[The Road Ahead, 1,145 words, Genre: Realistic Fiction]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
They sat in the truck. Edward was only there for the heavy lifting that would occur upon delivery of the product. For the rest of the time it was a whole lot of sitting. Sitting and watching traffic drive past as they made their way to their destination. Phil told him it was alright to smoke and so that’s what he did. Rolling cigarette after cigarette, smoking them too, making sense of the world as it pertained to him. Phil was not the sort of guy who you opened up to. Or made the attempt to divulge the emotional insecurities of one’s past. For that, Phil had enough problems of his own, had lived through enough emotional turmoil and knew all too well how the world could deliver an arse kicking to the individual. If anything could be said of the walls that had been developed around his character, it was for his own security and the ability to persevere through the shit of the world that had taught him to act like this. And he wasn’t wrong either. Too many people would take advantage of those who freely divulged themselves, too many bastards out there trying to take advantage and get a leg up on one another. Edward cared little for them, but was of an opposite mind of Phil. Not that Phil said anything, it was just Edward making assumptions at this point. Edward was of the state of mind that you had to take the hits from the world, and continue taking the hits until you found someone or others who were worth taking the hits for. The hits meant very little to Edward at this point. His life was a train wreck, but the train could still go. And so he kept on going. Phil drove the truck with a cigarette in his mouth, keeping his eye on the road. He was relaxed. A tornado could come across the road and he would drive straight at it, keeping that relaxed frame of mind. The radio blared, early morning talk back radio, every so often a good tune would come on. But the talk back was shit; lucky cunts talking about their lucky lives.
Edward noticed that Phil was still using the old road maps for his directions in getting the delivery to its destination. He had an iPhone, perhaps with its own GPS system. But he was content with the old road maps. And there, in between the shitty talk back was an opening for conversation.
“Good to see you’re still using the old road maps instead of the phone.”
“Yep, prefer it that way.”
“Smart phones, stupid people I reckon.”
And that’s when Edward realised he was preaching to the choir, free of judgment, he could finally be free to express what he meant, “Y’know, life wasn’t always like this. I suppose it started with the industrial revolution. Working in factories, using machines. People began to lose a little bit too much of their humanity there. They established a working relationship with machinery there and it’s developed to this point. The only people who had relationships with their tools back before the industrial revolution were sociopaths and murderers with their murder weapons. They probably talked to the things. And now, humanity in its present condition is all about developing a working relationship with their machines.” Edward spat outside the window, “And because people have developed these relationships with their computers and their tools, they have forgotten how to deal with other human beings, how to treat one another as human beings. Instead of seeing other people as other people. They see other people as tools in their life, as a sociopath would and think to themselves, of others, ‘what use would this person be to me?’ They evaluate their social relationships on use and functionality rather than developing valid human connections. They treat other people like tools and once they’ve been used to the extent they’re going to be used, they discard them like they would a mobile phone with a cracked screen. Then they go out and buy the latest model. Consumer values and a materialist world allow that sort of behaviour to become acceptable. More than acceptable, the norm. The industrial revolution allowed for mass production to occur and when that occurred, we all, unwittingly, placed ourselves on the production lines. Neglecting our own emotional empathies and replacing it with apathy. Life became a designer model rather than an experience. That is, you had to do this or that in order to move up through the production queue. There are some of us who have been thrown out as rejects along the production queue and are allowed to view the conveyer belt of mass conceived life for what it is. And what it is is a whole load of bullshit. People integrating these mobile phones into their everyday life, becoming so dependent on them that they don’t have to think for themselves anymore, they just google whatever they want to know and follow the instructions. Smart phones, stupid people.”
“Yep.” Edward wasn’t sure if Phil was listening or if he had already worked these things out for himself.
“So many people getting caught up in the goddamn rat race to own a whole bunch of useless crap. Useless crap that is making them stupider for their ownership of.” Edward took another drag of his cigarette. “And cigarettes. They’re restricting so many different areas that you can smoke in. With that sort of attitude you’d think people would live forever. If medical science continues with its advancements, it just might. The whole advancement of technology is disturbing the natural balance. People were meant to die. It’s part of the cycle of life. People are born, they live and then they die. Death is a horrible truth to confront, but it’s necessary.”
“Like I reckon, I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”
“The world is already overpopulated. Maybe not Australia, but have a look at traffic congestion in other countries and you’ll see the truth to it.”
“Australia’s on its way towards that too.”
“People wonder why so many people are depressed. Why people kill themselves. People who are depressed, to me, just seem more attuned to the world than others are. Whereas the people who aren’t depressed detach from their emotions and seem to be materialist, consumer scum. And the world is so farkin’ confused by it that they label the depressed people as the sick ones. When shit can’t be managed anymore, it’s not going to be just one thing, but a plethora.”
“That sounds about right. But for now, I’m just concentrating on this next section of the road in front of me.”
The radio switched from talk-back to a song. It was a good song. Edward turned up the volume, “Oh, tune!”