Loyalty Check

Maelcum spun as a door slid open to their left, the shotgun ready. A small Eurasian in orange coveralls stepped through and goggled at them. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He closed his mouth. Case glanced at the monitor. Blank.

“Who?” the man managed.

“The Rastafarian navy, Case said, standing up, the cyberspace deck banging against his hip, “and all we want’s a jack into your custodial system.”

The man swallowed. “Is this a test? It’s a loyalty check. It must be a loyalty check.” He wiped the palms of his hands on the thighs of his orange suit.

“No, mon, this a real one.” Maelcum came up out of his crouch with the Remington pointed at the Eurasian’s face. “You move it.”

William Gibson, Neuromancer

I have observed a phenomenon of late. Now, it could’ve been going on for a long time before I noticed it, but since I’m now noticing it, I will call it new. You may have had similar experiences lately too; I’m laying a lot of it at the feet of COVID – right or wrong.

Someone close to you – friend, relative, spouse, boss – presents you with a simple scenario: say or do something for me.

But it really isn’t a simple scenario; there’s dire gravity behind the request. Whether it’s your job pushing you to take on too many projects and leave your life behind or your friends asking you to do something you wouldn’t do on moral grounds. As you consider the request, you realize that it has many layers behind it. It isn’t just “do this job for me, please.” It’s “do this to show me that you are willing to put me before everything else.”

These times are difficult. I don’t know about you, but I feel threatened just by leaving my house every day. I could come home with COVID. My partner could come home with it. And neither of us would know it until we’d infected how many others? That’s a threat.

So, people are looking for security, an anchor in this awful sea of uncertainty. I get that, it’s a motivation I understand.

And as people’s uncertainty grows, insecurity follows. And now, not only is it enough that you’re present in whatever situation, it’s time for you to prove yourself.

You know what? I hate it. It’s a gun to my face, an ultimatum – do it or lose it.

Things are difficult enough right now without having to prove my worthiness to exist. Things are difficult enough even without COVID that I don’t appreciate loyalty checks. They smack of cowardice to me: you can’t just ask me a straight question or view my presence and my work as proof. You have to put me through a gauntlet of actions and scripted words to put you at ease. I don’t deal well with ultimatums, or things that feel like ultimatums.

All I want is the same as everyone: to be treated fairly. To be considered for worthiness on my own merits, not by jumping through someone else’s hoops; I’m not constantly on a job interview.

You want to know whether I trust you or am your friend or whatever? How about you just ask?


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