Imagine if life was exactly like the Internet? Well, let me rephrase that slightly: imagine if the tiny fragments of ‘real life’ that remain to us were exactly like the Internet?
A decreasing number of us decrepits still wander down to the nearby shop for the proverbial pint of milk. No doubt the day is fast approaching when the Internet will do that for us as well, and anyone who still insists on the use of their own legs and larynx will be regarded as a dangerous weirdo, but for now…
I select the most attractive looking pint I can (that dairy, the blue and white one, they do good milk) and join the tail end of the evening queue, which features the usual line up of alienated old people, part time nudists, mothers who reach the checkout only to remember that they need eighteen other things as well, and foaming at the mouth residents of the Planet Neptune.
I pass a silent, yawing eternity waiting for the last of the Neptunians to be discharged by the ineffably smiling reality hostess, and humbly present my pint (probably gone sour by now).
Is there something a little weird about her smile?
“Can I get anything else for you today?”
“Eh, no. No thanks.”
“Are you sure? We have plenty of other kinds of milk that don’t taste like pure shite?”
“Ah, yes. Thanks.”
“Ah, you said ‘yes.’ So what can I get you?”
“No, no. I said ‘yes’ in answer to a question I took to be a negative. So no, I actually meant ‘no. No thanks.'”
“Are you sure this isn’t one of those times when ‘no’ really means ‘yes’?”
“Quite sure. Thank you.”
“Perhaps there are other milk related products that might interest you. How about some cheese?”
“No thanks. I’m fine for cheese.”
“We have over forty different kinds of cheese. Well, only six of them are in the store at the moment, but I’m sure if we ordered some, it could be here by … next week?”
“How about some yoghurt? That’s kind of like milk. That comes in loads of different flavours too.”
“I’m sure. But no.”
“We have plenty of milk based chocolate products too. In fact, we have loads of chocolate that’s really just milk, except frozen and loaded with sugar. Are you a bit depressed today?”
“I’m fine. Thanks.”
“‘Cos we have loads of different types of ice cream. That’s got milk in it too, or something like milk, and we’ve tons of it. There’s nothing like a bit of ice cream when you’re depressed. My girlfriend Sally now, she’s a 22-26-42 and her turn ons include skinny dipping and walks in the park, she loves a bit of ice cream when she’s depressed.”
“I – uh – really?”
“So can I put you down for some?”
The people who designed the Internet, the people who crafted consumerism, realized something very important about the so called ‘power of no.’ They realized that ‘no’ isn’t actually that powerful at all. Or more precisely, they realized that ‘no’ gets very, very tiring after just a short while. You start to feel exhausted, leached of vital fluid. You also start to feel a weird guilt. Somehow your stubborn, tiring ‘no’ is holding up all the lovely progress, like a turd blocking a water pipe.
“Ok. So no other milk based products for you today. Are you interested in anything other than milk? How about football?”
“Yes. There are some great deals going on at the moment. You know you can bet on anything, literally anything, at any moment of any game. How about Suarez to score for Barcelona in the next 10 minutes? If you bet 20, they give you 200. A steal.”
“Are Barcelona even playing at the moment?”
“Want to enter the lottery? Just imagine: by this weekend you could be driving a Lamborghini around a yacht, sipping champagne from a supermodel’s bellybutton while insulting Jeremy Clarkson.”
“I see … uh.”
“You will. Of course you will.”
The smile never wavers a millimetre in either length or depth. She knows, her hive mind knows, that at some point I’m inevitably going to buckle and say ‘yes’ to something. Let’s face it. I’ve probably already done it several minutes ago.
“Ok so. How would you like me to get naked?”
“We’ve a little booth in the back where I can give you a little lap dance. For a little extra, I can even call Sally and we can have a party.”
I’ve stopped talking and started silently reciting a poorly remembered prayer.
“Ok, if not me, how about that girl at the other checkout? I could transfer you to her and she could get naked.”
I don’t know if I’m ever getting out of this. I don’t know, in the wider sense, if any of us are ever getting out of it.
But a further chilling thought occurs. Apart maybe from the last two bits, hasn’t most of this actually happened already?