From the notes of Patricia Hurley – 15 November 2023
“Each building consists of five thousand identical 72 m2 apartments, each with an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, one bathroom comprising of a shower stall, a wash basin and a toilet and two bedrooms,” extoled the guide, who introduced himself as Sam. “Solar photovoltaic systems power each building, but the lights and hot water in the apartments is centrally controlled so as to prevent excessive use by tenants. Showers are limited to 5 minutes a day per resident of the apartment. Each apartment has its own large screen TV which will air a selection of programmes and other entertainment provided free of charge by the world government.”
“I can’t believe there are hundreds of these developments being built all over the world?” I said aloud.
“It is rather astonishing,” said the guide with noticeable pride. Five thousand people will be housed in each of these apartment blocks with a total of five hundred thousand people being housed in each development.”
Sam led us into the building and into an elevator on the ground floor. He punched the button for the 50th floor.
The corridor was painted whited and the protective flooring was a dull brown. Sam withdrew a card from his pocket and scanned himself into one of the apartments. Slipping the card into the electricity activation slot on the wall, he said: “Isn’t it great.” The bright LED lights illuminated the tiny room dominated by a huge TV screen on the wall. Sam grabbed the remote control attached to the wall and flicked a button. The dark screen lit up and a menu popped up showing the selection of available programmes. For your viewing pleasure, played across the top of the screen in large text. There was a choice of three news programmes, over thirty reality shows and a selection of soap opera style shows.
There’s nothing on the list that will stimulate creativity or innovation in any way.
“Are these all the options?” I asked.
“Yes, isn’t it enough? There are fifty channels to choose from. I don’t know why we need three news channels, but some people might like it. Very generous if you ask me.”
I smiled at this poor, misguided youth. “Yes, it is certainly very generous.”
He flicked another switch on the remote and another menu appeared. I squinted at the small incons displayed on the screen and realised that this menu set out a vast selection of social media choices. All the current favourites were featured including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Tumblr, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest, WordPress, Facetime and many others.
“The buildings all have free Wi-Fi twenty four hours a day. All of the occupants of the development will be able to access the network using either their television or their iphone. Did you know every occupant will receive a free iphone? These will be upgraded every three years.” The glee in this voice was unmistakable. Our guide was one hundred percent sold on the development.
Sam held up the remote for general inspection by the group. “Look how nifty this remote is? You can type text messages on it just like a cell phone. You can also send and receive emails, if you want to.”
“I’ve saved the best for last.” Sam flicked the third button on the remove and a list of games came up. “All the newest games will be available to residents. It is unbelievable awesome.
“And,” he said, “there is no restriction on data or downloads, you can use as much as you like for as long as you like. The network doesn’t switch off at 10 P.M. like the lights do. You can watch all day and all night if you want to.” Sounds completely ruinous to people’s health and mental well-being, I thought.
“Don’t you think this system will make people antisocial?” asked one of the tour participants.
“Nah,” said Sam. “It’s great. I don’t have to get off the couch to meet my friends. I can just lie here and chat to them via Skype or Facetime.”
“But don’t you prefer to meet your friends face-to-face,” I asked. “Nah,” he said again. “I’m happy to do it from here.” A reflective look crossed his face. “Of course, my girlfriend can come over sometimes, but not every day. I’ve got a life to live, you know. I plan to go to the canteen for meals and I can see my mates then. The meal menus I’ve seen are not bad and I won’t have to do any preparation or cleaning up.”
There was a stunned silence and the man took this as a cue to guide us out of the apartment and back towards the elevators. When the doors swished open on the ground floor, I dashed out and through the revolving glass doors of the entrance. The cold air outside was bracing and settled my churning stomach. The man’s comments and thoughts, combined with the out-sized residential buildings and their surrounds that made me feel weak and ill. My nausea soon passed, and I was ready to re-join the group.
This post was written for Linda G. Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt as follows: “Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “social.” Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!” You can join in here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/06/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-15-19/