Red Herring Keller

Photo of a old building in Stammersdorf Vienna

3.  Red Herring Keller

By Andrew Nash

Episode 1: Vienna Woods    … Episode 2: Bunker Business

They’d been careful, they hadn’t left much sitting around, Pat made sure of that! But, watching the burglars, it suddenly dawned on them, their project might have more impact than they’d written in the grant application.

They’d proposed a “positive” social networking app designed “to make people’s lives better by freeing them from doom-scrolling in mainstream social media,” nice, but, well, you know, this part needs to be improved, and we don’t think this will work, but here’s a little money to get going. Wishy-washy and idealistic, sure – but now they had to deliver.

Historic photo of childern's outdoor swimming pool in Vienna Margarethen GurtelEnter Sibel, stage left. Andrea had taken her grandmother on one of their regular visits to the Waschsalon Museum. When Sibel overheard Oma Schmidt talking excitedly about growing up in Karl Marx Hof and summers splashing around in Kinderfreibäder, she couldn’t resist introducing herself and asking Frau Schmidt endless questions about life in Rote Wien. Sibel was an architect obsessed with the Gemeindebau housing projects.

Andrea was steeped in the spirit of Rote Wien, but somehow, she’d missed the architecture connection. For her Red Vienna was social programs like the new baby welcome packages (which Oma Schmidt brought up frequently with her favourite Enkelin) and education programs like the Volkschule.

Sibel’s questions were about the physical spaces, but, somehow, maybe the way Sibel asked them, Oma Schmidt’s answers were always about feelings and how they’d been a community – during some very tough times as she reminded them. Listening, Andrea suddenly saw what was missing from their app – the physical connection.

Sibel came for coffee the next day and never left. Her enthusiasm for planning spaces that encouraged real-world interaction bubbled over and soon the wishy-washy app wasn’t.

The app would help people share stories and ideas for places in Vienna. Chairs would be set-up in these places to encourage real discussion. They called it “Digital Gemeinde Bau” (digital community building) and asked people to describe what Rote Wien would do today. The first story was Oma Schmidt talking about community in the Karl Marx Hof.

But, back to the bunker. Andrea told them about Franz’s call and asked whether anyone else heard anything – although it was hard to focus as they watched the burglars going through their stuff. Philipp started saying something, when suddenly the burglars gathered around the short one and looked closely in a notebook he was holding. After heated discussion they left in a hurry.

Pat snickered and said, “Ha, they took the bait. I planted a red herring in that notebook, and they found it. They’re probably on their way to an abandoned Weinkeller in Stammersdorf. They’ll have a lot of fun searching that old Keller!”

“Nice, but you really are crazy you know?” replied Andrea.

Philipp added “My kind of crazy though. You should have seen the two guys who chased me! I’m glad they’re off on a goose chase. But, Andrea, what gives, why are they after us?”

“Well, I’d meant to tell you sooner, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Someone’s interested in our new physical place idea for the app. A couple weeks ago a guy called asking lots of questions and whether we’d thought about selling the app.”

“Wait” Adrian snapped, “you got an offer and didn’t tell us?”

“Yeah, sorry, I mean he was pretty unspecific, it didn’t sound like an offer at all. Now I’m beginning to wonder. One more thing, he mentioned the Metaverse.”

Suddenly the penny dropped.

Read episode 4: The Physical Network

Andy Nash

December 1, 2021


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