Day 26: The Great Depression

Tim sat at his com­puter and fixed his gaze on the num­bers that flashed up, down, left to right, and occa­sion­ally diag­on­ally. He’d have to invest in a 3D screen soon, he decided, if he wanted to take his trad­ing to the next level.

He kept mean­ing to order one but whenever he tore his eyes away from the num­bers that criss-crossed in front of him he got the feel­ing that he was prob­ably miss­ing some­thing import­ant, that he wasn’t a part of things and would be left out if some­thing import­ant happened. Miss­ing an import­ant moment wasn’t an option, and so he sat in front of the screen as long as he could man­age each day, until he finally felt him­self fall­ing asleep at his desk and dragged him­self to bed, real­ising that a single mis­placed click could be disastrous.

Piles of unwashed plates and glasses littered the area around his screen. He’d take the time to clean them, he knew, he’d just have to wait for a def­in­ite gap in the action. He wasn’t sure what that would be though, as even when his power went down or he lost his con­nec­tion, he found it dif­fi­cult to tear him­self away from the screen. He’d sit wait­ing, hop­ing to be able to get back to busi­ness straight away, per­haps feel the priv­ilege of being the first back online after an issue with the server.

Still, some­thing would have to hap­pen at some point. There’d be a sched­uled main­ten­ance period when he’d know, with abso­lutely cer­tainty, that he wouldn’t be able to access the sys­tem for two hours or so. But did he really know that? What if the work didn’t take as long as they expec­ted it to? It would be simple enough for that to hap­pen. Well, he thought, he’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

He’d run out of dishes a while ago, of course; he didn’t have an unlim­ited sup­ply, nobody did, but he could give them a quick scrub or wash the crumbs off. He had to be quick when he did it though. He’d dropped plates in his rush to get back to the screen some­times, but that didn’t mat­ter; there were always more plates, but some­thing could hap­pen on his screen which was unique; a one off. He couldn’t risk miss­ing that for the world.

As he watched the fig­ures in front of him, he noticed some­thing hap­pen­ing in the lower-right corner of his screen. One num­ber had paused moment­ar­ily and was now shuff­ling up and left a little. It was still small, so not many people had noticed it yet, but Tim knew what it meant.

Or did he? He could be wrong. Maybe other people had avoided click­ing on it not because they hadn’t noticed it but because they knew bet­ter than he did. They might have some inform­a­tion which he wasn’t privy to, and so he should wait until other people made a decision. It min­im­ised his poten­tial gains, yes, but it min­im­ised his risk too.

Then it flicked left once more and he decided he couldn’t take it any­more. He clicked it madly a few times. It stayed as it was, but he saw a marker come up that registered his decision. The num­ber remained where it was for a few seconds, then bal­looned, absorb­ing other num­bers and squeez­ing yet more off the screen. It quickly filled a quarter of his screen and sat in the very middle of it.

Tim stared at it and his jaw dropped, then he squealed and star­ted laugh­ing manically. He bounced up and down in his chair a few times point­ing at it and gig­gling to him­self. He knew he’d made the right decisions, and now they’d all paid off!

Calm down! Calm down! he told him­self. This is only the begin­ning. You need to stay calm so that we can fol­low through on all of this. This is the first step. Now. Start ask­ing the questions.

He tried to go through the pro­cess as quickly and calmly as pos­sible. He needed to make the most of this. The whole time, he couldn’t drag his eyes away from the num­ber hov­er­ing in the centre of his screen.

Did he believe this would get any big­ger? No. This seemed to be as big as it could pos­sibly get. He hadn’t even heard of any­thing as big before.

Would it be bet­ter to jump now and divert his atten­tion or wait? The first ques­tion answered this. Wait­ing was ris­kier with less poten­tial bene­fit. He decided that next time he wouldn’t bother with this question.

Could he get rid of everything at once or in stages? All at once. These ques­tions, he decided, were tak­ing too long and were point­less any­way. He clicked the huge num­ber again and watched as the marker dis­ap­peared. Moments later, a static num­ber in the top right of his screen went up in value. It didn’t get any big­ger and nobody else could see it on their screens. It rep­res­en­ted his worth.

With so much sit­ting with him, his wild­est dreams had come true. He’d won, as far as he could tell. This was it. This is what he had been aim­ing for. He could turn the screen off and wash the plates and work out what to do next.

Of course, some­times light­ning did strike twice.

He might miss some­thing else if he stepped away now. Some­thing even bet­ter. The 3D screen was well within his grasp now, and that would help so much. He wondered what the huge num­ber had looked like in 3D. It must have been spectacular.

He moved his cursor to order one for him­self, then stopped, star­ing at the num­bers again. What if some­thing happened whilst he wasn’t look­ing? There was obvi­ously some­thing spe­cial hap­pen­ing today. He went back to star­ing at the num­bers, his hand mov­ing to pick up his glass. It was empty, and he stared at it, then at the door, then put it back on his desk.

The wash­ing would still be there tomor­row, he knew.

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