IN IPOD WE TRUST
The train doors slid open and Jerry lumbered out, fighting against the flow of passengers trying to get on. The commuter cattle didn’t bother him too much – he was too engrossed listening to 84’s latest spell-beat remix of Thirteenth Hour. He’d downloaded it earlier that day and was beginning to enjoy the tune so much that he'd adopted a slight wiggle in his walk.
Jerry was on his way to meet Pardip by the newsagents owned by that crazy Taiwanese guy, Mr Li. Jerry regularly stopped by the small shop and so had come to know Li quite well over the years. Li always had an opinion on something, and Jerry ended up taking the full brunt of it. Not that he minded – Li’s outbursts were usually quite funny, and he always had a serious point.
‘You read this?’ shouted Li as he held aloft the Daily Express. ‘Bloody Politicians! This new law stupid!’
Jerry took out his earphones and sat on a stack of The Sun as he grabbed the offending paper off Li. The headline shouted at him ‘Pod crime man convicted!’ with a picture of the familiar little music player being held aloft by some bimbo celebrity. In the corner was a grainy black and white passport photo of the poor sod referred to in the title.
‘Bloody disgrace! Can’t believe it! I not use those thing!’
Jerry read the article intently. Of course, he’d known about this all morning. His first act of every day – after taking a leak – was to switch on his iPad and surf the news sites while munching on a bowl of Frosted Malt Pods. He was a man of habit, grateful for the technology that kept him informed and up to date, 24-7.
‘Well, that’s the new century for you,’ offered Jerry.
‘New century? New century? You bloody mad! You bloody lost it, mate! You plugged into those thing – they burn your brain!’
Li disliked the small devices immensely. He always sneered at customers who possessed one, which was pretty much all of them. Even the old folks – listening to their favourite audiobooks – were keen Podders. Such colloquial terms grated with the Sony execs (as well as Pardip, who worked at their European office on Belvedere Road). The world was divided into two types of consumer – those that had an Apple iPod, and those that had a Sony Walkman (Walkie). Two mega-corporations were constantly at war: battling it out on the world stage for consumer domination.
Sony tried ever so hard to weave their Walkman into the zeitgeist, but Apple had beaten them to it with their sleek, sexy and clever devices. Only after several years of ruthless marketing and price-cutting did Sony manage to claw its way to an equal number one spot. Even so, they never managed to influence culture quite the way Apple did. Sony followed, it never led, and trying hard to change the status quo made it even less likely that the electronics giant would ever succeed.
Whether it was an iPod or a Walkman, they were usually referred to just as pods. No longer confined to playing music, the most up to date pods now doubled up as phones, personal organisers, game machines, voice recorders, cameras and even miniature masseurs.
Jerry was itching to listen to the 84s again, but Li went off on another tantrum about pods ruling the world and causing brain cancer. Jerry nodded absently as he re-read the article - describing the actions of a Winston Smith who’d failed to wear his personal pod to work. The new laws were getting more and more strict. Now it was an offence not to have a personal device on show. Jerry looked up at Li who shouted at some random passer-by giving them a serious fright.
‘The last thing I do is wear a pod! You unnerstan’ me, boy? I a free man!”
As the rant continued, Jerry’s fingers danced over his iPhone, sending off a text message. Looking up, he saw Pardip in the distance and went to greet him.
‘See you later, Li.’
‘Mister Li to you, boy!’ screeched the old man. He gave Jerry a fierce stare before melting into a toothless grin. He began to cackle, laughing at his ludicrous over-reactive self. ‘It hard work bein’ mad,’ said Li before muttering quietly ‘Say hi to your frien’ for me.’
‘Will, do,’ smiled Jerry.
Pardip waved to Jerry, laughing as he noticed Li wander back into his kiosk. Pardip figured he'd just missed a ‘Mr Li Rant’.
‘Hey, man. Li giving you a hard time again?’
‘Nah. Just the usual,’ replied Jerry. Pardip chuckled.
‘Ok, you ready? The presentation’s startin’ soon. I wanna get a good seat.’
‘Just a sec,’ Jerry nodded in the direction of where he’d just been. ‘I need to see this.’
Out of the horde of commuters, six dark shapes appeared. Kitted out in full riot gear, the Podcops made their way to Mr Li’s shop. There were raised voices and then a commotion, with Li shouting furiously and lashing out with his spindly arms. No-one around seemed to notice – either they didn’t care or were afraid to show any kind of concern.
One of the Podcops produced a baton and brought it down heavily onto his victim, bringing a sudden silence from the Taiwanese man. As his limp body was hauled away, the crowds snaked past mindlessly. It was over in an instant.
Jerry and Pardip turned and headed for the exit.
‘You do that?’
‘Yeah – couldn’t stand his anti-pod attitude,’
‘I hear ya. Why can’t people just get along with technology?’
They clambered up the steps into the gleaming sunshine just as Big Ben clanged the bells for midday. Jerry breathed in the atmosphere as he popped the small white earbuds into his ears.
‘It is, after all, the twenty-first century.’
‘Amen to that. People should just accept it.’
Jerry pulled out his pod, deftly selected the 84s and pressed play. He had to hear that song – just one more time.