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A New Tragedy

Avenue of the Americas


A man walks into a luxury boutique in San Francisco and leaves his dog waiting for him at the door.  He is Indian, unshaven, sunglassed and carrying multiple bags.  Within a few minutes, the boutique manager and staff become aware that he is unstable and begin to watch him with caution.  He is speaking in half scattered sentences and his motions are erratic.  He would like to see the most expensive watch in the store.  The manager is hesitant at first, but this is retail, and in retail anything is possible, so she asks him to sit down while she goes over to a wall case and removes a watch valued at eighty five thousand dollars.  Giving the watch to him is a poor decision, because he immediately begins flailing his arms around with it in hand and aggressively drops it down on the table.  He fires off a hundred questions that leave no room for answers.  He is unsatisfied with the quality of the watch overall and he wants a rubber strap, but he still needs it.  He tells the manager that he has left his BMW wrecked somewhere in the Mission and it won’t be long until the cops track him down to Union Square. Before this happens, he needs to purchase some goods that he can take back to India this afternoon when he flees the country.  In lieu of cash he says, luxury goods can be brought on a plane unnoticed. He gets out a short story about car racing in Europe, and a lunch with the president of Ferrari.  He wants to see more goods. The manager holds his gaze and occasionally meets the eyes of store staff in acknowledgement of the scene.  His dog remains faithfully at the door, peering in. The manager holds tight to some hundred thousand dollar afternoon fantasy and produces another expensive watch. He throws the two watches down on the table becomes their owner in a single declaration. Passersby push their heads against the glass doors, hoping to the find the owner of an apparently lost dog.  A staff member assures them with gestures through the glass that the dog belongs to the gentleman inside. Another man enters the boutique firmly.  He is caucasian, over six feet, broad shouldered, dressed in a tailored work shirt exposing grey chest hair.  He begins talking to the man in sunglasses. He is the man’s boss. The boss has been looking for him and spotted his dog outside the boutique. The man had broken down in his office a few hours then ran out onto the streets. Now the boss listens to him.  The man has to leave the country immediately. Could the boss provide some assistance with his own cash?  Credit cards are out of the question.  It won’t be long until the cops find the sidewalk steaming BMW and follow the lead back to the boutique. The boss wants nothing to do with this scene and says that he will wait outside until whatever transaction is being finished. A staff member tells the boss that there will be no transaction with the man. The manager and the staff have agreed with their eyes that they will not sell merchandise to him in this state. The boss must talk to him.  The dog remains at the door guarded now by two young women. They are blonde, trendily dressed, holding the dog and their cell phones. They are the man’s co-workers.  The boss sits down across from the man, taking the place of the manager. The boss speaks to the man for an hour.  He uses soft, tender tones. The boss tells the man that he needs help. He offers help. The co-workers guard the dog and the door outside. The man refuses to leave the boutique with the boss.  He begins to cry.  He tells the boss to treat him better at work. There is so much money involved.  He tells the boss that he should purchase the watches for him as his bonus. The watches together would be half of his bonus.  There is so much money involved and he isn’t cared for or respected. The two blonde co-workers outside use their cell phones to dial the police. The cops show up a half hour later.  Two of them enter into the boutique.  The man’s fears of being tracked down have come true. He gets up wildly and protects himself. One cop faces him and the other stands behind him.  The man will not exit the boutique with the cops. The man begins yelling at the cops.  The man tells the store manager that this is horrible customer service. The cops ask the man to empty his pockets.  He produces a broken CD, a wallet and a short glass pipe. The cops ask the man how long he has been smoking crack. The man says he shouldn’t have showed the pipe to them and he did this on accident. He puts the pipe back in his pocket. The man will not leave the boutique. The co-workers outside talk about how they began to see signs recently.  They say that he used to be more normal. They say this has all happened so fast. The co-workers begin to look for people in their phones who will take the dog.  The man starts making wild gestures.  He will not leave the boutique. One cop grabs and subdues him.  Both of the cops drag him outside onto the street.  He fights them. The dog begins to howl and cry. The co-workers begin to cry.  The man fights them getting into the car with his hands cuffed.  He kicks the windows with his feet.  The boutique closes early for the day.

The Root and Healing of Desperation.

The man is a coder for a well named tech company in San Francisco. He is paid extraordinary sums of money to write backend software for many hours of the day.  He was brought from India especially for the job.  The boss is a man of ideas and connections.  The co-workers are women with degrees and connections.  The man is a day laborer working in a largely fictional space.  He is a content generator of never ending content.  He is unrelatable and uncared for despite a heavy paycheck.  What does he know of executive lunches or after work drinks?  The boss and the coworkers are nourished by these.

This is the new plantation. He sits for hours a day doing a task that takes him out of his body. His shoulders are hunched, his hands are sore, his eyes are tired. How long can this sustain?  For thousands of years we have been evolving through movement. Our bodies and minds develop in motion and exercise. Suddenly, we become paralyzed in ergonomic seats. After work workouts are supposed make up for a continuous tense holding of the body. Emotions and psychological issues are not processed through holding, they must be worked through. Instead, each day he slowly lifts off the ground through a prolonged disconnection with his body.  The man begins to have a nervous breakdown and turns to drugs to bring him back into his body. His coworkers begin to use the term “weird” behind his back.  He was foreign and weird, now he is even weirder. The man becomes even more unrelatable and remains uncared for.  The pressure of the task is a constant.  The boss and the co-workers refuse to deal with emotion beyond TV imitation.  The boss speaks to him as if he had recalled a past episode of Oprah. This is what I should be saying.  This sounds like something I should be saying.  The man had a nervous breakdown and they could not meet him in his suffering.  They poured loose words and afternoon compassion on him.  He was too far out for them.

This is the new plantation. Offices cultivate quick, cold bodies that are bent on shattering. The screens are bare and dead, no matter how colorfully dressed. Minds are getting quicker, more pointed and nervous. Muscles are getting tighter and more rigid. Quickmindedness gives the illusion of intelligence. Rigid muscles give the illusion of strength. To heal our minds need expansion and loosening.  To heal our bodies need stretching and warmth. The digital daylaborers must be saved by the companies that pay them.  They must be given the tools to balance the work they do.  Without humanizing this work, a disconnection from reality is not just possible but a sure thing. Look at this new tragedy. How can you leave them alone?

photo Andreas Gursky – Avenue of the Americas

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