A lone figure stands by a desert highway. He casts a short, stumpy shadow on the white, white-hot, sandy surface. The sun is high. Also, the figure is a short, stumpy person.
He’s wearing a light jacket, notable only for the badges stuck haphazardly on its lapels and sleeves. There’s one in the shape of a feather that says Apache so maybe this figure of a man has native blood in his veins. Was there a tribe of short, stumpy Indians? This other badge here, though, has a got a dolphin on it. There’s some lettering underneath: MySQL. Safe to say this figure’s probably not part-aquatic mammal. Then again, he’s sporting a stylised penguin too. Weird. The fourth badge is quite plain; just a dark oval with a darker name: PHP. Sounds druggy. Seems appropriate.
Yeah, we know this figure. It’s Mr Lamp.
There’s a car coming down the highway, materialising out of the heat haze. Seems to take forever to arrive but that’s hardly surprising: look at the size of it! It’s a stretch limousine. It’s bright. It’s flash. It looks great. And there’s a gorgeous custom paint job with writing down the side of it too that spells out User Friendly Software!!! A few more exclamation marks wouldn’t go amiss there. Forget how it looks for the moment and listen to the sound. No, you can’t hear the engine because of the music coming out of those mounted loudspeakers on the roof of the beast. There’s a thumping bassline that makes the sand jump to the beat as the car pulls up. It’s a song popular with the kids: User Friendly it’s called. You hear it once and you’re humming along or singing along all day: "User Friendly Software, User Friendly Software." Basic, repetitive, but you know what you like and you just like it.
The door’s opening and you can see why the limo was just so stretched as girl after girl after girl emerges in matching cheerleading outfit. They’re laughing; they’re probably a little drunk. Mr Lamp’s looking uncomfortable and it’s not from the heat. He’s trying to draw himself inwards and upwards; trying to not be quite so short and stumpy. What’s the point, though? The girls aren’t paying him any attention. No, they’re forming lines and they’re shaking their pom-poms and they’re singing along: "User Friendly Software, User Friendly Software."
Mr Lamp’s sweating a bit now and it’s only getting worse. The cheerleaders are forming pyramids; they’re tossing girls up in the air; they’re doing splits. They look good. No, actually, they look gooood.
The music stops and the girls cheer. Mr Lamp licks his lips. He’s wondering whether he should say something or cheer perhaps. Maybe they’d be interested in his badges? Girls like dolphins and penguins don’t they?
A man steps from the limo. Steps is the wrong word. Glides. This is one smooth individual. The girls are thrilled. Look at him! He’s perfect! His hair’s just so, that face is one you’d kill for, and he’s encased in some invisible aura: he’s confident, assured, suave. Mr Lamp can’t tell from this distance but he knows that the limo guy smells just great too; zesty fresh and muskily warm at the same time, no doubt about it.
The man – he’s grinning at the cheerleaders; was that a wink there? – is wearing some incredible-looking suit. Mr Lamp’s never seen a tailored suit in real life before but this looks like something James Bond would wear so he recognises the quality. Of course, Bond would never go out with those designer labels showing: User Friendly Software they all read. There’s a label on the breast pocket, two more on the sleeves, and smaller ones around the base of the jacket, all in a stylish, cursive script. The trousers get the treatment too with User Friendly Software stitched neatly down the perfect creases. There are tiny, leather tags on the heels of the gleaming, polished leather uppers he’s wearing; Mr Lamp can’t read them but he doesn’t have to to know what they say.
The two men are looking at one other now, face-to-face, a few metres apart. Mr Lamp looks shocked but you can hardly blame him. His counterpart looks like he’s king of the world. You can’t imagine where he wouldn’t look out of place. He’s smiling and reaching into his inner jacket pocket and then he’s handing a business card to the badge-wearing, short, stumpy figure beside his limo. It’s laminated and looks expensive. It’s the business card you’d keep in your wallet instead of pinning to some noticeboard where it can be ignored. User Friendly Software it reads, on both sides. You could have guessed that.
The girls are filing back into the car and you just know you’re seconds away from the music starting up again and shaking the ground. Mr Lamp’s swallowing hard. I think he’s going to say something to the man from the limo. Yeah, he is.
"Who are you?” he asks.