Dog Days in Hotlanta – Chapter 19: A Digital Walkman

“Here’s your change,” says the cashier robot. “Now Get N Go!”

“I hate that so much,” I reply under my breath.

Unfortunately, it hears me, and says, “We’re sorry you were dissatisfied with your experience. If you want to get in contact with a customer representative, please acknowledge, and we will connect you as soon as possible through our robotic relay system.”

“No, thank you,” I say.

“Have a nice day. Now Get N Go!”

As soon as I’m confident I’m out of earshot, I mutter as many obscenities as my annoyance requires from me.

Shopping at tech stores is always a dangerous experience for those whose stock and trade are not in the realm of “I love obnoxious things,” but tonight, for obvious reasons, I’m even more on edge. Get N Go designs all of its stores to be a mixture of bland generic consumerism and enthusiastic pro-technology futurism fanboyishness, but both of these things have essentially expired in the decades since Atlanta became the cultural capital of the world. Technology and pop culture alike have stagnated to the point that they are hardly things you’d want to base a modern store after. It makes Get N Go feel positively like the year 1999, even down to the spiky hair on the promo photos on display shelves.

Get N Go annoys me probably more than anything because it’s a microcosm of Atlanta itself. And also because I’m just generally annoyed about everything when I get in these moods.

And I’m in these moods a lot lately.

But, on the positive side, I have a brand-new purchase that only set me back several full days’ worth of paycheck: A digital walkman!

After I drudged up my old walkman from middle and high school back during the Dial-Up Demon investigations, I started to get nostalgic for the days when I’d just sit back and listen to cassette tapes of my favorite bands and talk about the meaning of life with my girlfriend. We’d have one ear bud each and share the world together, one song at a time.

Now, of course, I’m just missing moody synth pop and thrashy guitars, but I’m too lazy to buy a new cassette collection (and it’s way too inconvenient for a portable CD player; where do you store the dang things?). So I’ve invested in what might be the greatest technological advancement of twenty years ago: the digital music player. You connect this thing to your computer, and I guess find music files somehow by ripping your CDs and cassettes on there. Then, after a few minutes of transfer, the files go right in this tiny little device and you can listen to them any time, even make playlists and stuff like that.

This digital walkman holds up to a thousand songs! That’s my entire library and then some! It’s friggin’ nuts how long I held out on this and really missed out. Nobody told me just how convenient it was to have a whole music library that fits in your jacket pocket!

Not that I need a jacket in this heat, of course. Holy hell, it’s the kind of weather that melts your ice cream cone before you even get to the actual cone. Balls dripping sweat levels here, even if you don’t have balls.

It’s basically sundown now, so it should get less hot and more humid, soon, but right now’s that perfect golden hour of excruciating heat while also not having enough natural light left to see anything.

This is the kind of weather that helps hone the agonizingly annoying complaining skills of the Morgan Hardings of this world. They would not have the power to make such egregiously exaggerated lamentations if not for stuff like Atlanta being way too hot in August.

I think I’ll beat the heat by kicking on this walkman and sticking its headphones right into my eardrums. And what better way to forget about the heat, than the Heat? Since I have no songs downloaded yet, the only option I have is the radio. And, for some reason beyond my comprehension, this walkman model has a police scanner built in.

I can now listen to the chatter of emergency responders and bored cops as much as I want. I can do that cool superhero thing everyone already expects of me and try to beat the police to violent crimes and take out anonymous thugs before they beat up old grandmas and steal their purses and whatnot.

…Yeah, I’m really that bored that I’m entertaining the fantasy that anything I can do will make a difference in a world that’s screwed on a systematic level. R8PR already gave me that spiel like an hour ago.

Sadly, the chatter on the scanners is really boring. Someone calls in a stolen vehicle on Peachtree Street, and there is probably a big car chase waiting to happen. But there’s no way I could reach the scene fast enough for it to matter.

Maybe Mighty Slammer will attack again tonight, but unless it’s in walking vicinity of my house (the Yum Mart, perhaps?), I doubt I’ll be able to luck into another chase like I did last time.

And so, in the midst of my weeknight stroll home, the police scanner goes away as quickly as it went. I flip over to a news station, where a human (!) broadcaster goes over the latest headlines. I’m really surprised, pleasantly, that the broadcaster is a human and not a robot. I guess now that radio isn’t all that popular in comparison to TV and the internet, its one selling factor is that the voices aren’t all completely synthesized all the time.

The broadcaster’s got that soothing, Midwestern U.S. accent going on that makes him immediately more attractive to listen to than anything you’d get on TV these days. He talks about the Values Party candidate being arrested as a suspect in connection to a murder. Hey, how about that?

That’s pretty good news, honestly. If you don’t remember, the Values Party is one of the four major political parties in Atlanta and the rest of Georgia at large; it’s the one whose existence is based entirely around the idea that old white dudes are superior to the rest of us and the world needs to go back to the way it was in the fifties and sixties, when segregation ruled the city and women stayed at home. My entire existence as a human being is an affront to the Values Party, and that is not a joke or an exaggeration. If the party is facing huge troubles due to something like their nominee being outright arrested, that can only help things. Because even one Values Party member on the City Council is too many for my taste.

The news also talks about another Mighty Slammer attack that happened this afternoon, too quick to have gotten a big hubbub about it while I was at work, but enough that the scene of the crime (a local kebab joint) is now surrounded by reporters of all sorts… or at least that’s the impression I get from all the background noise behind the reporter talking.

It makes me wish I had been out there in the field, patrolling like that Crusader dumbass, rather than slinking around Atlanta searching for clues like I’m a Jabberjaw character, as R8PR put it earlier. If I just get another chance to fight her, I’m sure I can defeat her. So many local businesses are suffering because of this lady who really needs to work out her unresolved issues about food establishments, and I can’t do enough to stop it.

I wish I wasn’t a hero. I wish I didn’t have superpowers or a sentient robot ally or a family history of private detective work. It’s just making me feel grumpy and guilty, the two worst emotions in the entire spectrum of the human species.

A wise man from a Spider-Man comic (back before James Cameron ruined it with that terrible movie) once said something pretty wise about great power and great responsibility being tied together real tight. And, sadly, as a kid who grew up reading countless Spider-Man comics because that’s what their parents gave them, I’ve accepted that phrase into my being so deeply that I’m unable to let it go. Of course, even Spider-Man quit being a hero a few times. Why can’t I?

But I won’t.

I’ll just temporarily pause my duties by going home, sitting in front of the TV, and eating canned ham while watching an off-season rerun of The Scott Stutzman Show. Because that’s just what heroes do when they’re done working and need to decompress.

Tomorrow’s my day off, and I won’t be visiting Phil McWhorter until later in the day. So I’ve got plenty of time to lounge.

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