Goddamn you ‘Tomorrow’s World’! Where is the sweet-smelling utopia you promised me in the late 70’s?
In its place is a vision of dystopian angst where a man sits in traffic being bombarded by moronic tweets. He could have made something of his life if it wasn’t for all the constant interruptions. To his left and right he sees that his fellow motorists are in similar catatonic states. His brain twitches and splutters with occasional life ‘…What was that great idea I had yesterday before someone sent me a link to a monkey throwing faeces at a nun? I’ll never get those eight seconds back…What other important stuff did it shunt it out of my head?…Can’t get my relatively high-powered car above 15 miles an hour…must invent time machine…warn past self…can’t…form…rationale…help me…’
Arriving at work he finds that a shadowy conspiracy has altered the rules of established logic. The doors to the server room and all of its valuable data have been left open, but the stationary cupboard is being protected by a hexadecimal key-code. Even if he solves the code he’ll still have the armoured drones to deal with, but he really needs those post-it notes. He considered sacrificing one of his team members.
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ he chides himself, ‘think of the admin.’
Poor chap – his primitive cranium simply hasn’t had enough time to adapt to the sudden super-stimuli of modern life – all those endless images streaming at him, the conference calls where someone forgets to go on mute and reveals that their multi-tasking abilities consist of lying about working from home whilst doing the hoovering, and the blinking pilot light informing him that his synapses are melting. Too much information.
A friend recently extolled the virtues of a new voice-activated i-phone feature whereby you can ask what the weather will be like, and then it tells you! ‘You used to have to go out and buy a newspaper. It took at least ten minutes. Now it takes ten seconds.’
‘Yes, but what an enjoyable ten minutes they were,’ I replied, ‘getting a brolly, maybe whistling a made-up tune and enjoying a brisk walk, perhaps engaging in conversation with a real / non-chat-room-based woman, focusing on one thing. Now you’ve got to fill up those ten minutes with other meaningless crap! Everything’s so efficient nowadays, so why do I have less time?’
…Which was possibly a massive overreaction, but he seemed to take it all in good spirits.
And besides, being focused isn’t always a good thing. In some cases it can lead to obsessional fanaticism….
Over the road from my house there is a small car park. It isn’t clear who owns the land, and it is invariable empty. However, anyone daring to park there is subject to the remorseless wrath of a little old man who sneaks out of an adjacent flat when he thinks no one is watching and dished out non-inforcable parking tickets which are written in biro. The tickets include a fine (mine was £100). I’m not sure who the fine should be paid to, or whether it should be with real or biro money.
Enough of my friends have been fined over the years for me to consider it high-time to invoke counter measures, so last week, just as it was getting dark, I deliberately used the car park, walked round to the back door if my house, went upstairs, turned off the lights…and waited.
With the exception of a thermos and infra-red camera I imagine it was alot like badger-watching. After less than ten minutes he appeared, bold as brass; a slip of paper in his hand. I waited till he was out in the open and reaching for the windscreen before I pressed the key-fob that activated the headlights.
For a man of advancing years he sure can shift!
A few days later I was taking a brisk walk / buying a newspaper / checking the weather. It was only down the road so I left my slippers on and took a cup of tea with me. Passing a bus stop I heard someone say ‘That’s a good idea.’ I looked up and came face to face with the village’s self-appointed traffic warden. We struck up a conversation and I was informed that he was on the way to see his grandson.
‘Why don’t you drive?’ I asked innocently.
‘I don’t own a car.’
In an alternative universe I unmasked myself as his adversary, castigated him for terrorising the neighbourhood and doled out some brutal old-school street justice. But back in reality I took a certain amount of joy in his eccentricity and wished him a pleasant evening.
Arriving home I was seized with panic and dropped to my knees – ‘Please God, don’t let me end up like this. Don’t let this be my future – grumbling under my breath that next door’s hedge is getting a bit unkempt and writing them a stern letter that I post anonymously at 4am.’
It’s a definite possibility that we’re all pre-destined to travel along the conveyor belt to senility. I’m already moaning about the quality of modern pop music and I’m only in my thirties.
I concluded my prayer with the words ‘Please help me to refrain from pettiness. Amen.’
The very next thing I did was check my e-mail. I’m hosting a school reunion shortly and someone had written to inquire about parking spaces. ‘Will there be enough room or should I get a train?’
‘Don’t worry about space,’ I reply, ‘there’s loads of it. I own a car park.’