Since it has been a few years without any further unexplainable events, I have decided that it is safe to relate a tale of one particularly unusual day I had that continues to make me question our place in reality, or perhaps question my own sanity.
At the time, I lived south of Portland and commuted back and forth to work during the week via Trimet which included passing through The Robertson Tunnel.
If you, the esteemed reader, live in the Portland area and have ever taken the Trimet MAX Light Rail then you are likely familiar with The Robertson Tunnel. If you don’t live here, then you can check out that Wikipedia entry on it.
On a Monday morning I was coming back to work after a week off for vacation. I am on the MAX heading through Portland towards my place of work in Beaverton. It’s a nice, sunny morning as the train enters the Goose Hollow Transit Center, the last stop before the tunnel.
Perception of Time is a funny thing when you’re occupied in mundane tasks, like a mostly boring commute that you take daily, and I remember this morning’s trip through the tunnel seemed to feel like it took longer than it usually did. I disregarded the feeling as the imagination of my idle mind.
The MAX pulled into the Washington Park MAX Station without incident and headed out through the rest of the Tunnel. As the MAX exits the tunnel I was surprised to see that the sky on the other side of the tunnel was overcast, rainy, and kind of an unusual color.
Oregon is a state of fairly schizophrenic weather that can regularly go from good to bad so, although a bit weird, I pretty much just wrote this latest incident off as normal.
As the MAX headed down the tracks towards Beaverton, I looked out at the highway and noticed quite a few sleek and futuristic looking cars driving by. “That’s cool”, I remember thinking.
As a tech geek I like to keep up on the changes in technology and I do know that many new hybrid, electric, and even ‘self driving’ vehicles have been coming out. As such, my mind attempted to justify this latest peculiar incident but I was still slowly getting an uneasy feeling that something just wasn’t right.
As the MAX pulls into my stop, the Millikan Way MAX Station, I get off and start walking to my work which is only a few hundred yards from the stop. Between the MAX stop and my work is one of the many Nike owned properties and buildings in the Beaverton area that I walk through daily. On this morning I noticed some new construction that I didn’t recall seeing before I had gone on my vacation.
“Wow, they really work quickly” I was thinking.
I headed into work and went to my desk. I’m generally always the first one in my department, the IT Department, to get in every morning so it was nice and quiet. I started my morning with the usual, routine activities like making coffee and logging into my PC.
When I attempted to log into my PC I was surprised to find that my password didn’t work. I had been on vacation, sure, but I know that I hadn’t forgotten my password.
Yet another unusual incident for this day but there was far more to come.
I tried to justify this latest incident as maybe something happened in the week while I was off that caused a need for my boss to change my password. I logged in using our department Administrator account and changed my account password and went on with my work day.
There were some unusual things that had caught my attention and contributed to my ever growing feeling of unexplained uncertainty. Things like some of our manufacturing machines in different locations than they were before my vacation and names on our company phone list that I didn’t recognize.
My ever logical mind struggled to justify this strange day I was having. “
Well, we have been doing a lot of hiring lately, and our manufacturing floor does rearrange stations a lot.”
My attempts to justify this truly bizarre morning were starting to not be enough and my feelings of unease were get worse.
My boss arriving for the morning had been the final strange incident of the morning that pushed me to start to question whether or not I was losing my mind.
“Oh, hey. Good morning Mike. Glad to see you survived your vacation. You decided to shave your goatee off, huh?”
I HAVEN’T SPORTED A GOATEE IN NEARLY 20 YEARS!
My boss is a great guy and we like to joke with each other but this statement wasn’t made in a humorous manner and was just one more strange occurrence that made me start to feel like my mind was shattering.
Thankfully, the rest of my work day was uneventful and I was starting to think that I was just imagining all these incidents as anything but normal.
Until I was back on the MAX and heading back home for the day.
The MAX headed back through The Robertson Tunnel and pulled into The Washing Park stop. While at the stop, some of Trimet’s Transit Police came onto my train.
This is a fairly normal occurrence on the train because they often check for riders who were trying to ride without paying proper fares but these guys looked different than I was used to seeing.
Trimet Cops were often dressed in nearly as SWAT Team uniforms but these guys were downright scary looking. They were in full combat gear and, while they were sort of half heartedly checking other riders’ fares, they seemed to be specifically heading straight for ME.
I had my wallet out and was showing off my annual Trimet pass as one of the cops approached. He glanced down at my pass and then looked at me.
“This isn’t your train. You need to come with us!” He said.
Um, ok, this is weird because my annual pass is definitely not expired but I sure as hell wasn’t going to argue with these guys, especially not with the way this bizarre day had been going.
As I exited my MAX car with these heavily armed cops, the train pulled away and continued off into the tunnel. The cops guided me towards the tunnel elevator that leads up to the Portland Zoo that’s 600+ ft. above the Washington Park stop.
They shoved me into the elevator with a cryptic statement “Stay on the elevator. You can exit when you come back down. Your train will be the next one.” With that they pressed the button and sent my elevator up.
Ok, what the fuck! This entire day is just creeping me out!
When I came back down into the tunnel I looked around. Those cops were nowhere to be found, which was strange in itself since the Washington Park stop was underground with limited ways to get out.
In fact, the entire station looked somehow different than it looked earlier that morning but I wasn’t really able to ‘put my finger’ on just what exactly was different.
With great relief, the remainder of my commute was totally uneventful. As I exited The Robertson Tunnel on the next MAX train, the sky was back to being bright and sunny and the rest of my commute home went as it had always gone.
What a truly strange day that had been!
The next day, Tuesday, I uneasily headed out on my morning ritual commute but was quickly relieved to see that nothing unusual was occurring.
That is, except for what was missing from my previous day’s trip. There was no unusual cars on the highway and even the construction at the Nike campus wasn’t there.
I was beginning to think I had totally imagined the entire previous day, until my boss came in.
“Oh, hey. Good morning Mike. Glad to see you survived your vacation. You decided to take one additional day to recover, huh? Next time just call and let me know you’re not coming in, ok?”
Those unexplainable events haunt me to this day, years later.
Is there more to The Robertson Tunnel than just a normal transit tunnel through a hill? Is there something almost supernatural to the precise, geometric designs of the tunnel.
Are there stories to the cryptic artwork that covers the walls of The Washington Park MAX Station that our rational reality isn’t realizing?
I have no rational explanation for that day and you can judge my story for yourself but all I can tell you is that for months after that fateful Monday commute, I chose to take the bus all the way to work and avoided that godforsaken tunnel that still creeps me out today.
By trade I am an IT Professional.
As an IT Pro many of us tend to disagree and fight over many different things. Whether Linux, OSX, or Windows is better. Which firewall appliance, wireless access point, switch, whatever brand is better, etc. etc.
But, one thing we seem to universally agree upon is that none of us like Printers.
It’s like cats and dogs with us. Like there’s something buried deep into our industry training to teach us to really hate dealing with Printers.
It’s often made me wonder just exactly why that is that we all seem to have the same deep seated loathing of those cursed, evil devices.
Well, as is often part of my job, I was working on a Saturday this last month.
Halloween, as it happens, which was cool because I figured I could avoid all the added traffic and people out on the streets by working that evening.
No one else had to work so I had the entire office to myself. “Great”, I thought to myself. “No one to bother me and I can actually get some work done.”
As part of my projects for the day I needed to print out some documentation because for some compliance requirements we had to keep physical documentation that’s signed filled out and signed.
As mentioned above, as an IT Pro, I really dislike printing anything. I find it a huge waste of money and printers are, again, just evil devices that seem hell bent on making every job requiring them more difficult than it should be. Jams, obscure error codes for no explainable reason, paper trays suddenly ‘unavailable’ like somehow it just decided it didn’t feel like working today.
Just irritating issues for no explainable reason are often expected when dealing with printers.
Well, since this is a Saturday and I’m the only one in the office, I had this brilliant idea to decide and update the firmware and drivers for our Office Printer. I figured, hey, good time to do this because I can give this damnable thing some maintenance without affecting other users.
A mistake I still regret to this day
I navigated to the manufacturer’s website and found new firmware and a new driver for the printer that had just been updated on the downloads site today. “Good timing” I think to myself and start the download.
The office power and lights flicker as I was downloading the new files, causing my PC screen to go out briefly. “It’s pretty bad weather today, I hope the power doesn’t go out.” For god knows whatever reason, printer drivers are always huge file sizes so I was grateful to see that it downloaded successfully with that brief power fluctuation.
So, with the new files on the network I remotely log into our Print Server and update the printer driver. Surprisingly it installs totally fine. No install errors, nothing unusual. “Well, that’s cool. I expected it to be more difficult since it’s a printer.” I think to myself.
Next step, firmware upgrade on the Printer itself. I pull up the printer on my PC and send the firmware file to it, per standard upgrade process and suddenly hear an unusual grinding, almost growling, sort of noise coming from the printer in the office.
“There it is. I knew this wasn’t going to go off without a problem. Damned printers!”
I went into the office area and checked on the printer. The LEDs and screen were blinking and flashing like crazy but the odd growling noise had stopped. On the screen it said “Firmware Update Successful” so I just figured maybe that’s normal behavior for this model printer when the firmware is upgraded and I powered it off and back on.
When the printer came back up I printed out a Configuration page from the menu and everything seemed totally fine so I went back to my desk to print out the documents that I needed.
Again I heard that eerie growling noise but heard my pages printing. “Ah crap! I hate printers!” I figured it had jammed, per usual for printers. Instead on the printer was several pages of paper covered with nothing but random looking letters in what was obviously Comic Sans font and Wing Ding symbols.
“Odd, I don’t even have those fonts installed on my PC.”
The pages were just completely covered in IA!IA!WYSIWYGFHTAGN!IA!IA!WYSIWYGFHTAGN! over and over, mixed in with the Wing Ding symbols and that’s the only thing it would print no matter what document I sent to it. So, I put an Out Of Order sign on it, powered it off, and went on to other projects. Being as it IS a printer, it being out of order was plenty common to the other office workers so this would come as no surprise to anyone on Monday.
“Well, crap. Looks like I’m calling the maintenance tech on Monday”
I finished up working and headed out. Nothing else really eventful happened that night. “
Well, except for that incident at my local coffee shop that I stopped at on the way home.”
Yeah, for whatever reason, when the clerk went to print out my receipt his receipt printer made that same eerie growling noise that our office printer had made and it shredded my receipt as it printed it. “It’s never done that before.” said the clerk. I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and headed back to my apartment.
I’m really not sure why I did it, but for some reason I instinctively unplugged my home printer from the wall before I went to bed that night.
Monday rolls around and I call our usual printer service technician, Frank. He knows our office well, as I’m sure he does all his customers, since after all he repairs printers for a living so he’s a busy guy. Job Security in fixing printers since they suck so badly.
Frank powers up the office printer, just idly chatting with me about his weekend and such.
As the printer powers up he suddenly stopped in mid-sentence, kind of twitches noticeably, turns to me with this strange glazed expression on his face and says
“You have awakened the master. You will all be spooled to The Great LPD soon!”
and then just as suddenly went right back to what he was talking about as if nothing had happened.
“Ok, that was fucking weird.” I thought. Maybe he has tourettes or something.
He finished up working on the printer and got it back to working as if nothing had ever happened but the entire incident just creeped me out.
To this day, if I’m ever working in the office alone I always turn the printer off. I also decided to toss my personal home printer. Damned thing never worked right anyway.
“I really hate printers.”
0430. I really should think about getting up.
[Get Up, Stay Up, with Caffiagra].
Dammit, not like I’ve slept more than 2 hours at a time in almost four years anyway.
No one has.
Between emails, pop-up ads, IMs from other friends who can’t sleep, and, god-forbid, the viruses, no one sleeps much anymore.
The headaches alone are enough to keep someone from sleeping.
[Try a free sample of AspirEdrin Today]
It is said that ‘we all live in a hell of our own creation’. Well, whoever said that had no idea. Sadly, everyone now lives in a hell of my creation.
Four years. Seems like yesterday.
It began as an innocent enough gesture.
An unemployed Computer Tech buddy of mine asked me if I knew of any open positions in the IT Department of the hospital I work at.
[Find Tech Jobs at CareerCritter.com]
Turns out I did know of a position, but it was with my department, down in the basement shop, fixing the instruments when they broke down.
Well, my buddy was a technician, good with tools, could use a soldering iron and knew how to handle a multi-meter.
He also liked to tinker with broken computers and such in his garage and fancied himself some sort of mad scientist.
So I recommended him to our HR Department.
Poor bastard. Poor world. I’m sorry, man. I had no idea.
One night, about 6 months after he started work. I came into the shop on Monday to start work and there he was.
Apparently he’d been there all weekend, tinkering on some project.
He was soldering away on some old, broken EEG machine I said he could have and he’d wired in one of those home wireless routers people use for getting on the internet.
He was laughing like he’d won the lottery and then started dancing around.
I asked him what the hell he was doing and he said “I found it! I found it!” and grabbed up that contraption he’d been working on and headed for the door.
I asked him where he was going and he said, “I’m going to become rich!”
“I’m going to become rich!” The last thing my buddy ever said to me and as it ends up, it was the last time he ever saw me.
I’d heard later that day that he had called into HR and quit his job. I tried calling him later that day without success and even stopped by his house after work. He was no where around.
About 6 months after that day, a little known computer hardware manufacturer named CybisTech held a huge press conference.
They announced that they had built a device that would truly revolutionize the computer world as we knew it. They called the technology 802.11z and the device was the NeuroCloud.
The device looked hauntingly familiar.
I found out later that day that what my buddy had accidentally stumbled upon, that fateful day in the shop, was a nothing more than a frequency.
Simple enough sounding discovery, right?
Well, apparently it was the frequency a wireless device can transmit on that matches a human’s brainwave patterns.
By the looks of that press release he had also found himself a buyer for his discovery.
CybisTech. Practically overnight those bastards became the single most powerful company in the world.
A world now that will never be the same, and it’s all my fault.
Well, I guess I should get this day started. I’ve got a pop-up blocker to think about and new anti-virus definition updates I have to concentrate on before I get this sad day over with.
Oh, almost forgot to tell you about my buddy. I’d said before how that day was the last day he’d ever seen me.
But it’s not the last day I had seen him.
I visit him every day.
Turns out my buddy did get rich like he wanted. Insanely rich. He had even put me down as the sole beneficiary and executor of his estate.
Well, about three months ago I received a call from his lawyers.
A maid had found my friend in his study, just sitting at his desk, staring ‘into nothing’. Pale skin, the most vacant, haunting expression you’ll ever see.
They called the ambulance and took him to the hospital.
Specialists from all over the world have checked him out and all say there is nothing they can do.
It’s called a Lobekit, at least it is now.
The Universe is a cruel place and my friend had discovered one more thing in his life.
He had become the very first person in history to catch a computer virus.
Here I sit, at his bed side, looking at another EEG machine. This one, however, has nothing but a single sentence on it’s screen.
Fiction (or is it?)
by Mike Rigsby