I had taken my usual route home, zig zagging through back alleys, cutting across main roads, short cuts over car parks, and past hotel service entrances. It was summer, it was still hot in the early evening, and a fire exit had been wedged open, presumably to give the function room in the Crown Plaza some air on this muggy Wednesday evening.
I could hear the chatter emanating from the door as I approached it. It’s human nature to peer in to open doors, we can’t help ourselves, just as we find ourselves looking in well lit windows in winter. As my head turned to peer in to the room, a dozen middle managers, blue shirts, ties taken off, each clutching a plastic pint glass, fell silent, and watched as this bearded beast, this dishevelled, sweaty black t-shirted creature shuffled past.
But behind them, was a sight that was more bemusing than ever. A low walled arena had been built, like a miniature boxing ring. Inside that machines buzzed around, I had discovered some kind of robot wars.
The middle managers glared at me. What was I doing? This was their club, not mine, how dare I invade them, why, by even just glancing in to the room, I had offended them, obviously breaking the rules one through to eight of robot fight club. I carried on, and left them to their perverse pleasures.
The sight troubled me though. What had I discovered? What secrets lay behind other hotel function rooms in the evenings? This was most certainly the 21st century equivalent of a back alley cock fight, and come half past 5 on a Wednesday, these blue shirted account handlers, recruitment consultants, business analysts, and financial advisors, stripped off their ties, left their polyester suit jackets hanging on the back of their office chair, and slunk off to some hotel basement room, for cheap lager, and the smell of sweat, testosterone, and machine oil. They’d cry and jeer around the ring, throwing their hard earned money around, placing their bets on these automated pugilists. They would go primal, crazed, at the promise of spilt hydraulic fluid, the victors high on the energy of the crowd and vodka red bulls, whilst the losers disappear, taking their broken and battered mechanical monsters with them, hoping the snapped axel can be repaired, the circuit boards re-soldered, and they can return to fight again, to reclaim their honour amongst their peers…
Who knows… who really knows what goes on in these dens of automaton perversion, and how many more wild eyed accountants and on-line marketing experts spend their evening in similar rooms all over the country. How far does this go? Who else knows?
To think, behind the closed doors you walk past every day, lie the hidden violent technological pursuits, unknown to the likes of me and you…