‘Lol’ is a Dumb Name for a Cat
There are places that exist outside the zeitgeist, that busy internet hubbub, the pretend connectivity that keeps us apart. Wally’s garage is one such place. Tim Berners-Lee, when he released the internet technology for free in 1990, would have had little concept of how unique such a place would become, twenty odd years into the future.
Wally lived on a main road, in a shop that wasn’t a shop and hung out in his garage in a tiny town that barely existed. I lived behind him, in a school that was no longer a school, teaching little of consequence. Sometimes, when the roo shooters kept me up with the bang, bang, banging as they administered death to the local dwindling population of grey kangaroos, (which I knew about because as they blasted them onto the endangered list, I angrily Googled the statistics), I would hang out in Wally’s garage.
One particular night, Wally arrived accompanied by a young man in the black and white tribal Adidas outfit of a city dweller of unknown ethnic origin. I found my shoes and met him in my carport where he was already scouring the wall for something.
“You had a fan belt….” he said.
Wally never said ‘hello’.
He accepted a tailor made smoke from the young man in black and white while the goanna that lived in my carport slipped stealthily around the corner. I noted with wry amusement the young man’s rising panic as he noticed it too. He was less than three hundred metres off the freeway and already in a foreign country, the zeitgeist failing him. Adidas was succumbing to a blue singlet, ancient footy shorts and generic rubber thongs.
“What happened?” I asked, pointing to the space between where the tennis racquets and the high pressure water thingy hung.
Wally lifted down the precious fan belt.
“We had an accident just past….. where Google Maps stopped working,” the lad looked confused so Wally filled in for him.
“Bust a fan belt, clipped the Sherlock post,” Wally looked at me expectantly.
“No shit,” I replied.
We laughed. The lad did not understand.
“No shit, Sherlock,” we said to him, by way of inadequate explanation.
“If I had my iPad on me, I could Google that,” he said, inhaling strongly on his cigarette, hands shaking like a junkie.
He offered his jet lighter to Wally, who lit his much appreciated smoke.
“Come on,” said Wally to me, “a few drinks and fix this car hey?”
Not one to pass up any entertainment, I left my house wide open and well lit, and came along.
“You don’t l-lock it?” asked the lad.
“Nah mate,” I replied, “it’s off the map.”
“From a ford wasn’t it?” Wally asked, regarding the black rubber loop in his hands.
“EA,” I replied.
We entered Wally’s garage. Two other black and white boys climbed out of the damaged car.
“We got a fan belt,” said Boy One to Boys Two and Three, “it’s from an EA though.”
“I will Google to see if it will fit,” said Boy Two. He held up his iPad at several awkward angles, and failed to get an iSignal. He watched as Wally measured the fan belt against the broken one and decided that it would be okay.
The plastic front bumper was cracked and in danger of being entwined with the wheel and the road. It was a hazard. Boy Three was intent on pulling it off.
“Here,” said Wally, “let me show you something.” While he drilled holes either side of the large rip, I found some black zip locks and we threaded them through and zipped it tight.
“Wow,” said Boy One, admiringly, “I would have just got another and replaced the whole thing, would have cost probably a hundred and fifty bucks.”
Wally ran a bead of Tarzan’s Grip along the crack, accepted a beer and plugged in a hair dryer to hasten the glue’s process. “Later, we will spray it with some matt black and you won’t hardly notice it,” he said.
Boy One tried frantically to connect iPhone to cyber world.
Wally smiled. “You won’t get a signal here,” he advised.
Boy One shook his head, “No,” he whispered, bug-eyed, as though this were an impossible idea.
“It’s true,” said Boy Two, placing his useless iPad reverently onto the back seat of the car.
Boy One took a picture of us all with beers in hand, for his Facebook page. Then tried to upload his status. And failed. The iPhone spontaneously lost the image and then its battery died.
“We are in a dip here, no TV, no radio, no internet signal, unless you get satellite,” I told them.
“But everybody has internet, the connections….. are important….” said Boy Three. I handed him a third beer.
“Can Haz beer,” he said sadly.
“No satellite,” laughed Wally.
I had a satellite.
I didn’t say.
They were called Peter and Randy and Dylan, later on Facebook I got to know them as KandyAssMan, Kickstarter, and NarlyBooger, a very different proposition from these nice lads with the endless Esky full of cold beer in the boot of their broken down Ford. On Facebook, they posed for terrible self-portraits and posted more than one ‘dog-wearing-sunglasses’ and made random announcements about the minutia of their lives and lolled instead of laughing. Despite the genius examples of 4chan and the YemenPortal.net guy, their use of social media was more narcissistic than revolutionary.
Later that night, Wally’s cat walked in.
“Lol,” said Peter sadly.
“Ha ha, LolCat,” said Dylan nudging Randy.
“No,” replied Wally. “That’s Skittles, you know, like the lollies.”
The lads nodded. They knew the lollies.
“Lol, is a dumb name for a cat,” pronounced Wally, as he suggested someone turn on the engine to check the fan belt was doing what it was supposed to. It was.
The boys drove off, with my EA fanbelt for an EA I no longer owned. I wondered if they cheered as they reached the point a mere twenty metres up the road, where the signal came good again, and I could not help but think of social media in the same terms as addiction. The Australian-Oxford Dictionary defines Addiction as ‘1. Dependent on as a habit; unable to do without. 2. Devoted.’ And Shelton & Neetu, describe Facebook both as an ‘addiction’ and ‘epidemic’ after conducting experiments on various forms of disconnection from social media platforms, but I am still undecided.
I went home, and Facebook-messaged my daughter in her bedroom regarding the goings on of the night, and wondered about the potentiality of Boys One, Two and Three becoming ‘citizen journalists’ like the now famous Sohaib Athar who typed “Go away helicopter, before I take out my giant swatter,” amongst other things, and unwittingly live-tweeted Osama’s death.
Boy Two is right, the connections are important, but are we making the right ones? It seems to me that while we are more connected we are also more isolated. I live in a city now and have not yet found a Zeitgeist free zone, but, like Wally’s garage, they are out there, and we need them more than ever.
And Lol is a dumb name for a cat.
Australian-Oxford Dictionary. 5th Edition. Bruce Moore, Ed . Australian National Dictionary Centre.. Oxford University Press. 2009.
Krotoski, Aleks. ‘The Internet’s cyber radicals: heroes of the web changing the world’. Untangling the web with Aleks Krotoski. The Observer. 2010.
Newton, Lee. ‘5.2. Citizen Journalists’. Facebook Nation. Total Information Awareness . New York. 2013. Sourced at http://link.springer.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4614-5308-6_5/fulltext.html on 24/3/2013.
Ong, Eileen & Rebecca Ang, et al. ‘Narcissism, extraversion and adolescent’s self-presentation on Facebook. Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 50. Pp180-185. Nanyang Technological University. Singapore. 2011
Sheldon, Kennon, Hinch, Christian & Neetu Abad. ‘A Two Process View of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: Disconnection Drives Use and Connection Rewards it.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 100. No.4. 766-775. University of Missouri. 2011.