As John Francis sat down to his breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, he earned the achievement “One Year Without Bacon.” As if that wasn’t enough for him to feel good about himself, the congratulations began to roll in immediately.
“I’ve been trying for that one myself,” a friend of his told him, “But every time I make it past the one-month mark I fail!”
“Maybe you should get your doctor to sign you up for a more realistic set of achievements,” John replied, “One month without, three months without, six months…earning those early achievements is a great motivator.”
His daughter Cynthia came down the stairs. He turned towards her with a smile, then realized that she probably hadn’t seen the news.
“Honey, I did it,” he said.
“Did what, dad?” she asked.
“I did what the doctor said, I went a year without bacon.”
“Oh, was that today?” she said. “I forgot! Congratulations!”
“How could you forget?” he said, “I’ve been keeping track of it on the family calendar every day!”
She shook her head. “You know it’s harder for me to check those things than it is for you. Without an implant, I actually have to spend time looking it up rather than just thinking about it.”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” he said, “Your 18th birthday is coming up, and your mother and I have talked about it, and we’ve decided that we’re willing to pay for the surgery for you to get one.”
“Thanks,” she said, “I appreciate it, but I don’t want one.”
John was stunned. “But honey, how are you going to be able to keep up?”
She shrugged. “I’ve done OK so far.”
“Do you really want to be chained to a phone or computer to be able to look things up or get in touch with people?”
She smiled at him. “I’m less of a slave to technology than you are, dad. I’ve got to go to school, I’ll see you later.”
As she left, John shook his head in disbelief. Most kids her age couldn’t wait until they turned 18 and could undergo the surgery to get their own implants. What was wrong with her?
He carefully considered the thought, then tweeted it. “My daughter doesn’t want an implant. What’s wrong with her?”
Amazingly, it took a few minutes before anyone responded.
“You should take her to a shrink!”
“Is she afraid of the surgery? Did you tell her it’s not that big a deal?”
“It’s her choice…but I sure don’t get it!”
The replies started coming in quickly, almost overwhelmingly. He was even starting to get responses from strangers. John had had his implant for years, though, and was used to sifting through the flood of information to weed out the useful comments from the crap. As usual, most of it was crap and none of it was any help. Finally, though he got a message from an old high school friend of his.
“I don’t think it’s such a big deal,” the friend said.
“What do you mean?” John asked him, “I’m worried about her. She’ll get left behind! She won’t be able to do as well in school or work as other people her age…I’m sure these days not having an implant guarantees you’ll never get a very good job.”
“Of course,” his friend said, “But she’ll learn that on her own. Every generation has its own ways of rebelling, but they eventually grow out of it. Even the hippies eventually cut their hair and went and got jobs. My son didn’t want an implant at first, either. It only took him a month after all his friends got one before he changed his mine.”
John was relieved. “Thanks,” he said, “You’re right, of course. I feel a lot better now.”
Later that afternoon, after Cynthia was back home from school and John was back home from work, he sat down to talk to her.
“Of course, it’s entirely your decision not to get an implant,” he told her, “But you do realize this will make life more difficult for you.”
“Oh, I’m sure it will,” she said. “A couple people in my class have theirs already and I can already see that they’re much better off than me in most ways.”
“Then why don’t you want one?” he asked.
“It’s just…I know people can turn them off, but nobody ever does.”
“Sure they do,” John said.
“When was the last time you turned yours off, except when you were going to sleep?”
He paused. “I…I don’t remember,” he said.
“Exactly,” she said. “It’s one of those things that once you have it, you can’t live without it.”
“But that’s because it’s so useful! You’re never alone, for one. You can instantly get in contact with your family or friends. And if you need to look something up all you need to do is think about it! Nobody ever turns it off not because they can’t live without it, but because it makes everything so much more…efficient.”
“It’s not really that much more efficient,” she said, “My phone has access to the same internet that your implant does, I just use my voice instead of my thoughts to tell it what to do.”
He shook his head. “It’s not the same, you can’t understand until you have one. It’s just so much…better.”
“I’m not arguing against that, Dad,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s bad, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it. I’m just saying that it’s nice to know that at least inside my head I can have some peace and quiet. Try it. Turn your implant off now. Remember what it was like before you were constantly connected.”
John considered it, then remembered what his friend had said and shook his head. “You’ll grow out of it,” he said.
Harold Zweckis was the world’s most accidental celebrity, and he didn’t even know it.
Harold was photographed by the Google Maps Streetview Van as he walked through Times Square, captured in full panoramic glory yelling at his business partner on his cell phone. Thing is, Harold wore one of those Bluetooth headsets, and it was on the side of his head away from the street, so it looked like he was just yelling at thin air.
Neither Harold nor anyone he knew was the type of person to waste time looking at Google Street View of a place they saw almost every day, so he never noticed he was there.
But the rest of the world did.
Times Square being a popular choice to look at using Street View, it didn’t take long for people to notice the yelling man in mid-step outside the Sbarro. Pretty soon “Angry Google Guy” was a full-fledged Internet phenomenon, photoshopped into hundreds of pictures (of weddings, crying babies, libraries, walking in on people having sex, etc.).
Tourists recognized Harold and ran up to him demanding his autograph. He shoved them out of the way and didn’t even listen. He was a busy man, he had places to go!
Stephen Colbert referenced “Angry Google Guy” on his show, as did Saturday Night Live (two months later). Again, Harold was a serious man, and he only knew serious people, so nobody ever saw it to mention to him, and he certainly never saw it himself.
Pretty soon people started selling bootleg T-Shirts of the “Angry Google Guy,” both in New York as well as online. Harold wasn’t the type to pay attention to the stupid T-Shirts people wore, though, so again he never noticed.
Eventually, the furor died down when someone discovered a YouTube video of a baby in a sailor suit playing “Chopsticks” on the piano, and Harold once again became just another guy, never even having realized he was anything else.