Arts & CultureCommentaryLIFESTYLEOPINION


Introducing a new series of poems by Julian Matthews. Julian is a writer and Pushcart-nominated poet published in The American Journal of Poetry, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Borderless Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dream Catcher Magazine,  Live Encounters Magazine, Lothlorien Poetry Journal and The New Verse News, among others. He is a mixed-race minority from Malaysia and lived in Ipoh for seven years. Currently based in Petaling Jaya, he is a media trainer and consultant for senior management of multinationals on Effective Media Relations, Social Media and Crisis Communications. He was formerly a journalist with The Star and Nikkei Business Publications Inc


By Julian Matthews

So the internet wants me to prove that I am not a robot again. It gives me a set of square
options and asks me to “Please click on image that contains a bicycle”. So I spot a bicycle, click, another bicycle, click…wait there’s only one wheel in here.

Is that a unicycle? But it says specifically bicycle, not unicycle, not tricycle, not monocycle. I am a detail-oriented man and I am very specific about getting clear, specific, unambiguous instructions which demand clear, specific, unambiguous replies.

But that image only has one wheel! And wait, the earlier one I clicked on had two bicycles. Bicycles. Plural. The question says click on “bi-cy-cle”. Singular. Are these trick questions? I am wary of trick questions. So I click Verify and the page refreshes.

I failed the test.

But, phew, it gives me a second chance. Now it says, click on image that has a traffic light in it. I’m not a robot…I know a traffic light when I see one. But wait. First bicycles, now traffic lights. Was this test designed by someone from JPJ*? I haven’t been so stressed since my L Driving Theory Test, years ago. And back then I was more stressed about the practical part: parallel parking and stopping on the bump without sliding back.

Hmmm. Traffic light. Click. Traffic light. Click. Wait, is the traffic light pole considered part of the overhead traffic light? I suppose so. Click. Click. Click. Wait, is the shadow of the overhead traffic light on the road considered “traffic light”? Well, there would be no shadow, if there was no traffic light. Is this an existential test? Damn it. This is so vague!

I am a detail-oriented man and I am very specific about getting clear, unambiguous instructions which demand clear, specific, unambiguous answers. I click Verify and get kicked out. Damn it.
I just realised I was kicked out by a robot deciding whether I am a robot or not! How ironic. How judgy. How utterly ridiculous. The fact that I flunked out of your test, you silly JPJ-reject robot is proof enough that I am human, after all!

(Hey robot, if you gave me pictures of nine potential prime ministers and asked me to click on which candidate can actually do the job, I would click Skip and move on.)

I also know what a bicycle is, you silly robot! I not only know how to identify a bicycle, I know how to ride one as well. Can you?! And I can identify a traffic light when I see one. I know red means stop, green means go and orange means go faster. That’s my choice. That’s my prerogative. That’s being human, silly robot!

Being human is about taking risks! Being human is about making decisions, good or bad!
Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we run a red light and cause accidents. Sometimes we hurt ourselves. Sometimes we hurt others. Sometimes we fall off our bicycles and scrape our knee and it bleeds and it hurts. Sometimes we ride our bicycles home in the rain. Some days, we ride so hard, we can’t tell whether it’s raindrops or teardrops on our cheeks. That’s being human, silly robot! But you’ll never know! You can’t even give clear, specific, unambiguous instructions that demand clear, specific unambiguous answers.

I refresh the page and it says,
“You have reached your verification limit for today. Please try again in 24 hours.”

I get off the Internet and gripe to my wife about the robot. She says she just discovered she’s been driving around for the last two months with an expired driving licence.And she can’t renew it online. I must drive her to the JPJ office next week to renew it.

I am a detail-oriented man and I am very specific about getting clear, specific, unambiguous instructions. I nod approvingly. I am not a robot after all. At least someone appreciates this human.

I touch my face to wipe away the tear — that isn’t there.

Note: *JPJ is the acronym for Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan or Road Transport Department.

First published in cc&d magazine, a Scars Publication, USA also available in anthology Seaweed Garden on Amazon

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