ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the prompt calls, based on discussion with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "enlightenment" square in my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo  fest.  It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles.  This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series, and is a direct sequel to "Sanitation Engineers."


"Bending Forks"

 


Remedios Garza sat at a little wire table
not far from the freshly repaired Tastee Shack,
so that she could keep an eye on the gear
in case anything malfunctioned again.

It was the first day the mall was open
after the soup fight that had trashed the place,
and Malaya was behind the counter,
so the crowd got pretty thick.

Remedios was almost through her jalapeño pretzel
when a particularly surly customer reached
the head of the line -- and stopped being surly.

The man swayed on his feet, looking baffled,
then shook his head as if to clear water from his ears.

"It's a field effect.  It doesn't turn off.
It won't hurt you," Malaya murmured
with a quick, nervous smile.  "All it does
is make a bad day not be bad anymore."

She was doing her bending forks trick again,
Remedios realized.  Malaya's gift was
subtle enough that most people didn't notice it
as anything more than a cheerful greeting
followed by a feeling of relief, but for someone
set against superpowers it could be unsettling.

Remedios hastily finished the last of her snack
and slipped out of her chair.  As she headed
toward the counter, she could just sense
Malaya's talent, warm and bright as sunshine.

"Excuse me, sir," said Remedios
as she came alongside the customer.
"Would you like me to walk you
to the first aid station?  Our staff
is trained in emotional first aid
as well as the physical kind."

"I-I think ... maybe that's a
good idea," the man mumbled.

"Here's your lunch," Malaya said,
handing him a Philly cheese pretzel,
which was a good thing because
low blood sugar made people cranky
and food was soothing in general.
"Have a nice day."

"I'm Remedios.  I fix the mall when it breaks,"
the repairwoman said as they walked.  "You?"

"Chester.  I'm a mechanic too, thought I'd
try my luck at TruckMart, but it didn't go so well,"
he said, clutching his lunch with white knuckles.

"Sorry to hear that," Remedios said as they
passed the Information booth.  She opened the door
marked with a red cross.  "Maybe it'll get better."

Amber Chakrabarti was the Emotional First Aide on duty,
a psychology student working part-time at the mall
to cover things like lost children and messy breakups.
"What can I do for you?" she asked as they came in.

"Chester here's had a bad day and he got a bit
overloaded at the Tastee Shack," said Remedios.
"He could use a quiet place to eat lunch, and
maybe a sympathetic ear after that."

That was enough to tip Amber to what happened,
allowing the repairwoman to return to her own job.

Remedios smiled.  She liked  fixing things.

* * *

Notes:

Malaya Lin Sato -- She has toasty brown skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and curly black dreadlocks that reach about to her shoulders.  Her heritage is mixed race, including an African-American mother and a Japanese-American father.  (Her middle name is pronounced "rin" instead of "lin" as it's spelled -- or if she's saying it, "rin-with-an-L.")  Malaya has a thriving spiritual life with interest in Mother Mary, Kuan Yin, and Yemaya.  She has a Lourdes rosary for Mary, a jade pendant for Kuan Yin, and a cowrie-shell choker necklace for Yemaya. 
 Malaya's superpower is a room-sized field effect that she can't turn off, which is strongest right next to her.  It's primarily an empathic function that removes the emotional effects of having a bad day, with a bit of luck-shifting to make the rest of the day stop sucking.  At 19, Malaya is working at Tastee Shack because she hasn't decided what to do with her life yet.  She wants to help people, doesn't want to be a superhero, and isn't sure what kind of work would give her the best opportunity to apply her gift.
Origin: Her superpower grew in gradually.
Uniform: Tastee Shack uniform of beige slacks and blouse.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Customer Service, Good (+2) Singer, Good (+2) Spirituality, Good (+2) Sunny Personality
Powers: Average (0) Have a Nice Day
Motivation: Has no clue yet.

Amber Chakrabarti -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair.  She is first-generation American; her parents immigrated from India.  She plays both American folk music (on guitar) and Indian classical music (on sitar) as a hobby.  At 20, Amber is studying psychology in college.  She works part-time at a local mall as an Emotional First Aide for college credit and pocket money.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Psychology Student, Good (+2) Emotional First Aid, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Musician

* * *

Prejudice is belief without evidence.  This may work in the short term, but consistently undermines success in the long term because bigots do not learn and adapt well to changing circumstances.  Know how to overcome prejudice in yourself and the world around you.  There are also wider strategies to fight prejudice in general.  In Terramagne, prejudice against people with superpowers resembles that against homosexuals or people of color.

There are many tactics for dealing with a prejudiced person.  You can avoid or disapprove of them, which spares you their crap and discourages them from spreading it; this is likely why Chester didn't get a job at TruckMart.  Alternatively you can engage with them, which is more work but has a higher chance of improving their behavior.

Terramagne teaches emotional first aid, a set of techniques for dealing with psychological shock, about as much as our world teaches physical first aid.  That means when something goes wrong, there's a pretty good chance that someone in the vicinity will know how to make it better instead of worse.  An Emotional First Aide is someone trained in those techniques, often available at a first aid or information desk at institutions or events; the ones who ride in ambulances have higher training.  Understand how to offer emotional support and help an upset person calm down.  There are also tips for treating yourself.

OOH, yes!

Date: 2014-10-24 02:55 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
This is LOVELY.

Of course, now I wonder how a fork would react /after/ this, when they can't "escape" the effect, or would they realize that the soup /can't escape the field/ either!

Re: OOH, yes!

Date: 2014-10-24 08:49 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's not necessary for him to figure that out /immediately/--- think of a visit in a year or so, Malaya's now shift supervisor, he's grabbing lunch with coworkers... and just has a quiet moment of ... Wow, crud... Like Tantalus stuck in the river, isn't she? And then really /thinks/ about how it might not affect her at all, while other people's days improve all around her?.... He might be /wrong/, that's not the point. The point is he'd start to think that there's a huge range of reactions to having a superpower, especially one that doesn't turn off.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-24 05:50 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Wow. She's like a walking Black Swan effect.

Now I'm wondering if/how it does affect her. Charmed life? Just impossible to be cranky? Or does she have a weight pulling her in the direction of "good day" all the time, even when it's demonstrably not a good day?

Interesting business, superpowers.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Golly gee whiz wow indeed. 'Ability' doesn't translate into 'effortless,' but I still wonder how much it affects people who do it a lot.

If I'm in public on large commercial shopping days (which happens, at least once a year) I make a concerted effort to stay upbeat and contagiously happy. I learned this from a relative, and when we're in groups, it seems the effect is easier to pull off and goes further.

That's hard, intentional -work- rather than anything innate, but it's worth it, particularly when the grumpiest people start to figure out that they can make an effort to be grumpy against the shifting emotional tide, or they can roll with it and have more fun.

This also makes the checkers' days easier - the best run we ever had was when the POS systems were down (that's point of sale, rather than piece of junk, but it still applies)- there were four of us, and we turned a line of about four dozen from grumbling and angry to at least relaxed, and a few individuals were really cheerful by the time we got moving again. In that case, we had about half an hour to work on it, though.

It's also exhausting, and the post-shopping "fall on face" is just part of the routine. *s*

(Er, don't know if this kind of comment is useful/welcome? Personal anecdotes can as easily go in my own space so I'm not taking up yours.)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-25 02:03 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
I like reading about this. I usually don't make the effort, but when I have good days and find myself smiling, I've seen people start to pick up around me.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-25 04:44 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Both useful and welcome, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm quite sure that this kind of emotional contagion is why kittens make such great antidepressants. (They still have painful side-effects, though, especially if you don't keep their claws trimmed!)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-28 10:12 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
I have been chuckling re: kittens for a few days. :)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-29 01:09 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
:)

I never realized how much of a cat person I was until we got ours about a year ago.

Malaya

Date: 2014-10-30 01:01 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
>> isn't sure what kind of work would give her the best opportunity to apply her gift. <<

Seems to me she's already found something that should work quite well for that - the kind of work she's currently doing brings her into contact with a lot of people, who are no less likely to be having a bad day than most other large groups of people I can think of.

Of course, if she really wants to not only apply her gift to random people, but apply it where it could do the most good, even if for fewer people, that's a different matter... and a rather complex one, at that. I can't imagine it being easy to decide what to do in that case.

I guess emergency response could work (though that gets rather close to superhero work), or maybe in the reception of the hospital..? (Assuming the luck part of her gift is strong enough to matter for that kind of thing.)

In case it wasn't obvious, I like her. :) (Also this poem.)

Huh, I just had an odd thought. If there was an anti-soup protest going on, and she passed by the group close enough to affect them with her gift, would that make them luckier in rallying support for their cause? Seeing as they would probably consider it a bad day if they didn't get any?

-EdorFaus

links

Date: 2014-12-18 11:07 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-24 12:45 pm (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
*sigh*

Could do with a little of that myself somedays... Don't think I've mentioned to you before but I really like this universe of yours.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-24 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Could do with a little of that myself somedays... <<

Yeah, me too. I've gotten a taste of it a few times. It's like if coffee made you feel as good as it smells.

>> Don't think I've mentioned to you before but I really like this universe of yours. <<

Yay! That's what I'm aiming for, eutopia. Not too perfect to exist, but full of people you'd love to go out to lunch with ... and even awesome places like Tastee Shack and Frisky Critters to do it at.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-25 04:00 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Dr.Whomster)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
• eutopia
> 8-D
Edited Date: 2014-10-25 04:00 am (UTC)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-25 04:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It's part of a set:

Utopia (too good to be true)
Eutopia (good enough to exist, but not perfect)
Pseudotopia (pretends to be utopic but has dystopic features)
Dystopia (really awful)

From my notes for a panel I'd really like to run one day: "Those Who Set Fire to Omelas."

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-25 09:11 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Nice. The first and fourth, of course, being well established terms; and the specific meanings, except for "dystopia", are not strictly deducible from the etymologies.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-25 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Utopia literally means "no place," and began with a story. That one, you have to know that it's supposed to be a place that's too good to really exist.

"Eu-" means "good," so "eutopia" is "good place."

"Pseudo-" means "false," and oh hey the entry says "in appearance only," that's even better. "False place," which pretends to be better than it is, seems reasonably straightforward to figure out.

"Dys-" means "bad," so "bad place."

And "-topia" comes from "topos" for "place."

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-25 09:47 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oh yes, I know all that. St. John's College, 1965-1967. In English pronunciation, "eu-" and "u-" are indistinguishable, which has led to much misunderstanding. ... Oh! And what's more, More knew it and played with it.WP

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-26 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I noticed the wordplay, yes.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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