Time Travellers from the 1960's : Ch.5 : The Dreams of Louise
Chapter 5 : The Dreams Of Louise
Both of them became fascinated by the broadcasts of modern America, on TV and cable channels, and sometimes the radio, particularly when they were in musical mood. The 'communications media' taught them so much about their new present. Radio did have some very good discussion and debate programmes, and also interesting and varied music. They were both surprised by how much fashionable pop and rock styles had evolved since their day, although both had reservations about some of the new forms, which seemed rather unmusical to their ears.
Both became quite hungry for the knowledge of the new society they were living in and to appreciate the entertainment, which TV provided. As he watched television Ted's estimation of the modern times improved. The programmes were slick, films exciting, the series’ intelligent and socially aware. This may not be the dream society they had hoped for but it brought benefits, in the arts, in wit and humour, in social honesty, which he had never contemplated before.
Louise wasn't so sure. Hell, yes it was clever, mind boggling and creative, but it was also crass, depressingly vulgar, and new hypocrisies had evolved. Ted jested that his only disappointment was that he could not watch all the channels at once!
They had had far fewer channels to contend with in their day. Consequently it was not possible to know what everyone else was watching and interesting programmes were often missed. Both of them realised after a while that many channels repeated programmes which had been on before, and that if you missed one programme you were likely to find it again eventually on another channel or the same one after the passage of some time.
Ted did discover two ways of trying to alleviate this problem, which did help to an extent. One - he could 'channel flick'. Belinda had showed him this 'trick'. She said she did it a lot when she had some free time from her work with Future investments, because she didn't have much spare time, and couldn't always make her mind up what to watch. "This way," she said, "you can watch two, three, four, or more programmes at once, keeping up with all of them sufficiently not to lose track of what is going on." Method two - Ted learned he could use the video recorder to video any programmes he particularly wanted to watch while he was out, or merely when he was busy channel flicking. They soon became conversant with the video recorder they had bought from the organisation, and were soon setting complex recording instructions on many of those nights when they were absent, and a few of those when they were at 'home'.
Even so these methods did not enable Ted, in particular, to completely monitor all that he wished because he was faced with a build up of programmes and insufficient time to watch them all, despite his determined efforts in the early days. He began to appreciate the frustrations felt by many Earth people who spent large sums of money to receive all this choice, only to find that because they were 'good citizens' who went out to work they did not actually have sufficient free time to enjoy all the programmes they had paid for. This was an example of the 'consumer society' in which millions of people were being sold many goods and services which they could not actually enjoy because their time and their lives were too short to use them properly. Even so he found that the acquisition of these goods and services remained a key objective of many of them. He learned that it was not the actual use of these which counted, but having the right or opportunity to use them, even if you couldn't. He later learned that many people, particularly at christmas time, were in the habit of buying goods or services that they would play with or use only once, or a few times, before either throwing them away or putting them into the attic or the basement for storage.
Both Ted and Louise found that 21st century broadcast TV channels were full of value and interest. There was also much programming which seemed relatively pointless, but even that was often enjoyable or enlightening. They gave them an image of the ‘modern’ society which led to high optimism. They wanted more and more 'TV time', and although they thoroughly enjoyed all the ‘real time’ activities they were experiencing, they wanted more and more 'TV time'.
Soon there was a need for them to find jobs and go to work, like everyone else, in order to pay their way in society, as had been their intention all along. This need to be part of real life also conflicted with their desire to watch TV. Both of them suffered from this problem of fascination with modern culture and entertainment, but they realised it made them lazy and indolent. *
At night Louise escaped to a world which was the one she had intended to reach in the first place. The Seminary was as she had known it in the sixties and seventies, still run by the Future Seminarians without the stink of money and those uniform straightjackets. This time as she awoke she was greeted with a hug and the friendly inefficiency of a fellow believer in the possibilities of the future, by someone who was living in the future they had helped to sculpt. There was more than one. There was a welcoming gathering. There were hugs from all of them, men and women. All of them felt able to hug openly and honestly. The men had no fear that they would be accused of some heinous crime for expressing their honest feelings. None of them would be accused of breaking the rules of their professionalism by allowing the show of natural warmth, and even desire, if that was what they felt inside at that moment. She welcomed the expression of sexual interest from some of the men who were moved to show that most human of interests. And even perhaps from a couple of the women.
She knew where she stood with these people of her past, and of her dreams, unlike those of her waking nightmare of a future. Here she could take refuge in her spoiled hopes. There were no jealousies here, except for small natural instinctive ones, but none which would shake up families in hurt accusation, cause women to chase men for the last dollar in a complex legal system, and teach the people of both sexes that their opposites were untrustworthy betrayers who should be castigated.
And Louise dreamed her dreams.
"Come into the city with us," said one of the Seminarians. He was a young twentysomething with a friendly smile. His hair was long and tawny. The clothes seemed futuristic to Louise, something akin to the Star Trek uniforms so loved by many of her generation, but with a very colourful flower designed coat.
A tall willowy woman wearing a similar coat amplified his offer, "We're going to take in some sunshine, visit some friends and have a drink."
"Why thank you. That's a good offer," said Louise. "Is this part of the welcome for time travellers or do you have no work to perform?"
"It's a good way for you to see the modern city and find out what life is like for us these days, but its not an official thing. You can do whatever you want, but there's a crowd of us going into the city so you might as well come with us if you want to see our city. It'll be interesting for us to see how you react to the changes we've made in recent decades. None of us have work to do this afternoon so we're happy to let you tag along."
They followed the small group outside. Louise liked the young man. He seemed very genuine and she was quite happy to keep him company. The girlfriend, she assumed, seemed a friendly type too. The others, female and male, seemed goodnatured, polite but funloving, true inheritors of the New Seminary tradition.
The buildings of the city she remembered were still there. Virtually intact as far as she could remember; tall skyscrapers in the central financial district. They went among these, walking on pavements well cared for. The bustle of traffic was absent, except for the occasional clanking of trams and the smooth transfer of electric buses, and the low hum of electric wheelchairs as the disabled and elderly made their way. Everyone else in this central part of the city walked. The electrical battery driven vehicles of the suburbs were left behind as laws kept the centre free of congestion.
There were trees and grassy spaces in places where there had not been in her day, certain street corners, the roofs of some buildings.
Their city of dreams was ever sunny, washed with the benevolence of contentment, and personal exploration. Simple computers and robots carried out mundane tasks. Society had not made the mistake here of allowing systems to become ever more complex. The accountants here knocked off at 1 or 2pm. The efforts of the artistic were drawn more heavily towards the many fine arts which were accorded value instead of being boxed into little useless advertising packages.
A tall skyscraper she recognised looked across the bay. The skyscraper above was where she had once worked as a young clerk. She remembered it with a shudder as the long afternoons of soporific inactivity, and the feelings of irretrievable boredom which went with them, such a waste of a young life. But there had been good times here too. The fellow colleagues had been good, friendly and fun loving people when they were allowed to be. The sober signs on the doorway, denoting the many corporations within, were gone. Instead the offices seemed to be used for a variety of other non traditional business purposes and even domestic use. There was a recording studio, a couple of art galleries, and an Art School, which stated on its advertising that its classes were open to all who wished to attend on any given day, for a small basic fee. Many of the offices had been converted to living accommodation, and there was a hotel on some floors. The higher levels with their incredible views of city and bay were given over to restaurants cafes and bars.
"Where are the offices now," she asked. This block seems to be either devoted to leisure activities of whatever sort, or people live in it. In my day there were what I call 'grey' businesses of all sorts housed in it. You know - life assurance brokers, insurance brokers, stockbrokers, attorneys, savings and loan companies, estate agents. What has happened to all those types of business? Where are they now?"
The willowy woman, Becky, said, "We don't bother too much with businesses of that sort these days. As more mature attitudes to life became more fashionable, people began to realise it wasn't very clever to spend your whole life worrying about which investments were going to bring the best returns, checking lots of insurance companies every year to see which was the cheapest, or sueing each other over every little incident. There are better ways to spend our time than struggling over every last dollar.
Many of these firms went out of business."
"That's not strictly true Becky," said Don, the handsome guy. "These functions still exist, nearly all of them, but it’s true we don't dedicate so much of our economy to them any more. There are offices around; just not here in the centre of the city."