The root of all evil by Stuart Carruthers

picture for blog

“That’ll be two and a half hours please.”

“Two and a half hours!?” he interrobanged, “but it only took you 10 minutes!”

“Ah, but it’s not actually the length of time it takes one to do something, but the length of time it took to do the training. It’s all in the guidelines. Paragraph two point three subsection D. “Where a tariff is not directly applicable, the service provider may set their own rate based upon the amount of training they believe they have had.”

“But you’ve only changed a tire! How much training did it take?”

“That sir! Is not the point, could you have done it?”

“Of course I could have done it! A trained chimp, no offense, could have done it.

“Then why didn’t you? Sir!?” the mechanic, with the air of someone who knows he has the other party over a barrel, obsequiously asked.

“Because, I didn’t want to get my bloody dinner jacket dirty! Oh whatever, give me your card.”

The mechanic, now smiling, handed over his debit card and the surgeon held it against the back of his cell phone and deducted two and half hours off his total.

“Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure doing business with you.”

“A few more of these and I’ll be able to earn a holiday,” the mechanic thought.

A grass roots movement of communities began trading their time, rather than money, for goods and services. What started off as a good idea, started to get out of hand when law suits were filed when people didn’t get the hours they thought they were owed. After several hundred of these and the courts having their time wasted over petty civil disagreements, the government stepped in and issued guidelines as to how many hours a certain task and profession was worth. They tried to consider all jobs, but inevitably things slipped through the net and certain caveats were put in place and in the event that an agreement couldn’t be reached and independent ombudsman was placed in each area to deal with these disputes, his time was charged at a fixed rate payable by both parties.

The mechanic forgot all about it and went on his way, charging whatever he felt was appropriate. It was now manual labour workers who were time rich. Bakers could make a three-dozen loaves in three hours, yet could charge thirty minutes for each loaf. Mechanics could charge two hours for a full service and could do it in one. Solicitors, who in a cash society could charge whatever they wanted, could now only charge one hour for a ten-minute letter. Still a nice markup, but at least people weren’t going to the poor house to visit one. Our friend the surgeon was upset because, despite still being very time rich, he didn’t like being ripped off.

The surgeon contacted the ombudsman, and the ombudsman found in favor of the mechanic who once again smiled slyly at the surgeon. Now, fate is a wonderful thing and it wasn’t long before their path’s crossed once again.

“Help me doc.” The mechanic didn’t recognize his mark, with his medical Google Glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, a fresh tan from a Caribbean holiday and holiday beard he hadn’t gotten round to shaving off.

“How much will be cost?” The mechanic asked once he’d received his diagnosis.

“Hmm an appendix operation? Simple enough. Let’s say one hundred hours!”

“One hundred hours!?” it was his time to interrobang. “But the guide says it’s only worth ten hours!”

“But I foresee complications and besides which, could you do it yourself?” He winked at the mechanic.

“Don’t I know you?”

“Please give me your card.”

The mechanic meekly handed it over.

“Thank you, sir, I’ll see to it that all complications are resolved.?




Stuart Carruthers is a sceptical deist, pseudo geek and frog herder. Having escaped British winters he now lives in Taiwan where he shares his house with his wife and two kids. Find his books here:

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on Reddit

13 thoughts on “The root of all evil by Stuart Carruthers

  1. Kenneth Weene

    An interesting allegory. What a sad if honest picture Stuart paints of humanity, that we exploit the desperation of our fellow humans to maximize return to ourselves, that we charge what the market will bear, that we are motivated by greed to “get away” with taking more than we should. How sad and how true.

  2. Linda Hales

    The root of all evil is in the hearts of greedy men and women. Money is a necessity of life but a tool of greedy hearts. Excellent piece Stuart and provocative enough to make me re-examine my values. Every new post is a delightful surprise and yours is right up there my friend.

  3. Micki Peluso

    Very cleverly written. Please don’t let the government see this or they might just incorporate it into their already devious, machinations. It reminds me of the old days when there was bartering–which seemed to work fairly well for the times.

  4. Diane Piron-Gelman

    I really enjoyed this. Makes you think, especially in these days where there’s discussion of giving workers “compensatory time off” in lieu of overtime pay because time is what we’re really strapped for.

  5. James Secor

    Diane, would that be quality time or quantity time? Would that be selling generators at outrageous prices to snow-and-ice bound people or flying them in and dropping them from helicopters? Talk about powerless people!

  6. John B. Rosenman

    This allegorical piece is steeped in irony and I love irony. Anything for a buck or a thousand bucks. Make a profit at any price, and don’t give the devil his due. Well done, Stuart.

  7. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins


    I don’t know how I missed this wonderfully written and sad reality of life.

    Growing up I witnessed how greed effects even family members that are suppose to care for one another. I watched as wealthy grandparents raising five daughters were victims of their greed. So much so that they made a will that left out the one that fought the wishes at the end. Now how sad is that reality?

    Thank you for this post.


  8. Bryan Murphy

    A wonderful illustration, a great first line and an intriguing story. I read it as a reminder that human greed will always find a way to sabotage utopian ideas. On the other hand, as we lurch towards a market-fundamentalist dystopia, even a sabotaged utopia looks attractive.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *