Guys Who Work the Menial Jobs at Westworld Tell Us What It's Like
The Westworld theme-park is great, but who washes the toilets? Who cleans the robots out? Who runs the gift shop?
'Westworld' is a TV show where a lot of people in really expensive-looking blazer-and-cashmere combos walk around dark rooms a lot pretending Anthony Hopkins isn't going mad. Also, there are robots there. But are they robots, or are they more than that? Hmm. Good question. Who knows.
Anyway, so: who does all the menial jobs in Westworld? Yes, someone has to write the storylines, code the deep and complex personality types of each robot, watch from afar and make sure none of them go too off-piste... but who cleans the toilets? Who stamps the tickets? Who tops up the whiskey bottles that don't get smashed in bar fights? Who changes the bedding? Reader, as always: I am glad you asked.
Here are first person accounts from Westworld's menial workers:
Do the robots piss and shit? The robots do not piss and shit. If you were to design a human now – you are God, and you have God-like powers, and you are designing the human race, partly in your own image but mainly not – if you were designing humans now, as God, you would not have them piss and shit.
"Ah," you – as God – are saying, floating in a white abyss, conjuring life into being with a gesture from your ten-fingered hands. "Ah, yes: I should make the creature stop every hour or so to squirt at least one of the two worst-smelling liquids in the world out of its softest, sexiest bits." No.
So the robots do not piss and shit – that we now know. But the robots do drink and eat. So what the fuck. The fuck is: me, with a big long stick with a button on the end, poking it down the gullets of the robots in the quiet hours after they die, trying in vain to provoke a regurgitation reflex.
In olden days, before all this hell, they used to vomit part-way through feast evenings to make space for more food, and this was how they did it – swallowed a button on a string wrapped in velvet and with a feather attached, and then they would sort of pull-push it a couple of times until: sluuuuuuurg. That is the sound I mostly approximate with the sound of throwing up: sluuuuuuurg. I have been doing this job for three years and probably make 40 or 50 robots vomit a night, so I know a lot about it. I have seen robots, dead-eyed and deactivated, be sick so many times. So many times. I have seen thousands of meals get regurgitated. Grits and beans mixed with olde tyme rye. Water and fish and bread. Whole milk, rancid and thick in the heat of the sun. Someone sicked up a finger once. Bullets. A puppy's collar. Casino chips. Money. Sand. Nails.
So it is safe to say I know about vomit. Here are some other vomit euphemisms I have made up over the years: yelling gravy. Having a thick cough. Reviewing the 'Warcraft' movie. Calling your uncle. Day four of a smoothie diet. Ruffling some feathers. Putting the crisps back. Jay Z's 'Monster' verse. I got loads of them. Emptying the rucksack. What if your diaphragm could twerk. What it sounds like when actors talk sincerely about "their craft". Expressing your opinions on Facebook. I have them in a little book. Here, look, one from yesterday: making yoghurt the really, really, really hard way. I got tons.
Sometimes I think how often I was sick before this job. It was maybe once every six months, once every eight months. You can go quite a long time without being sick if you put your mind to it. Then you mix wine with tequila and you're like: sluuuuuuurg. Sometimes you just wake up on day three of a cold and it's like: your body has to evacuate. But now I'm never sick. First week on the job, I threw up a lot. Straight onto the floor. Ronnie, who trained me, used to say: "Get it up, kid. Then wash it up with a pressure hose. Thanks. Thank you." But then you get dead to it. Sometimes I sit in the shower after a shift, as the gauzy pink sun rises over the hills beside me, and think: 'Has this job changed me, at all.' And I put two fingers down the back of my throat and try to be sick and realise yes, yes it has. For $30,000 a year I traded something I never knew I treasured – the ability to be sick, through my mouth and through my nose – for a taste of the glamour of Westworld.
One time I asked if they could just make it so the robots regurgitated food after a voice command and they said, "They could, but they won't."
You ever been on holiday and run out of money like four days into a seven day trip, even though you took out more than you thought you would at the airport, and you spend half a day in, like, Poland or whatever fretting, like, "What will my bank charge me? Will my bank charge me a fantastic amount to take money out?" and, "Hold on: how did I spend that much money already? All I bought was three taxis, a tray of perogi and two beers. I haven't even bought souvenirs yet!"? You realise, out there, in the wilderness of another country – where you could not be stranger and more lost if you tried – you realise out there a truth about yourself: you are bad with money, and you are bad with the administration of money, and money is a transitive thing to you – forever doomed to touch briefly into your fingers and wallet before vanishing back out again – and you will never get that deposit together, really, will you, if you keep accidentally dropping £80 on taxi journeys and £3 on bottles of Coke. That You Are Not To Be Trusted, when the only person you can hurt with your inability is yourself.
Now imagine you have run out of money in the Old West, where everyone has a gun and is a possibly mad-at-you robot. That is when you come to me.
I hide in an ATM shack cut back between two Westworld brothels and wait there for people to come to me and admit their mistakes. They come to me with empty hands and a sideways smirk that says: "Hey: I suck at poker." They come to me with threadbare pockets and say how they bought a round for all the robots in the bar and "didn't think they actually drank". They lost thousands of Old West dollars on sex robots. We have all been there. Also, I sell Gatorades, because sometimes when you're in the desert you need a Gatorade.
And every single one of them always says to me the same thing: fucking how much to convert real money to Old West money? Fucking how much?
The conversion rate is very bad: roughly 20,000 present dollars to 500 Olde Tyme dollars. This makes the millionaires who can afford Westworld's daily rates just extraordinarily mad, for some reason. The guy who invented the laser pointer called me a "bent cunt" the other week. Richard Branson spat in the sand and called my mother "the worst whore, the worst whore ever in the world". This guy who plays for a Premier League team and was there on a stag do wanted to know if I was "merking him". I'm like, dude, it costs you money to take money out at Disneyland. And at Disneyland you don't even get to fuck Mickey. Like: we got to get money out of you somewhere, to maintain the sex robots. They need washing.
But the worst part of my job isn't that, or recycling sticky Gatorade bottles, or that time Richard Branson got furious and puce and started stomping around in his leather cowboy boots and cowboy hat and got a gun out and bared his horrible large teeth at me and went, "Fuck ya mum, homeboy!" and tried to shoot a nearby beer can but missed: no. The worst part is I can't even go on my iPhone while I'm on a shift. Apparently "it fucks with the robots' sense of reality and they completely go mental" if they see me playing Fruit Ninja on my phone. Fuck this job and fuck the Old West.
NAME WITHHELD, 28
Have you ever used a CMS? A CMS – or Content Management System – is a backend that is ostensibly designed to make the process of data control easier, but actually – because they are designed by committee, and implemented by committee, and coded by a team, and the guy who did the original framework defected to NeanderWorld™ to oversee their server migration, and the woman who replaced him got promoted within six weeks, and she wasn't really replaced but the guy who sort of acted up in her space left, and – because of all that shit, the CMS is basically a very beautiful system that makes every single process of a tech-based job a thousand times harder, and whoever has to maintain it has to comb through lines and lines of janky code, written by dozens of hands in tens of languages, like threads hanging out of the back of an embroidery.
So obviously when some glasses-on-the-end-of-his-nose nerd in a thousand-dollar cardigan creeps up behind me and whispers in hushed tones, "Can you make this CMS... voice-activated?", even though no, that's basically impossible for a 100-man tech team, let alone me and the two interns, you have to just turn to him and say through gritted teeth: "Sure, Bernard."
This is why it's 9PM and I'm still here, in the office, saying "enhance sector" to an un-reactive computer. HR were meant to give me a back rest and a wrist rest, but they haven't. I am meant to take screen breaks every 15 to 20 minutes and I don't. The light in here is really blue and moody because it looks better when you're creeping around a weird underground bunker trying to tranq-dart Thandie Newton, but it's murder on my eyes. I'm pulling 15, 17-hour shifts. Taking my iPad to the toilet with me so I can code when I shit. The bug fix Trello is completely out of hand because I need to develop a voice-activated system that responds to every single one of the accents in this place – even that English guy who sounds like someone drowning James Bond – and it can barely recognise "lights on". This place doesn't even have a union I can fall back on.
Sometimes I sit at my desk and eat a burrito – Deliveroo, inexplicably, has range here, although the guy who has to take a shuttle train and three lifts to make it to my office is never, ever happy about it – and think: 'Could I be doing something else with my life?' I always wanted to travel, you know? I had an interest in art. But then: I dunno. I'm at a really good career spine-point here. Some guys I went to graduate school with still work back home. It's that sink-or-swim thing, isn't it? Do I dive into the unknown abyss, and hope that forces unseen will catch and guide me? Or do I just stay here, where it's comfortable enough, doing 18-hour days talking to a computer? Just another year here. Just one more year. Until my student loan is paid off. Two years, max. Three at the very most. Four years, absolute, absolute maximum. And then I'm done.
I am the guy who makes the same chair up every day. There is a bar fight scene that is triggered really easily – it happens in Sweetwater, in the first bar by the train station, and there is this cowboy playing cards, Big Tex, and essentially if you (a guest) walks in there and says anything beyond "shot of rye, barkeep" he just twitches out and flips the table, and then moves to hit the guy opposite with a beer bottle, then two guys run up and grab him round the shoulders, and then he fully Rages Out and throws one over his back by just bending forward and roaring, and then punches the face of the other, then hits him with a chair – my chair. Day after day. I have rebuilt this thing 200, maybe 300 times. Could be more. The worst was the 157 days in a row he managed to break it over a head.
I say to the guys: "Do you not think it would be cheaper to just replace the chair, every day, than have me painstakingly re-glue it?" And they say no, Royce, glue the chair. There is a fracture in the back left leg that keep splitting – diagonal, down most of the length of it, leading to this sharp long piece of wood that so often takes someone out at the eye – and I say, "Hey, you'd have to rebuild Big Tex's skull and eye less if you replaced the chair." And they get all up in my face and say: "You got a fucking problem rebuilding the chair?" And I say no. They say: "That's fucking right," and then I glue the chair.
Sometimes I look into the glue – it beads, between the fractures, and glistens just for a moment, before I pull at it with a cloth and dab it with a fine mixture of dirt and sawdust, and it fills in just so that you can barely see it ever broke in the first place, but the wound is still there – sometimes I look into the glue, and just see myself, slightly, reflected back, curved and afire with the light, and there is beauty in that moment: the repetition, the coming back to the same chair; nobody has ever loved a chair as carefully and delicately as me; nobody has ever beheld a chair in such a way. In many ways me and this chair are locked in the same long dance, day after day after day. And sometimes I look into the glue bubble and think: 'Damn, Royce, there really isn't much point being alive ever, is there?' Today was not a great one, so I think when I get back to my room I'm going to have one big Snickers and a full-fat Coke. I wish, I wish, wish, wish. I wish they would code it so he didn't break the chair.
More fiction from VICE: