When I got off the bus yesterday at Luzernerhof and turned the corner and my back on the Lake to (sh)amble shambolically homewards up a familiar concrete canyon, distinguished by the California [which has beers of considerable counting], the outlet Interio-r and the place-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned to drink coffee globally, something happened. Reality leaped out of the reel it is supposed to run through for a moment. Instead of the usual dastardly flow of cars, traffic pouring down from the hinterlands into the town on the lake, something else approached.
I did not have to do a double-take because I am familiar with the gestalt: a little herd of Segway riders. Usually the risible sight of people employing a helpless means of transportation that has not caught on and, I imagine, never will, just to me has a certain air of entertainment or absurdity or hilarity about it. The thing was designed for mall security guards, for obese cops on the beat in a peaceable park and folks to lazy to pedal a bike. Christ. I find myself wondering what is the point apart from novelty value and minor showboating. I don’t know, I entertain multiple possibilities.
However, in this scenario these considerations were not at the top of my mind.
There were four or five Segwaynauts, all of them dressed darkly and wearing burning neon-yellow signal jackets, moving in a pack that occupied the approximate space of a station wagon or small U-Haul truck. Their faces were smiling as they leaned slightly forward to signal to their high-tech vehicle that that is the direction they want to move in. Anthracite high-tech-fiber helmets protected their heads against violent, blunt impact and thereby death or coma, regression into all varieties of vegetative stasis. They were clearly not supposed to be there: their faces expressed knowledge of this. They had come to explore earth as one of multiple possible planets.
The riders hovered in my short term memory for a few moments, or I let them do so, then drifted out into the great Ocean of Amnesia. A Chinese (I would guess) woman with a camera went chasing after them, clucking loudly to her friends (that she had just seen a horde of most outlandish creatures, worth running and breaking a bone for).
Later, sitting in my room, the dark orange surf rolling in above, I remembered what they had remembered me of to begin with: that movie by Angelopoulos from the depths of all our dreams «Eternity and a Day» [Mia aioniotita kai mia mera]. At one point in the movie as the protagonist, Alexander the bearded poet, rides an electric trolley through the night the camera falls back or something. I can’t quite remember, that is, I do remember but incorrectly, filling the gaps with my imagination so smoothly that it becomes impossible to discern the contours of the memory. I remember the camera shooting the night. [The question of lighting must have been a complex one over which the producers lost a lot of sleep.] And out of the swallowing black, incongruent, three or four bicyclists appeared, will appear if you get the DVD and watch it, dressed in searing yellow rain-coats for no evident reason. Impressive, resonant, archetypal. If watching the movie you are not wearing an Anthracite high-tech-fiber helmet your visual sensibilities will suffer blunt force trauma and the images, now and then, flame back up brightly in all their glorious incomprehensibility.
Eternity and today.
Still later, it came back to me that a few days before, while waiting for the electro trolley, I had watched a Segway rider zoom through main street and thence across the bridge. The tires on the vehicle were fat and spiked for Off-Road use.
I can try to imagine this now, a Segway hurtling across rocky country roads and up and down meadows, always just on the point of crashing badly. And sometimes doing so, the driver taking a wide-eyed spill over the steering stick. Perhaps I am to unimaginative but again I fail to see the point: why lug an electrovehicle out to the country side? Are you saying it has enough power to perform in any meaningful way out there? Isn’t balancing a precarious affair for such a vertical contraption when navigating off-roady terrain? It boils down to this: why?
The other time I was at the department store to get a new shoulder-held bag for my laptop. The one I had, had a hole in it and had begun to fold up weirdly, like a difficult Origami where the pre-folded crease pattern simply will not do what is described so very logically in the book. Or on MabonaOrigami, which is Origami Deluxe. I was dealing with a very unwelcome valley fold, to use the correct terminology, the ones that come up and at you. Plus the hole at the corner made the impression of just looking forward to the next rainy day [not all that rare in Lucerne] or an unfortunately spilled beverage or to demonstrate that Murphy’s law is not just some fancy B.S. In any case, I was not looking to conspire with the hole’s raison d’être or take risks with my priciest, most cherished investment [my wonderful Mac], external backup HD or no.
Thus into the store I went, up the escalators which are lined by colorful, arched glass windows that have you 99% convinced the place was a temple for some god before it was re-functionalized to be one for consumption. I have this self-deceiving incantation that I repeat to myself when I am on a shopping spree, namely that all the stuff I purchase serves a purely pragmatic purpose and that by any reasonable interpretation, I am not so much engaging in conspicuous consumption [which, let’s face it, is a constituent of modern life] but rather a form of sustenance economy, e.g. the modern day equivalent of foraging or weaving a wicker-basket or tracking down a Mammut. This romantic fancy indeed works pretty well.
What helps enhance this mode of fantasizing is when there is a wide variety of different articles serving the same basic purpose and then I go ahead and buy one of the cheaper ones [if not the cheapest due to its lack of durability, an important consideration if you want to make it as a spartan forager]. Plus positively convince my self that it also is by far the most functional and does in effect nothing more than fulfill the exact sparse purpose/need that I have, after long hard deliberation, decided to be an integral part of my everyday life. Without which my quality of life would suffer significantly. Sustainable self-deception, in my experience, usually needs second tier constructions at the very least. Skeptical of most supply-and-demand theologies, I attempt to imagine myself in a holistic basic-human-need-and-supply matrix. Mostly it is impossible to tell if this is just fooling around or something like the truth.
It worked well on this particular occasion, as the alternative option was a much pricier, much less functional [no shoulder strap] laptop bag that was evidently designed for bohemian showboaters. Definition: I ≠ bohemian showboater. However, when I showed up at the check-out counte, the sales lady only just gave me a look of incomprehension. I had gone to Manor straight from work and still happened to have my old bag slung around my severely sagging shoulder.
“Why are you buying this?” she said in a tone of motherly concern for my prodigal ways. “I, ugh…” For a moment it seemed that she had a point, pinned me up backwards against my ideals. It was just a small hole, couldn’t I mend it? Or perhaps she was telling me that she would have no part in my elaborate self-deception. I did goldfish breathing motions then pointed to the hole, which she grudgingly accepted as an explanation. I found myself wondering how good this middle-aged Asian woman might be at selling stuff as compared to, for example, running seminars on good mothering techniques. Then again, good customer care is what keeps people coming back because maybe they feel as something, someone more than a bare-boned consumer.
I opened up the central compartment to put my Mac in and see if it is big enough. “Too big!” she said, certain that she had found the mortal flaw that would deter me from making this wrong-headed acquisition. “Well”, I fiddled with the velcro strap to adjust the in-size “There is this thing here to make the laptop stay in place.” It was clear by this point that I was selling her selling me the bag and not doing and not doing a bad job of it either. I praised the many compartments, pointed out the sturdy strap and the good shock padding. She wasn’t quite convinced yet though. There was another customer to attend to and while she did, I begun transferring other stuff from my old bag.
“Did you empty all the pockets?” she asked, catching me off guard, still, from having been caught off guard. “Ughm, yes but let me check again”. Now I did begin feeling silly for buying the damn thing. It was becoming something of an effort and like a beginner I hadn’t really thought the matter through, I hadn’t done my homework. As I ran my right through the synthetic nooks and crannies, flushing out all varieties of lint and clustered debris, she repeated her question once or twice “You checked every pocket, right?” I couldn’t believe just how conscientious this lady was about her job but I was happy for it because I am the type of oblivious kid who will leave his wallet at the check-out counter if you forget to whack me across the head with it.
We shared a smile as I left and I tried hard to memorize that if ever I needed computer supplies, I should try and come back here to my electronics department backup mom.
As it turns out, there are quite a few 8.8s and 9+s in our block. A block of great, unsung anonymity. Like any true game they are elusive and seek out their favorite habitats the laundry room, the elevator and the dim stairways at strange hours to throw off their predators. Long-haunched, big-eyed, blonde Bambis who look able to escape any fire.