The runaway variable

It all started a few months after I was first conceived. I still remember the day it all happened. The file I was to live in was created in a flurry of activity. I was one of the first variables that were declared. Well, to be completely accurate I’m not a variable, I’m an attribute – a member of an exclusive group that gives an object its state and identity. This is the story of my escape and subsequent capture.

Since I have only a couple of siblings, we all felt honored and special. We received special attention for the next few days after we were created. It seemed like the whole world – or at least the whole program – depended on us. Then a day
passed and the file that we lived in wasn’t opened. We still had to work every now and then, but days and weeks began to pass without anyone paying any attention to me and my siblings.


Now my siblings are a complacent lot. They were satisfied and thought that life
was good. After all, we only had to do some work every now and then – and the work wasn’t even very strenuous. But I began to feel unneeded and unwanted. My work was mundane, boring and routine. No one would miss me if I ran away. I was sure of it. Biding my time I plotted my escape carefully.

Then my time finally came. A neighboring class passed me a message that a longer holiday was coming along. I’d have four full days in which I could try to hide
my trail and find a good hiding place in some obscure class…


I made my way through a multitude of files. Through the plains of literary code
where a hiding place was hard to find amidst all of the structure and clear, readable code to the craggy mountains of obscure and convoluted code. The files of
quick hacks, one-liners and odd computations with poorly named variables offered many a place to hide. Wanting my escape to succeed and stay free I made a map of all of the potential hiding places.

Finally I found it. My ideal little corner: an obscure, apparently unused function in a bloated file with poor design. My timing was perfect, as soon as I’d settled in the programmer’s vacation ended and all of the code surrounding me had to get back to work.


The feelings I felt, when work started as normal – all around me code was put to work and I was not needed – were undescribeable. On one hand I felt elation for being right and succeeding in my escape; on the other I was disappointed to see that no one cared enough for me to notice me being gone. My siblings were probably overjoyed to have the room I freed to romp around in.

However, my joy did not last long. My colleagues near by became annoyed by the fact that they had to work almost continuously and all I did was lie about and watch them toiling away. Since I refused to leave my perfect and safe hiding place, they began behaving oddly – causing all sorts of havoc. Now I realised the greatest fault in my plan.

The messier the code, the more important it was and the more attention it got. Once my colleagues began their trickery the search was on. I was now a fugitive.
Oh the horror. And I knew that I could find no safe haven. All around me other variables were green with envy for my situation. Oh if they’d would’ve only known the stress of living as a fugitive. Running from one file to another trying to
escape detection.


At times I made the mistake of settling down in some obscured code that was commented out – only to find the programmer returning to the code and continuing work on it. Quite a few times I narrowly escaped from a certain death when portions of code were cut and set to the gaping maws of /dev/null. Oh, the
horror.

My problem was, that I was running out of places to go. The programmer kept setting all kinds of traps for me. Once I found myself walking into a booby trap in
a nice little corner in some backwater part of the code. I couldn’t help it, my
presence always changed the state of the object I was in. The programmer put in
a sneaky observer to monitor the state of the objects. That’s how he found me. The sneaky traitor of an observer tattled on me.


I must admit, this time is was outwitted. The programmer had noticed that I didn’t enjoy staying in the core, most used and active object; but in the outskirts
of it all. So, instead of building the booby traps from the core outwards, he started from the outskirts and spiraled in. He outwitted me once, but I have also
observed and learned. Next time I will succeed.

I am $i. I ran away and was caught. This is my punishment. See, I repent. Can I
be freed now? [Ed. NO!]

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