new experience

August 28, 2009

I’m in an internet cafe. A cyberlounge. A call centre. I don’t know which. Always having time to kill, but sometimes with a desire for slaughter rather than the kindlier pillow over the clock, I’ve sought refuge in a sweaty hellhole somewhere on Charing Cross Road.

I’ve never been in a Webstaurant before, an Information Highway Hotel, a Plywood Parlour. It’s nice. Are they all like this?

What’s the man next to me doing? Why’s he looking at the news in German? It’s some kind of German serial killer atrocity. Did he do it? Why’s he here? You’d surely only go to a place like this to find out the news if you were on the run. Now he’s putting a limp napsack over his shoulder. Limp enough to be almost empty, heavy enough to only contain a knife! He’s gone. should I report him? I feel lost, stranded in a film that was never made in 1995, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Sandra Bullock, starring me and Henry Winkler, and called “Jumping Over Strange Nets”.

I’m in an unwritten Ruth Rendell novel called Fablon Terrace.

He’s gone and I did nothing. I’m hot in here, crammed in my little booth, wedged between an American talking out loud and the sweaty ghost of the German serial killer. The American has a headset on, like an air traffic controller. I shouldn’t have watched Episode 4 of 24 Season 7 last night. I think he’s hacking into Heathrow. Why else would he be in a cybermarket. I just overheard him say “do you know that Kennedy died?” Oh my Lord, he’s a conspiracy theorist, or a communist. Or someone who’s just woken from a deep 46 year coma.

It’s so hot. I can feel subterfuge and ungodly acts all around me. I am surrounded by criminals without a care for a coffee bean. The formica walls of my booth are sweating, the shelf sticky beneath my fingers. Under the shelf, a wastebin full of used tissues. Am I in the right place?

It’s nice here. only £1 for two hours. I’m only staying an hour, but that doesn’t make it 50p. I can’t complain.

The American’s just left. We’re so crammed in here; one to my left, one to my right, three behind me; he had to squeeze his way out. Faced with the Brad Pitt Fight Club dilemma he chose to favour me with his crotch. He squeezed his tightly packed area over the brim of my steel-rimmed chair. I’m sure he did this so he could glance at my monitor and steal and ruin my life.

Now someone else has moved in on the right. And then gone. The man behind keeps knocking his chair into mine. When I look, he looks back. But all his eyes say are “you’re new here. If you want to keep your identity obey the Cybercoffeehouserules”.

But I don’t know them. I’ve never been here before. I am like a person from the 20th Century who can’t yet afford a washing machine. I’m new to the Logon Laundrette.

It’s nice here. The floor is tiled. It looks like cracked marble, but it isn’t. This place is not marble, not wood, not coffee, not natural light. I feel like I am not on holiday.

Time to leave. Will it still be London out there? I think so. But I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

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6 Responses to “new experience”

  1. professoryard said

    I appreciate my broadband a whole lot more now, I’ve never used a cyber cafe before, perhaps because I have pretty much had net access of one kind or other since the mid 90s.

    I guess Charing Cross Road will have a lot more passing trade than a local cyber cafe.

  2. RichardMacKinnon said

    I can’t believe you let the German serial-killer go… he’ll strike again, you know.

  3. Katie Lee said

    If only all short stories were this entertaining.

    I nearly choked on a sesame seed while reading it though. Please take more care in future and consider that your readers might be eating something hazardous.

  4. Hannah said

    Have you ever wondered if you’re paranoid?

  5. Steph said

    I read your blog whilst at work, usually sneakily… but not today..

    I’ve just been caught snickering at the screen to myself, which makes my colleagues think that I am as mad as a box of frogs (maybe so….)

    A brilliantly written observation and one that I will be passing onto some chums who will find it equally entertaining. More more more please!

  6. Simon Hickson said

    Cheers Steph,

    Will try to aim for some more ‘funny’ blog posts… my last one about my big mouth maybe dragged everyone down! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

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