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Whatever Happened to Yesterday’s Tomorrow?

31 Aug

by Roger White 

It sideswiped me as I was watching the movie “Blade Runner” the other day: We, as human types, tend to either fantastically overestimate ourselves or woefully underestimate ourselves. We don’t have what you would call a crystalline view of just who we are. Or maybe we do, and we simply don’t like what we see. So we embellish a bit.

Let me splain, Lucy. If you recall the premise of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film noir, Harrison Ford was a Los Angeles cop in the year 2019, tasked with tracking down rebellious human replicants who had escaped the offworld colonies and were terrorizing people, spraying graffiti everywhere, and generally wreaking futuristic havoc. LA was a rainy, crowded, grimy mess, but we did have nifty gravity-defying Jetson cars, all sorts of cool robot toys, and apparently four-bedroom villas on the moon. And Darryl Hannah had great legs. For a replicant.

Kids, 2019 is only about seven years down the road (assuming the Mayans simply ran out of writing utensils and 2012 is not the ultimate calendar), and I really don’t see a gravity-defying Honda Civic hovering over my driveway anytime soon. Interesting, isn’t it, how badly we miss the mark when conjuring the future? We either envision that we’ve made such tremendous advances that we have a Wal-Mart on Neptune in a few decades or we’ve somehow erased ourselves from the cosmos entirely with (pick your poison) nuclear war, mutant avian flu, ozone layer neglect, overpopulation, underpopulation, zombie attack, alien invasion, bedbug pandemic, or End of Days Wrath incurred from The Big Guy. The one thing many religious texts and Hollywood have in common is the opinion that we’re not quite measuring up to The Head Honcho’s standards, if ya know what I mean. Personally, I think we’re being a little hard on ourselves, but that’s just me.

Let me give you some more examples. The Twilight Zone episode “The Long Morrow,” which aired in 1964, presented the dilemma of an astronaut in 1987 who was deliberating on whether he should be placed in suspended animation for his 40-year voyage to a star system 141 light years away. In reality, do you remember where we were technology-wise, as a civilization, in 1987? The only significant events I could dredge up from that year were the invention of the disposable contact lens, the launching of the Fox network on primetime television (oh, joy), and the world land speed record set by a diesel-powered locomotive at a mind-boggling 147 miles per hour. Oh, I almost forgot, “The Simpsons” debuted that year as a short film on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” And there was much rejoicing.

On the flip side of this—again using Mr. Serling’s master work for reference—the Zone episode entitled “The Old Man in the Cave,” which aired in 1963, gave us a post-apocalyptic view of an American wasteland, burned to dust after a nuclear holocaust that occurred in 1974. Everyone was going hungry; even the canned goods were irradiated. Then James Coburn came along and told them all it was okay to eat the food. No!!! Don’t do it!! Anyway, let’s compare to the reality. My research shows that there was a soccer stampede in Cairo in 1974 that killed 49 people, but I wouldn’t term that an apocalypse. A Hungarian guy invented the Rubik’s Cube that year, which is pretty horrible (you’ll concur if you’ve ever tried to solve one of these devils), but still, this doesn’t stack up to nuclear holocaust.

What I’m getting at, people, is that we’re all just regular guys, doing regular stuff, putting the cat out, brushing our teeth, going to bed, and doing it all over again the next day. And we will go on like this, our lives a gradual bell curve of existence, until the one that left us here returns for us at last. (Tip o’ the hat to The Youngbloods.)

Sorry, Rod. Our apologies, Mr. Wells. Condolences, Ridley. We’re not sinking foundations into the soil of Venus for residential development and neighborhood Starbucks franchises in the near future; but then again, we haven’t allowed our nasty little cockroach cousins to take over Wall Street by extinguishing ourselves, either. Maybe I should rephrase that. Anyway, we’re just muddling along, still waiting for the green left-turn arrow, still raising chickens for food, still tunneling into our planet for energy and treasure. Guess it is a tad boring, going by yesterday’s prognosticators.

Perhaps 50 years from now, when future types look back on us from the helms of their intergalactic starships, they’ll laugh at how silly we were. Then again, laughter may have been abolished by then. Who knows? (Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.)

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

It’s Bumper to Bumper in my Street of Consciousness

16 May

by Roger White

 

Note to self: For drive home from work, play Burt Bacharach CD, not Black Sabbath. Remember that vein in your forehead.

I’ve been inching my way along these city roads to and from the old salt mine for about 30 years now. Thirty. Long. Years. I wonder what people who really do work in salt mines call their place of employ? The old hell hole? And what about the folks under contract to hell holes? The old eternal damnation parlor, perhaps? Hmm. I don’t know.

But traffic’s only gotten worse, hasn’t it? You know it’s bad when you can look down from your vehicle and recognize the same cigarette butt and discarded lottery ticket at that same spot in the road you were at yesterday. Man, one more scratched-off cherry, and the guy would’ve been on easy street. Ah, well. Probably bumper to bumper there, too. Why does everything get worse? Even for me, a professed curmudge, pining for the good old days can be a tad depressing at times. Surely there’s light somewhere at the end of this tunnel we call today’s living. I know, I know, that light may be an oncoming train. But if life keeps going this way, will we be three deep in cars by the time our grandkids are geezers? Will it all really be a bleak Blade Runner landscape by the time Justin Bieber checks into the Hair Club for Men?

Nevertheless, the whole workaday driving ritual is unique theater, isn’t it? And it’s not just the fact that normal, mild-mannered people morph into heartless, seething jerks once they slip into their shiny metal boxes. It’s the whole dance, the instant alliances, the one-minute wars, the hand gestures, the traffic-light trysts, the old blind-spot head bobs (“I’m sorry! I didn’t see you!”), the split-second decisions to be either magnanimous or dictatorial. “You may enter. You, I do not care for. You will wait.”

It’s all so melodramatic, Wagnerian even.

Traffic is its own world, really. For me, there are three main components of living: home life, work life, and traffic life. Well, and in-law visit life (help me, God), so four. Oh, and weekend TV sports life, which sort of cancels out in-law visit life, so that makes five, unless you rule that they canceled each other out, in which case we’re back to three. That’s up to you. And then there’s vacation life. But my point is, the daily commute is such a pancreas-twisting hassle that you must emotionally gird yourself to face it every working morning and eve. I for one think we should be compensated for daily accepting the awful challenge. Yes! I say if our places of business won’t pony up, then we demand that the state give us our due for having to get up, get clean, and battle each other tooth and nail and fender every day just to eke out a living. Eh, what? Hear, hear! Or is that here, here? There, there. Pip, pip, cheerio. All that rot! Get the pitchforks and torches! To the castle!

Sorry. Scooter’s Coffeehouse again. Too. Muchhh. Espresssooo.

What were we talking about? Ah, yes, traffic. Let me tell you something, commuters. Have patience with the 21-year-old male driver in his uber-tuned Subaru XYZ-7 or whatever with the ridiculous silver tailpipe as big as a pregnant alligator and that stupid wing on the trunk that looks like something off of Mario Andretti’s Indy racer. The 21-year-old male driver cannot be blamed for thinking he won’t be late for work if he stays one point one millimeters from your back bumper screaming and snarling at you to die all the way from one end of town to the other. Because he is overflowing with hormones. Yes, I know, we have hormones, too—but they’re not like his hormones. Medical researchers at the Mayo Hopkins Ford Clinic have actually studied 21-year-old male hormones under a microscope, and they found that they’re all riding each other’s tiny little bumpers screaming and cursing all up and down the bloodstream. So it can’t be helped.

Just like old lady drivers can’t be blamed for doing the old lady thing. I know, believe me. I used to be a 21-year-old male driver, and now I’m pretty much an old lady driver. You see, eventually, 21-year-old men turn into old ladies. Kinda, at least when it comes to driving. This tends to happen with fatherhood, as dad realizes he’ll have kids out there, too, competing and merging and trysting and all. It’s tough.

Now, let’s talk about women drivers. Oh, hi, hon. Wait, don’t.., ow .. 2i3 4rakjx qbd[[[[[[[[[[

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.