Time Travellers from the 1960's : Ch.7 :Modern Freedoms : Sexuality, Technology and Work
Chapter 7 : Modern Freedoms : Sexuality, Technology, and Work.
When they had been living in their own future for some months Ted realised it was time to get himself a car. He had a good one back in the sixties and seventies, and he loved good technology, but they had found the value of their savings from 1973, which had been safeguarded both by the new Seminary and more recently Future Investments Incorporated, was not as high as they had hoped. While they had earned interest and dividends, and the values had gone up in monetary terms, yet the value of money had actually fallen. What $10 would once have bought would not buy anything like so much now, although some things like music and TV equipment, and of course computers, had become easily affordable due to technological advance and competition. But really important matters, like property to live in, whether rented or to buy, had become very expensive.
Even the jobs they had both taken did not leave them with much money to dispose of once they had paid the expenses of living and existing in this more modern world.
Ted’s new job gave him promising opportunities for the social and sexual adventures he had looked for in the night club. Ted formed an attachment with a couple of ladies on the team and found their jealous competition for possession of him rather offputting. To keep the peace he was obliged to disengage from both of them. He had decided to keep his impermeable relationship with Louise quiet because it was quickly evident that romance for these women was a matter of strict honour and rigid rules.
Strangely jokes about threesomes and revelations about private sexual fantasies, titters about filmstars and sportsmen they fancied, were all the rage in this period. The same lady who would turn round and give Ted a scowling put down for a harmless hand on the shoulder as a sign of sexual interest, or would be glaring behind their backs at colleagues who showed the slightest sign of infidelity to a partner back at home, would be describing to female colleagues, in erotic depth, her crudist fantasies about the male strippers she saw last week at her best friend’s pre nuptial hen party. A strange distinction between actual conduct and mental entertainment seemed to apply. He supposed that a similar mentality had been common in his time thirty years before, except those women who did not espouse the new freedoms wholeheartedly would never have expressed their erotic fantasies so openly or so crudely. That was what he found hard to comprehend in this modern period. The fantasies and desires were so openly admitted, but the old rules of possession and monogamy appeared as intact as ever, for most at least. He would have expected the beginning of the next century to be very different, especially since their arts and media had become so sexually explicit. He had to admit disappointment on that score.
Early attempts for other women did not work. They were happily married or had a boyfriend. They had the traditional ethics, although they dressed in the modern minded trendsetting casual clothes. The casual attitude was merely surface level. Although they pretended to ooze with sexuality their real attitudes came straight through the female line from their mothers down the generations.
Ted went to a bank. He was sorry to see that the grip of the work ethic was as strong as ever, and the bank workers were working harder than ever. There were counters behind bullet proof glass where lovely looking young women sat, serving the public, and less good looking older ones, models of what the young would soon become, with their plastic smiles and their frustrated minds. 'They should be goddesses,' he thought, of the younger ones, and of the older ones, ‘they should have been goddesses!’ Maybe if the older ones had been treated as goddesses when they were younger they would still be goddesses now. He thought they had probably become like they were now, ageing, sad, and shrivelled, because they had worked here or in places like it for so much of their lives. A human being, particularly a beautiful woman, should live a varied life. She should not be allowed to become bored or dulled by life.
Ted rang the bank to alter a standing order. New Future Investments had honoured the old New Seminar contract and protected their old bank accounts which had been invested over the years so that they did not lose real value, as the value of the currency fell slowly, and sometimes apparently rapidly. On the other hand the value of many investments had risen very well. Quickly he was through, but not to a human being. He found himself listening to a tape message, which asked him for his details. This was different, he thought. Always in the past he had been able to speak directly to bank employees, at his own local branch, directly. He imagined that meant that fewer people were now employed now in his bank. They would have been modernised over the years, like so many organisations which answered to the creed of efficiency in this most surprising future. The world had changed dramatically from his time, and was continuing to change, and as he and Louise could readily testify, it was unlikely to be for everyone's benefit. Did his own branch still exist? He would have to check next time he went past. Perhaps they had all been replaced by machines. The tape message asked him a few questions, most of which he could answer, such as his account number and sort code, traditional items of account recognition which he was well used to. But then there was a new question. What was his 'pin number' for customer services.
"Oh dear." What was that? A new question altogether. He realised or remembered, from a letter which had been sent to him, that such a number had been issued to all customers and it was not the same as the pin number for accessing money from service till machines. Still he did not know what it was. It must have been written on that letter from the bank. What a nuisance, all he wanted was to give the bank details of his change to the standing order. He could not give the number so he was automatically transferred to a call operator whose function was to check his identity in the absence of a pin number, unfortunately not someone from his own branch who might actually be able to help him on the problem he was actually concerned about. She was from some distant part of the country, judging by her accent, New York perhaps. Questions about his account number, sort code, and birth date were asked, which he answered correctly. Unfortunately his birth date was apparently wrong, even though it was correct. He persevered adamantly. A clerk must have typed in the wrong day of the month.
The operator said that to be sure of who he was another question must be asked. "Please give the name of a standing order."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," said Ted. He gave her the name of the standing order he was wanting to amend.
"That's alright," she said, "I can put you through now."
Ted, who was usually calm and cool about most things, found he was hot and sweating with rising panic, as he had begun to fear that he might not be able to access his account in this modern period, due to his own inability to remember the key information he might need, or perhaps some confusion surrounding his birth date, given that he had travelled 30 years into the future. He exhaled with relief as he was put through to the advisor.
Louise tried to use the carpet sweeper she had just bought. ‘Why don’t they just make them the same way as they used to’, she said to herself as she fiddled about inconclusively with the ‘thing’. She could not even get the dust compartment out, far from being able to empty it! She wished Ted was back. He actually enjoyed finding new ways of doing things. Why anyone would want to spend precious time rediscovering how to do something you had been doing quite easily for years just because the designers felt they should provide something ‘new’ for the market, was beyond her. Actually it upset her, to think that her time could be so easily wasted. She put the carpet sweeper down. She would leave it for Ted and allow herself to calm down.
As she returned to the kitchen something started to ring with a simple version of a famous classical piece of music. She wondered what this was until she remembered the mobile phone she had in her coat pocket. She used it rarely but when she was away from Ted she sometimes switched it on in case they needed to communicate. It must be Ted, she thought. She fumbled in her coat pocket and picked up the little communicator. Pressing the button she activated the reply. “Yes?” she asked.
“You are due an update,” said the female voice, crisp and enthusiastic.
“An update. I am pleased to tell you that you are eligible for a free update.”
“An update of what?” she asked ignorantly.
“Your mobile phone. You’ve had it for a year now.”
“A year, is it that long?”
“Oh yes it is so you’re eligible for a new one.”
“But I don’t want a new one, I have only bought this one recently. It can’t be a year. Even if it is that’s not long.”
“A year is a long time, lady. The modern phones are much better now. We can offer you many new features.”
“Modern?. You mean a year ago isn’t modern any more?” She asked, her mind in an inexplicable and slightly angry whirl. These youngsters didn’t know what modern meant at all!
Lou worked in an office... Rachel, her immediate manager, was a persistent bully to her, always coming forward with more work, more improvements, targets for better performance. She looked back to one or two of the dull office jobs she had known before the 'jump', as she and Ted jokingly called it. Then some managers, usually the older ones had been rather stuffy and traditional. The 'generation gap' had been a full scale war at the time, particularly in the states. It had been the time of the Vietnam War when students in particular had demonstrated their reluctance to do the bidding of the cold war generations before them. Expectations of a better life had been rising among young people like themselves and more relaxed attitudes towards hard work and lifestyle had entered sociocultural debates. It seemed that now thirty years later the roles had come full circle, and it was some of the younger generations who took their working responsibilities most seriously, and the more worldly and mature people of Louise's generation and after, were often being hounded by the pressures of competition coming from the young. Even as she examined this thought she realised it wasn't accurate. Many of her own generation had gone over to the wolves of big business, the free market, and the ideology of ever increasing efficiency. Their employers had been offering them carrots, like wage rises or job title upgrades, and sticks, such as the threat of unemployment or of downgrading.
In her day people had skipped easily and happily from job to job, moving on when they got bored, finding another easily, trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that. They had all expected that things could only get better, as knowledge and an appreciation of workers rights moved forwards. Many of these elements had actually reduced in the harsher more competitive economic climates of the following years.
The people were not really ‘free’ in this modern world, although many of them pretended they were. The young genuinely seemed to think they were ‘free’. Many of the more mature adults knew better. The people had exchanged the old fashioned rule of subservience to aristocrats and elders for subservience to modern managers and competition. The world had been made grey, by standards, efficiency requirements, health and safety, selection procedures, and never ending bureaucracy. They were all equal now, but their lives were equally grey.
Louise felt bullied at work, harassed by technology. She didn’t understand computers well, was gradually learning. She felt incapable. Technology which she thought would be the liberator of the future was becoming her master. Even the TV, DVD, video and digital technologies of recent years confused her. She found remote controls annoying, because she was forever trying to use the wrong one. The complexity of mortgage choices irritated her also.