here." Ludwig stated as if completing the man's sentence. He was completing the man's sentence. Inwardly he sighed about people not paying attention or following directions that were so painstakingly drafted.

"Yes!" The man brightened visibly.

"I trust you drove here?"


"Good. Lets go out to your car: I have something to give you."

"What? But I thought that this was just the one message?"

"Shall we? I'll explain as we go."

The man turned and began to walk to an exit. Ludwig moved to stay near his side.

"You are correct." Ludwig began. "With the delivery of this message, your obligation is fulfilled.

"I should stress how unusual this situation is. Having never met me, you must have felt some considerable anxiety about being able to deliver the message successfully. Quite understandable. Similarly, I might question whether the message is genuine, since I have never met you and cannot therefore determine how reliable you may be.

"Unusual as it is, we felt that this arrangement was neccessary to achieve our goals. You, Mr. Smith, were neccessary to achieve our goals. Is it much farther?"

Ludwig had stopped abruptly, and was looking around at the parking lot.

Mr. Smith, a bit startled, had gone a further two steps before he realised Ludwig had stopped. "Its just over there" he said, pointing. "I like to walk. Need the exercise. Easier to find parking that far out."

Satisfied, Ludwig continued walking and talking.

"To be sure, if our goal were less important, almost anyone could be used as a messenger. Perhaps even a different John Smith would be sufficient. Are you aware of how many John Smiths there are?"

"Twenty seven, last time I looked."

"Quite. It must be bothersome for the various Mrs. Smiths to not be able to page their husbands lest they inadvertently draw a sizeable crowd. Certainly you can imagine my dismay when I was informed that we were looking for a man by the name of John Smith."

"Yes. It can be a nuisance. This is it. Do I give you the message now?"

"That won't be neccessary. It's just a blank page."

Ludwig plunged a knife into John Smith's chest.

"I told you. We needed to be certain we had the right man. It's a waste of time studying pictures and biographies when you can get the poor bastards to come to you."

Ludwig turned and left, since there were now only twenty six of that name.