04 October 2012

fridayflash: for real

About three days ago I was driving home from work. I'd spent all day working on a computer with "documents" which are formatted for print but will never be printed out. I spent more time talking to people on chat than I did face to face.

During the drive I adjusted the environment controls in the car because the weather was changing, all the while listening to music on my car radio. But the music wasn't coming from a radio station — it was from my phone, which has a low-wattage FM transmitter. And while my phone can be used as a phone, most weeks it spends more time acting as a low-wattage, miniature FM station with a robot DJ that plays this list I made up.

By the time I was three-quarters of the way home, I was starting to feel hungry, and I had a lot of chores to do, so I decided to stop at a restaurant near my house and eat there to save time. The restaurant claims to be a sports bar, but the two sports channels on the six TV screens were just showing crash reels. One station was showing a guy accidentally throwing his golf club instead of hitting the ball. The other one was showing race cars on a track, all crashing into each other because they were trying to avoid a kangaroo that had wandered out onto the racetrack.

And even though the restaurant was making an attempt to be a sports bar by tuning in to these sport stations (that weren't playing any sports), the place was full of mothers with kids. The mothers and kids seemed to be having nice meals out, but none of them were watching the TV screens.

I ordered nachos, which tasted like... restaurant nachos. The chips were green and white. The cheese was plasticky — I couldn't even tell you what kind of cheese it was supposed to be. The salsa didn't look like salsa, so I stuck with the sour cream and the guacamole.

The server left me the bill and a handful of after-dinner mints, which were sweetened with artificial sweeteners and flavoured with artificial flavours. As I waited for the debit card machine to complete the transaction to pay the bill, I looked around the restaurant. There was a little girl glancing from her plate to her mother, saying, "But Mommy, what is it?" From where I was sitting, I couldn't tell either.

Then what happened? Nothing. I drove home, got on my personal computer, did the stuff I had to do.

And then stayed up all night, trying to remember the last time I did something that didn't involve looking through glass — window or screen — or accepting someone else's idea of a comfortable environment.

Can you?


  1. Yeah. Coming out of my last errand today, it was pouring rain outside. I had my arms full of grocery bags, but I let them hang at my sides and strolled leisurely through the muggy downpour. It wasn't too chill, and the air was warm enough to compensate for any coldness from the droplets. I did a very little dance on the way to my car, not looking through glass or accepting anybody else in the lot's idea of comfortable. It's very good to do those things for yourself. I look out for such opportunities often, to lubricate the psyche.

    1. Hey, why not? It's only rain -- just water and a bit of sulphuric acid and pesticide runoff :-).

  2. oooh the alienation was palpable in this. Dripping with bodily & mental estrangement from the environment in which the being has to move through. Still, they got the guacamole right so it's not apocalyptical!

    marc nash

  3. I like the narrator's negativity and its interesting that they themselves are so resigned and passive.

    1. Just how much happier they'd be if they weren't self-aware :-)

  4. The narrator makes me think of the fact that when I was a kid we went outside and played, nowadays most of their playing is done at a computer or video games screen, I would have loved this technology when I was a kid, but everything comes with a price tag, we give up social interaction for digital.

    Although I am not very heavily into social technology, no Facebook or Twitter, this story certainly gave me food for thought.

    1. It's funny about that -- when I was a teacher, I read about a study which showed that teenagers at least were spending as much time face-to-face with friends and being outdoors as they ever did. The price of the new computer time was being paid by watching less TV instead.

      I am no fan of Facebook -- I quit it in 2009 or so and haven't looked back. Twitter I like just because it is so take-it-or-leave-it.

  5. I need to go outside and take a walk....


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