Monthly Archives: January 2014

Excessively close encounters of the cyber kind

I got the tracking suit from my cousin Tiffani who was always too helpful.

The package arrived at my front door one morning. It was brightly wrapped in pink and yellow evaporative paper. When I lifted it from the doorstep, a tinny voice announced, “Dress for the future.” A nanosecond later it changed to, “Track with fashion.”

When I set it on the table, the outer wrapping dissolved, revealing a turquoise pantsuit. The color was attractive, the style current without being obnoxiously trendy. Maybe Tiffani had done something right this time.

“Congratulations,” the tinny voice blared. “You have a unique experience ahead of you! Your tracking suit will help you record your food intake, exercise, heart rate, blood sugar level, menstrual cycle and emotional state. It can warn you of impending PMS mood swings and dangerous glycemic imbalance.”

Then came the usual warnings about the possibilities of excessive egocentrism or walking while distracted. But the instructions seemed simple enough.

I was still wary. What would it look like on me? Would everyone stare at me as I walked in my neighborhood?

With that in mind, I removed my sleepshirt and slipped on the trousers. They molded to my hips and waist, the style allowing for my rather oversize butt. It looked good, I had to admit that. The shirt jacket was just as flattering.

Activating the holo-screen, I examined the result from all angles. It made me look slimmer. The color complemented my dark hair and tanned skin. Yes, I liked it.

Following the directions, I enunciated, “Tracker on.”

I heard a murmuring in my ear. “You are doing well this morning. Your weight is 55.2 kilograms, within acceptable norms, although at the outer limit of the bell curve. Your blood sugar is 104. Your blood oxygen is at 96%. What are your plans for the day?”

I described my usual program of reading the news, answering digital mail, working on my latest novel, then taking a walk.

“You should think about exercise first. It will increase your blood oxygen level and cardiovascular strength.”

A minor change. I could cope with that. I waved open the door of my house and stepped outside. The door closed and locked automatically as I set off at a brisk pace down the walkway.

I strolled the streets of my neighborhood, enjoying the soft spring day. The sun shone off new green leaves, the air was scented with hyacinths and damp earth and birds chirped merrily above.

“You will benefit from increasing your pace. It will consume more calories and provide a better blood flow,” the voice intruded.

It was right, of course. I upped my pace even though my heavier breathing interfered with the happy sound of the birds. As I passed my favorite clothing store, I glanced at my reflection in the window.

“You really should not slouch like that,” came the voice. “If you stand straighter, you will look even better, which will improve your mood and make others admire you more.”

The voice was beginning to sound like my mother’s. But I had to admit it was right. I pulled my shoulders back and sucked in my stomach. I lost the scent of hyacinths.

I reached the turnaround point in my walk and crossed the street. The sun on my back was pleasantly warm. In spite of the uncomfortable stiffness of my shoulders and the tension of keeping my stomach flat, I enjoyed the feeling.

“You are beginning ovulation,” the voice returned. “Now would be a perfect time to think about having a child. You are now 36.8 years old and nearing the end of your optimal reproductive window.”

This was getting annoying.

“If you wore a bit of makeup and socialized more, you could encounter many possible mates who could provide the requisite sperm.”

I ground my teeth.

“You know your mother would like a grandchild, and your cousin Tiffani already has two offspring. An infant would contribute greatly to your well being and make many people happy–”

“Tracking off,” I muttered.

“This device cannot recognize that directive,” it droned.

The sun wasn’t pleasant now. The chirping birds hammered at my head, and the smells of spring were making me nauseous.

“Your appear distressed. You should consider taking a mood elevator when you return to your domicile.”

I should consider ripping off this goddamn suit and burning it, is what I should do. “Shut up.” My voice was louder.

“Your heart rate has increased to disturbing levels. Your breathing is irregular. Perhaps you should–”

“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted.

Several other pedestrians stopped and stared at me.

“A regular workout at your neighborhood gym would help regularize your cardiovascular system. Perhaps you should¾”

I ran the rest of the way home.

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