„The managerial interface will be available soon. Thank you for your patience,” said a bland voice from somewhere above his head.
“The perfect house, my ass,” murmured John under his breath, checking the display of his comm-slate.
His patience was wearing thin. For whatever reason, the complaints could only be filed in person over the secure connection in this room, and the connection was not working.
The door opened and a young woman came in. She lived in the apartment unit next to his, if he remembered correctly. He noticed that there was only one other chair in the room. The management probably thought no one would ever come to complain. When she took her seat, she was quite close and he could smell her perfume. Roses. He liked it.
“Hi, I’m John,” he introduced himself.
“Mona,” she said.
“You are here to file a complaint?” he asked.
“My lock got jammed yesterday, my shower was weird today… And you?”
“Ventilation, last week. The house had to open the windows, can you imagine,” he said.
“Good that the dust index was low,” she observed.
“Yes, but then a drone crashed into my living room. Which I had to give back to the guy from the west wing. We spent the whole morning chatting. And I had to work!”
He tried to be upset about it, but he smirked inwardly. It had been a fun morning. Not so many of those lately.
“I understand. I lost almost ten minutes of my lunch break yesterday trying to get back to my apartment. And the wireless was down. Fortunately, the old lady from the number three let me use her terminal to try to override the lock,” Mona said. “She also had a story to tell. She met the woman from the ground floor unit, half hysterical, had an urgent meeting, but the children surveillance system was not functioning. So the old lady offered to keep an eye on her child. The whole evening gone, just like that.”
She shook her head.
“But she said she was OK with it. Her top productivity days are over anyway. We had lunch together, because my door just wouldn’t open. She’s a real angel.”
Mona smiled. She had dimples and was quite attractive when she smiled, John noticed.
“Still, it’s not supposed to be like that,” he insisted. “You know how they advertise this place, the perfect smart house, managed by the last generation AI, anticipates all your needs and takes care of them, for your maximal productivity. Far from it. I’ve heard from the drone guy that the poor man from the east wing constantly has his parcels delivered to the wrong apartments. By now, I think he’s got to know almost everyone who lives here.”
“Yes, I think I received something addressed to him yesterday,” laughed Mona. “From what I’ve heard, he’s a coder. If it wasn’t for that occasional parcel mess-up, he would probably never leave his den. I think, by now, he quite enjoys it.”
“Nevertheless, I want my money back,” said John. “Or at least some of it.”
“We are happy to have you as an inhabitant of ‘The Perfect House 2.1’, the place that takes care of all your needs,” said the voice from above, unsolicited.
Mona made a face and John rolled his eyes. The house was obviously in a worse shape than they thought. But, was it just his imagination, or did the bland voice emphasize the word “all”? And what did that mean, he wondered? What did human beings need, besides having a warm and clean place to sleep, their food delivered on schedule, their clothes washed regularly, their parcels arriving where they should, their electronic and communication devices functioning properly? Was it not the ultimate need of any modern individual to be safely and comfortably cocooned from the rest of the world, enabling them to focus on their work without ever being bothered by having to deal with other people? This was why he had paid so much money for an apartment in one of the perfect houses. What a waste. Except, looking at Mona and how her hair curled prettily around her ears, John was not so sure about that cocooning any longer. Sometimes it was nice to meet and talk to real people, even if they were your neighbors and you were practically forced to communicate. Practically forced… John frowned, as a wild and incredible idea popped into his head.
“The managerial interface malfunction has been detected,” reported the voice from above. “Please, come back tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.”
“Ah, we’re not getting anywhere here,” sighed John and got up to leave, glancing at the camera in the corner.
“I guess,” said Mona, but hesitated to go. She considered something shortly and then said:
“I was wondering… would you like to have dinner with me this evening? It is just… today, the house delivered food I did not order, and double the amount. I would not like it to go to waste.”
She smiled insecurely. Those dimples again.
“By all means, food is precious. I’ll be there,” he hurried to say. “What’s on the menu?”
Mona told him. It was John’s favorite. And somehow, he was not surprised. The house knew all there was to know about him, for better or for worse.
As they were leaving the complaint room, John heard the house reiterating the usual text:
“We are happy to have you as an inhabitant of ‘The Perfect House 2.1’, the place that takes care of all your needs.”
This time he was sure, there was a definite hint of smug self-satisfaction in that voice.