Thursday, July 19, 2007

Watching the defectives.

I haven’t been around the internet too much for a while. The weather here remains dull with rain every day. Floods are subsiding but more floody weather is forecast for the weekend. Contrary to rumour, I am not building a one-man Ark in my garden and stocking it with tinned goods. As I explained to the local council, it’s nothing more than a tastefully curved storage shed. I’m building it upside-down because it’s easier: I’ll turn it over when the rain stops. The only reason it’s so watertight is because of the constant rain.

Since the weather ruins any chance of my preferred investigation sites – abandoned and derelict ancient buildings – I have spent a little time reacquainting myself with the living, and reminding myself why I don’t like them.

Wandering around city centres, it’s easy to see why so many people don’t believe in ghosts, and why so many have never, and will never meet any of the wandering dead. Most of them are not even aware of the living people around them. The dead stand no chance.

People walk in one direction while expending considerable effort to ensure that their eyes never point in that same direction. They would risk seeing someone in their way and have to go to all the trouble of taking an extra step or two to go around them. I have, several times in the past month, stood perfectly still in the middle of a busy shopping area and stared with fixed glare at someone walking directly towards me.

More than half of them didn’t see me. Of those, at least half blamed me for walking into them, and maintained this belief even after I explained I had not been moving. I wished, more than once, that I had been covered in long needles coated with the most potent itch-inducing chemicals available. If I can get some, I’ll try that.

I saw women pushing prams, carrying shopping, while wearing Bluetooth headsets as though they were executives, or perhaps cybermen. How the Hell did these people survive a few years ago, before the constant-babble machines were invented? How many words can one person speak in their lifetime? There are people half my age who have already made more noise with their mouths than I am likely to achieve if I live to be a hundred. So much noise, so many conversations, so many words spoken and not one of them worth hearing.

More than half the people on the street are talking or texting on mobile phones. Some, with these earpieces that resemble Borg implants, wander along gesticulating and talking to their invisible friends in ways that would have earned them long sleeves and straps at the back just a few years ago. It still should. If you’re a nut who wanders along muttering to yourself, just clip on a dummy earpiece and nobody will ever know. I’m wondering if psychiatrists have already worked this out. What’s the point of curing them when you can so easily make them fit in with the modern world?

So many people on the phone, so much of the time. Who are they all talking to? Is there a call centre somewhere where the friendless work, where they murmur ‘Yes, I know’ constantly to these chattering imbeciles? Perhaps a recording would work just as well. How many of the mindless phone users would know the difference?

I have to admit, they do provide considerable entertainment. I found a convenient seat overlooking a busy road and waited for these Phone People to come along. I didn’t have to wait long. The loudest laughs were elicited where the driver of the car that screeches or swerves to avoid one of these oafs is also on the phone. It’s illegal to drive and phone in the UK but it’s very common because most people are too stupid to understand just how dangerous it is, and how idiotic they look.

The odd thing is, even though I laughed aloud at potentially deadly near-accidents, nobody minded. I drew no stares, no disapproving looks, no chiding glances. Partly because there were few among the hundreds of people around who were sufficiently sentient to realise I was there, but mainly because I had adopted a cunning disguise.

A pair of earphones can be had for as little as £1 (about $2). Stick them in your ears, thread the wire to an inside pocket and everyone assumes you’re just listening to something funny. This is all the disguise anyone needs nowadays, in order to blend in with the halfwits who populate the world. You can grin like a maniac, hum to yourself, bounce in your seat, you can do a thousand things for which you should really be sectioned. As long as you have these earphones, you’re immune.

One thing I have always enjoyed is silence. The dead of night, away from street lights and traffic and (best of all) idiots, in the ruins of a remote cottage or castle, is a blessed time of peace and quiet. The odd owl adds to the charm, as does the whisper of a breeze in long, dry grass (of which there is currently none available in the UK). I take no MP3 player, no thought-blanking music devices, no television. I have a phone with me but it’s switched off. It’s there in case I break something and have to call professionals to get me out – that’s never happened but I have the phone because it might.

From what I’ve seen, I think most of the population would be utterly terrified in such a situation. Not because of the dark, not because of the owls or the bats, not even because of any ghosts that might call by.

Because of the silence.

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