A trip to the Twilight Zone with a support guy called Iron Maiden

Something weird happened last week

Twilight Zone, 'Time Enough At Last'

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Thank you for submitting a support request. You can put your clothes back on now.

In another dimension, logging a call could involve a full invasive strip search. Or perhaps there’d be a sado-dimensional version of Zendesk in which, having determined that a user is raising frivolous issues, sends attitude-corrective electric shocks back down the wire.

I have been thinking a lot about alternative dimensions this week as I seem to have stepped into one by mistake and am experiencing trouble escaping it.

Take my brain to another dimension? Pay close attention.

All week I kept getting introduced to people at work whose names mysteriously changed later that same day. No big deal, you scoff, but it is disconcerting to be introduced to a woman called “Mr Connick”, who proceeds to shapeshift a few hours later into an identical-looking woman by the more conventional monicker of “Miss DeConnick”.

Freaky, eh?

Then there was that support bloke called Iron Maiden.

Oh yes, that was his name all right. I remember it distinctly because I immediately shouted “Iron Maiden? Excellent!” and did that Bill-and-Ted air guitar thing, while he just stared at me, stony-faced.

Later on, I heard him going around introducing himself to other people as Ryan Mayden, which sounds completely different and just plain weird if you ask me.

It happened to my own name, too, while in a supermarket. Someone overheard my wife addressing me by name and enquired if I really was called Aristotle.

Even after I put her right, she gave me a long, hard stare as if I might not only have been lying and my name really was Aristotle, but that I might actually be the Aristotle. In 2016. In a supermarket. On my day off.

My jaunts of interdimensional travel began during a weekend trip to a town in Kent called Sandwich. Yes, yes, I know, and believe it or not, so do the locals: they have heard every possible Dad-joke about the name of their town and, believe me, the sides of waiting staff at the cafes resolutely refuse to split when you ask to “see the Sandwich menu, please”.

In Roman times, Sandwich was England’s biggest port, when the causeway between it and the (then proper) isle of Thanet could comfortably accommodate trading ships from the rest of the Empire. Today, it’s a sleepy little Tudor theme park and you can probably cross what’s left of the river with a running jump.

Sandwich is also the cleanest town I have visited. The tabletops of the aforementioned cafes are entirely crumb-less. There is a public toilet with both paper and soap. Middle-aged women wander around muttering: “I’ll just die if I don’t get that recipe”. Every resident appears to own a dog and yet there is not a single dog shit to be seen on the pavements.

In fact, I suspect that if any turd did find its way onto the highways of Sandwich, the council would probably polish it, push a red carnation delicately into the top and surround the lot with a white picket fence, maybe also adding a water feature and some koi carp.

Surely I had stumbled into another dimension.

To confirm my fears, the locals were still talking about the EU referendum result, having, to a man and recipe-hunting woman, voted to Leave.

Surely that’s a cue for a communication breakdown.

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Now this isn’t the way I voted but I can think of plenty of reasons for people to want out of the EU, not least being the realisation that the EU is as likely to be persuaded to bring about internal reform and weed out corruption as FIFA is.

But all I was hearing was the line: “We don’t like unelected officials telling us what to do”. What unelected officials are these? “The European Commission,” they’d tell me.

Members of the European Commission are indeed nominated by something called the European Council but, I tried to explain, this Council comprises the European heads of state (elected by us), and even so, their choice is still subject to approval by a vote in the European Parliament (also elected by us). In fact, the head of the European Commission is directly elected by the European Parliament (who are elected by…? Oh yes, that’s right: us).

Electing the European Commission may not be a plebiscite but it is just the same as voting for a MP whose political party has decided that an off-shore money-laundering, tax-dodging toff should be Prime Minister whether you like it or not, only to ditch him barely a year later in favour some other imbecilic, dough-faced cunt.

The mysteries continued throughout the week with a host of weird goings-on during work. Reporting a fault with a website form submission script, I was instructed by the support hobgoblin to empty my Chrome cache. I did as she suggested but to no avail… but then again, in this weird new dimension I had fallen into, who can say why emptying my Chrome cache would make any difference to Safari, which is the browser I was using.

She then told me to try using Internet Explorer, which confirmed my suspicions. Clearly in this variant timeline, Microsoft still develops IE for the Mac OS. Back in my own, they stopped in 2003.

The highlight of my week’s journey into the Twilight Zone was a thoroughly entertaining meeting yesterday thanks to a colleague who speaks with one of those cute accents that eastern Europeans get when they learn English from an American tutor. To my dull Englishman’s ears, it always makes him sound like Tom Cruise on his ninth pint of snakebite.

He, too, had joined me in the alternative dimension. Instead of the usual meeting preliminaries, my colleague invited us to make the most of our “comedy time”.

Comedy time? Fantastic! These meetings are usually so boring!

He went on to extol the virtues of entrusting decisions to what he called “executive comedy”. He also made reference to “standing comedy” (did he mean stand-up?) and “planning comedy” (not improv, then?) before losing me somewhat with his analytical talk concerning “sub-comedies”.

Naturally, I laughed out loud at every mention of comedy – not that I found him particularly funny but I thought I would be charitable and show that his attempt to give us all a laugh were appreciated. It’s a shame no-one else thought to join in. Come to think of it, some of the others gave me reproachful looks.

It was only as I left the meeting room that I realised back in my own dimension he was probably saying “committee”.

Take my brain to another dimension? It’s too late for that.

Take me to the hospital.

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Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He wonders whether taking his pension savings into an alternative dimension will restore enough of their lost value from last week’s hammering on the foreign exchanges to afford a loaf of bread when he retires.

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