Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hollywood Hasn't Made This Movie Yet--But It Will

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a pretty good chance you’re in an office. And if you’re like most people in offices, you want out. But like all people in offices, something’s keeping you in that chair. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown, a bovine sense of complacency, or good old-fashioned adult responsibility. Clothing your kids, paying off your student loans, eating food that you have not stolen or killed personally...there’s plenty of really good reasons to strap yourself into that little box and pretend to be boring.

But you wouldn’t be reading And I Am Not Lying For Real if you believed those reasons with the nucleus of your soul. I know people who sit in front of computers all day and are totally fulfilled by their work. These are the people who can ask with a straight face what “blogs” are even though they use the Internet every day.

You’re here because your job is not your life. But instead of getting up out of that chair, walking through the stink of burnt microwave popcorn and leaving that office for real, you leave it online every chance you get. You spend every second you can in a silent contest with yourself to see how little you can do and still get paid while endlessly trawling the web. Like a satellite scanning the cosmos for alien radio, you’re looking for an email from a friend or a lover, a jpeg pop culture mutation, a description of an inflammatory sexual practice or offensive political opinion. You want something to come off of that screen and give your life real meaning.

By February of 2003 I was a slave to that contest, web surfing on the clock so much that sometimes I thought it was actually my job. My real job was a dead-end affair, paying nine dollars an hour (no benefits) digging digital ditches in the cramped and ominously flood-stained basement of a multimedia startup. The only access to that basement was down a long, narrow wooden staircase, so the clumping of an approaching boss gave us ample heads-up time to look busy. Once the head salesman quit out of sheer frustration, all of us in the art department took to napping on the clock. Between the sleeping and the surfing, we had a pretty good game going. We started pirating movies, swapping mp3s, anything just to not work while we were working…then Steph and I started looking at hotornot.com, making fun of people and clicking the days away. That’s when my life pretty much changed forever.

I fell in love with an Australian woman I met on that site. By “Australian,” I mean, “actually living in Australia, on the opposite side of the planet from my home in Richmond, Virginia, USA.” And by “fell in love,” I mean “wrote letters, messaged, and made progressively longer, more expensive and gently pining painful phone calls where we laughed, cried, and wanted each other more than the first man to ever eat a crab wanted dinner.”

By the summer of 2003, I had bought a ticket to Sydney to satisfy what can only be described as the most intense curiosity man has ever felt. I sold my van, my record collection (impressive even by Richmond hipster standards) and finally convinced that I was not kidding and there was no point in stopping me. I clicked and surfed my way out of a dead-end job digging digital ditches and into the greatest coming-of age adventure never filmed by Hollywood.

This story’s got all the elements, too: loneliness, hard labor, sex, passion, drugs, rock ‘n roll, roadkill, junkies, nudism, outdoor adventure, heartache, sharks, crushing loneliness, cursing, booze, the gory slaughter of over a thousand kangaroos and true love.

It’s my story, but keep dreaming and surfing and you’ll have one just like it soon enough. Keep coming back to And I Am Not Lying For Real and I’ll tell you more as often as I can. I work in an office now, and I do surf the web, but the contest is definitely over.

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