It’s a good thing I have the internet.
Quotes. I was reading a book the other day and…
An equally famous (but equally dead) mathematician who does not poop on my car (at least, not much) once observed that human endeavour doesn’t always lead to things one can be proud of. An American writer (not dead) who is/was fond of the theme of things falling apart used the Famous Mathematician’s quote to introduce a 1975 novel about, well, things falling apart. (The novel opens with a romantic encounter being interrupted by rampaging cub scouts and ends two hundred and fifty years later with the total collapse of western civilization.) Just as in real life, things were not a uniform drift toward better things.
While it’s true that ‘many’ things in Real Life are ‘better’ than once they were, not every ‘good thing’ is uniformly good. Take computers, for example: on the positive side of the balance sheet, computers let you blow up foul mouthed teenagers from other countries. Plus you can’t get a degree in nothing without computers. And of course you couldn’t read the semi-literate ravings of someone named after a houseplant without a computer. Computers are great. I should buy another one.
But they do have a dark side. For one thing, they bring foul mouthed teenagers from other countries into your home. (They bring other things you’d probably rather not see as well.) They provide a key to the front door for every exiled prince and dictator’s widow on the planet. They make it easier for you to make mistakes.
The list goes on.
Along with the Good and Bad parts of modern life, there are things that aren’t necessarily either but that are… annoying. Things like ‘baby on board’ signs. ‘Courtesy calls’ from telemarketers. (I just had one from a stockbroker in Missouri. Lucky me.) Debit cards. People in front of you (and behind you) in lineups.
That list is a long one too. (For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.)
Recently one of those annoyances got the better of me.
I’ve mentioned (hmm — perhaps ‘ridiculed’ would be a better word but it doesn’t really work in the sentence) that I own one of those music-players-that-must-not-be-named-because-they-use-studlycaps-and-I-would-look-like-a-halfwit-if-spelled-it. I typically don’t carry it around with me, though — instead, I have several (four I think) things I plug it in to. That means that I have to carry an incredibly heavy object (21 grams says the internet) vast distances — ten meters AT LEAST. The whole process is incredibly onerous. (Not to mention annoying — I have to walk to THE NEXT ROOM to hear dancing fleas? Cue berserker rage.) It only took me eight years to think of a solution.
I should get another one.
So I kept my eyes open and periodically checked the classifieds. I was looking for a good price, something used but not too used, big enough to hold a month’s worth of music more or less, not too heavy (I am, after all, a bit of a feeb), that sort of thing. And one day, there it was: 1.9 kilometers away, good shape, good size, good price. Massively heavy, of course (fifteen grams heavier than mine) but I figured that I could probably live with that. It’d annoy me, but I recently read somewhere that modern life is full of annoyances.
So I contacted the seller. Was it still available? It was. “Like new” he said. “Is it a problem that it’s pink?” he asked. It wasn’t. The next question was where we could meet. He suggested a nearby doughnut shop, part of a chain with a semi-literate public relations firm on retainer.
This particular doughnut shop chain is, in some ways, a Canadian icon. I mean, their doughnuts aren’t fresh, they have a history of inconsistent customer relations and they make their employees wear funny hats but, well, they’re everywhere (over 4000 of them in Canada, twenty-two in town and two of those are across the street from one another), they sponsor curling and the chain was founded by a hockey player.
Now, meeting a stranger in a potentially crowded public place can be a little tricky. How do you do it? Well, that requires a little planning. There’s cliché — “I’ll be the one wearing a red carnation.”. (Which doesn’t always work, of course — in 1966 the ‘carnation’ scheme failed spectacularly and led directly to the theft of the North Pole. Hilarity — not to mention calamity — ensued.) There’s cloak and dagger — “The old countersign or the new countersign?” There’s common sense (“I’ll just email you a selfie so you know who to look for.”).
We did none of these, of course.
I showed up at the doughnut shop and I was even on time. Unfortunately, it appeared that we had scheduled our rendezvous (not that kind — no Fred Astaire lookalikes were harmed, at least not by carnivorous shoes) too close to lunchtime: it was busy. The parking lot was full. All of the tables were full. The walkway outside the shop was full (not customers, but people with smartphones leeching Wi-Fi).
One of these people had a pink music player for me, but which one? Perhaps emailing that selfie would have been a good idea. Perhaps any sort of planning would have been a good idea.
Just then, one of the Wi-Fi leechers left so I grabbed his spot, hauled out my phone and Lo! I had mail from The Guy. Apparently he was here somewhere. I scanned the hordes and sent a reply — where was he, exactly? A couple of seconds after I hit ‘send,’ the phone of the guy standing right next to me beeped its little ‘You have new mail’ beep. Could it be?
In retrospect, a carnation might have been easier.