'Interactions with Technology...' by M. C. Schmidt
'...at a Best Western in America.'
No matter where I travel in this country, the local news anchors sound the same. I look up this current pair on my phone and see that he’s from Pennsylvania—so maybe that’s his real voice—but she’s from Mississippi and talks in his same TV-Land accent. Probably, it’s not sinister. Just a preparation for their hopes of a national gig.
Still, it’s upsetting, that jolly midwestern homogeneity.
II: Phone, App
My fitness app thinks I’m a lazy piece of shit. It says so through notifications as passive and persistent as a concerned mother’s:
It’s 8:00 PM. You have four more hours to get active!
Help us help you! Get a customized fitness plan today!
Night owl? Try cardio after 10:00 PM!
Did you fall asleep?
My daily goal defaults to 4450 steps because that’s the average of male users my age. HR encouraged the Regional Sales team to set a goal of 10,000 steps because that’s the activity level that balances the stress of the road, supposedly. The app would cheer my effort if I walked down to the BP to buy a pack of cigarettes, but smoking violates HR’s wellness campaign and I’d be out of the raffle for the Ninja blender. So, what can you do?
III: Guest WIFI
There’s an article in my news feed that says U.S. suicides are spiking. I’ll bet if we set up a facility in every state where bureaucrats put your affairs in order and psychiatrists confirm your mental fitness and offer preemptive grief counseling for your family, voluntary euthanasia would be respected as ‘future planning’ like saving for retirement or the kids’ college funds. Literally everyone would do it.
IV: Vending Machine
A dollar-ninety for Doritos. I only kind-of wanted them until the vending machine hang-fired. Now, the denial feels like an affront. The bag hangs over the void like its corkscrew track is leaning it off a balcony, pressuring it, mob-style, for information. I can unjam it if I hit the machine. And hit it again. And wait for this woman to go by, then hit it again. I fish my pockets for another dollar-ninety.
V: Television (Again)
We’ve come to a point where Drew Cary is thinner than me. Over time, he got thinner while I packed it on. He’s no Bob Barker, but he looks good. I’d switch with him. I’m not such a good guy that I wouldn’t saddle him with this body.
VI: Phone, Text
At bedtime, the usual text from home: Goodnight. I love you.
The usual response from me: Goodnight, I love you.
Not a creative response, but I’ve never claimed to be creative. I’m trained, I guess—like the accents of those news anchors—toward the mean, the palatable affect.
I turn off the light at the usual time. It never feels true, but I know I’ll fall asleep eventually. If I just stay at it, I’ll blink and wake up tomorrow.
All Rights. M. C. Schmidt.
M.C. Schmidt's fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in X-R-A-Y, New World Writing, BULL, Spectrum, New Pop Lit, Litro, Every Day Fiction, and elsewhere. His darkly comedic novel, The Decadents, is available now from Library Tales Publishing.