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day by day: a blog

January 09, 2010

a story about modernity

The Situation: We see each other five days a week but we never talk. Like two diligent ants committed to our dull, programmed pre-conscious tasks we routinely park almost next to each other in the same featureless cul-de-sac when we drop our kids off at the elementary school. But, for all this, we work circumspectly but systematically to remain strangers. In the morning freshness, eye contact is scrupulously avoided and no bracing or cheery words, nor even manly nods, ever get exchanged. Truly, we practice the indifference of robots. He walks by me as if, were you to stop him and unscrew the covering on one of his plastic eyeballs, you would uncover a large photosensitive cell and a few wires. And if you were to unscrew me?

Footnotes to the Situation: He is short, dark-haired and dresses with a simplified stylishness. I know he is a scientist (company directory, working back from his daughter's name). From seeing that we drive back from school in the same general direction, I know too that he and his child live in the same part of town, as we do.

Observation: He gets under my skin.

Questions: Does my anger or fear (camouflaged sometimes as pity) derive from the red blotches on his cheeks, infallibly denoting the heavy drinker? Does it come from seeing that his car, though as bland in design as mine, is larger and more powerful (and thus more expensive) than mine? In other words, is this a socially derived frenzy (or jealousy?) on my part – the class anxiety of the irrelevant humanist before the trophies of science's sedulous acolyte? Does my anger (camouflaged sometimes as concern) come from suspecting that he is a disturbed man, a bully? I instance here his drives home, the blue car flashing past my stolid green vehicle, which have been more than once at dangerously high speed, manifesting the symptoms of road-rage – for example, the aggressive shrieking of his horn at dawdlers, the weaving between lanes, the determination to be first away from the light?

Or does this anger come from the mere fact of my being a so truly weak and resourceless character that when another person systematically (and perhaps pathologically?) ignores my existence, somewhere inside my ant mind I feel manically prompted to "take action"? Though of course, let me be very clear about this, the "action" I am talking about here exists only in fantasy, albeit that "action" is of a darkly retributive nature.

Conclusion: The thought occurs to me that if we had had the misfortune to be living say two thousand years ago, I would have designed a careful, essentially cowardly, ambush, knocked him in the eye (he would never hunt again), and (if he didn't get me first) would have walked off with his fur hat and arrows. And, in this daydream of mine, I flatter myself that the village would have thanked me.

[Author's note: No intended resemblances exist between the entirely fictional person described here and any living person. And if any are imagined, the similarities discerned are entirely fallacious in nature.]

Posted by njenkins at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

With the exception of the interspersed quotations, all writing © 2007-10 by Nicholas Jenkins [back]