When I was little, I wanted a Raleigh bicycle.
A Raleigh bicycle was exotic. It came from England. My neighborhood was full of Schwinns and Columbias, as elegant and useful as tanks. They were the transportation version of a three-legged stool. I wanted a fauteuil.
Raleigh bicycles were only owned by WASPs. WASPs were exotic, in their way. Not many of them passed through the world I lived in. The few I encountered seemed to own everything by some kind of subtle transubstantiation that turned one person’s wealth into another’s. They had money without working, a kind of magic show to a little kid. They went to school to learn things that weren’t practical, another astounding thing to a drudge like me. They rode Raleigh bicycles and thought nothing of it.
Well, there’s the Raleigh factory. I don’t see anyone who looks like a toff working in there. They all look just like I did, when I went to work in a big factory at the age of eighteen. The movie (that’s what it is) was a Signet production. In America, that would have been a Coronet film. They were shown in schools, generally when the teacher was hung over and wanted to sleep for a solid half hour, instead of fitfully like they did during a regular school day.
Everyone dreams of a time machine. They want to go back in time to rule it, or forward in time because they assume, incorrectly, that they’re more wonderful than their contemporaries, and would fit in better on Star Trek than they do on the subway.
Well, there’s your time machine, boys. Time machines lie thick on the ground, but you’re not interested. Look at it and weep. I testify to you, right now, that I could climb in that time machine, and perform any job in that Raleigh factory, including drafting by hand. Could you?
Instructing the troglodytes you meet after you step out of your time machine that if they would simply listen to reason, and get an autocad set up, put guards on the machines, let you stop every fifteen minutes to take pills for your imaginary ailments, let you hold a binky bottle full of sugar water in one hand the whole time, allow you to stop every 30 seconds or so to use a telephone, and that they’d have to ban gluten from the cafeteria that doesn’t exist, so they better set one up, would be of doubtful utility.
They’d hire me, because I’d tell them that I thought I could be vaguely useful to them, I had always loved Raleigh bicycles, and I wanted to earn enough money to buy one.