“Wrong!” You seemed frustrated about a comment made on the radio — that in just fifteen years, it will be illegal for non-self-driving cars to be on the road. “We barely have self-driving people.” You’d “had it with all the crystal-gazing going on in Silicon Valley.” You said, “Leave your Googley campus for a week, and don’t go to some east coast equivalent called,” you adjusted your tone of voice for the effect of quotes without actually signaling air quotes, “the innovation district.”
You worked for the housing authority. “We have whole communities of people about to be displaced because of erosion. Ha! Erosion! And I’ve got to listen to this moron dreamscape about ‘our‘ future.” We talked about the verbification of nouns, like to text, to message, to friend, or to inbox, or even to coffee. This was nothing new in English, and you said, “Yeah, but techsters make it feel like nails on a chalkboard.” We talked about the reverse, too. “Oh, you mean nounification,” you said. I said, “Yeah, you know, like the ask or the reveal.” You were nonplussed, though. After leaning in for a moment, you fell back. You reached your clawing hands up as if to clamp onto a person’s head so they could read your lips. “If these tech-heads spent ten minutes in a place like the one we’re in right now, they’d—” but I nearly ran off the road trying to avoid a manhole sized pothole, losing track of what you said.
The conversation about technology innovation “makes me want to get violent,” you said with a peaceful but somehow congruous tone. I asked you if you were OK. You said, “Yeah, I’m OK,” apologetically. Rubbing your face now, over a kind of surrendering sigh, you said, “Ironically, they’re disconnected.”
You asked me to pull over at the warehouse-turned-club where we were picking up a friend of yours who was involved in a difficult-looking conversation. “He tends bar,” you said about your friend, who was now walking away from his manager with his middle finger in the air over his head. He hopped into the car. He started in immediately. “Once a week, this forsaken place fills up with oily MBAs.” He went on, explaining that they were from abroad, and among other things he made to sound like aspersions, “they don’t drink … because of their religious beliefs.” As he groveled openly, I realized that he found this to be objectionable simply because they’d order non-alcoholic drinks all night, “which was fine,” but didn’t feel the need to tip on such drinks. On top of this, he added, “And they’re rude.” He quit right there in front of us before saddling up for the ride.
We caught your friend up to speed on our previous discussion. Then we talked about what our world of income inequality would begin to look like if it just kept getting worse. He thought a few of us would eventually leave millions of others behind. “And it’s not about them leaving a planet of hungry people for a space station. I’m talking about right here in front of us. That’s how it’s turning out. It’s not about income. It’s about outcome. It’s outcome inequality.”
Just after the two of you left for your game of Dixit, a board game in which you have to match one in a hand of illustrated, dreamlike cards to a designated storyteller’s previously displayed title card, I turned up a segment about the world’s refugee crisis that came on over the radio. In limbo between rides, I reflected on a setting of eroding public housing, interconnected smart-buildings of soft-drink guzzling non-tippers, and self-driving automobiles coasting along the shores of a whirlpool of drowning immigrants. Think Hireonymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights meets his Last Judgment, and animate it to Meat Loaf.