Swipe right, and enter your pin. Check your email. Check your Twitter. Check the weather. Check the balance of your bank account. Check your other email. Check your regular email again, and then check your Twitter. Now, check your Facebook. If you're in the mood, check to see where you are on Google maps, even if you are at home, just to see how the little pin drops onto the page, like a dart telling you where you are on the Earth. You like to see if the pin is slightly askew, how quickly it drops, what colour the pin is, what the surrounding streets look like. Rotate through this routine every few minutes. Stare at the screen, and wait for something to happen. Checking your phone is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, before you leave home, while you are walking, while you wait for the tram, while you are on the tram, before you get off the tram, while you wait for the elevator, before you turn on the computer at work, and while you wait for the computer to load up. Check your phone over and over to punctuate time, and to punctuate every action until you fall asleep in the evening. Wait for a message, for a tweet, a piece of information that was unknown to you previously; dream, project, think differently, and wait for the possibility that something will happen. It is impossible to stop, possible only to keep going.
Wait for the train in the city loop. Stand on the platform, to your right and left are two large television screens. They are both turned on, the volume is turned up loud, their subject is how to do a sit-up. It is a health infomercial. In your hand is your smart phone, you are trying to read this short story. But the sound of the woman speaking about how to improve your core strength is stopping you from concentrating, it is difficult to read.
The screens are brought to you by XTrack TV, a division of APN outdoor. XTrack TV describe themselves as the 'ultimate platform to entertain and inspire a captive audience'. The accent on platform, and captive, is telling: you have to be plugged into the screen, held captive by it, in order to make public transport economically viable – it justifies the cost. You already knew that was the case, why else would your trams have commercials for skin, or is it that they have skin for commercials? I know you are powerless to do anything about it – so, here's how to do a full sit-up. You should have your legs straight, and a comfortable mat to lie back onto. Bring your arms above your head, and use them to help bring yourself up. Careful not to strain your neck and shoulders. If you want to go for a more advanced option, bring your knees up into table-top position. Don't forget to breathe out on the way up! Depending on your strength level, you can start with 4 rounds of 15.
An interruption, there is a new notification; someone has sent you a message: it's your crush.
Hey there, how are you?
You want to wait a moment before you reply, to seem as though you are not always plugged in, and to give an air of disinterest. But the message has already been stamped with the time and date at which you read it, the person on the other end can see what you've done. You think it's best to reply immediately.
Heya! What's happening?
The exchange will go on for sometime, and will follow niceties and ordinary social conventions.
How are you?
What's been happening with you lately?
You write briefly about the ridiculous infomercial in front of you. Really you are thinking that you want to be asked out, but you are also thinking that it might not happen.
You decide it is better to just send the message yourself:
Hey, so are you up to much this weekend?
Freeze for a moment, and wince when you see how you have pressed the enter button on the keyboard. What will they think? You have spent 10 minutes of chatting together, but it took just 1 second to press enter and send the message. Now, the 120 seconds of waiting to see the response will become your entire lifetime.
Lauren Bliss is a writer and film studies scholar based in Melbourne. Her interests include Witchcraft, the Virgin Mary, diabolical imitation, psychoanalysis, and representations of extraterrestrial life. She teaches screen and media studies at the University of Melbourne.