Still Life with Airport

From Douglas Coupland’s book “Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!”

You are in an airport and the year is 1962. Women around you are dressed nicely. You are wearing a hat. You are a fifty-two-year-old man eating roast beef in an airport restaurant, and the roast beef you are eating is marbled with globs of fat shaped like American states and counties. The air is silky blue with cigarette smoke. There are no black people around you. You are reading newspaper articles about birth control pills and about art being made in New York that uses comic strips and magazine ads as its creative nucleus. The ice in your bourbon is almost entirely melted. Your flight is announced and you go to your gate. You get into your seat, 3A, and the guy seated beside you pinches the stewardess’s butt. She giggles.

You cross a continent.

The car that picks you up at the other end is a machine that pumps large clouds of leaded blue smoke into the air while it idles. All the other cars around you are doing the same thing. None of these cars have seat belts. The sky is brown.

A woman on the sidewalk takes a pill. Pills of all sorts seem so common: amphetamines for people trying to lose weight, elephant-pill barbiturates for those in need of sleep. But your brain is calm. Your brain feels like a cathedral made of brown stone, light beaming in through stained-glass windows. You are witnessing the world, but you are not being affected by it. You are driven to a skyscraper where rich men are paying you thousands of dollars to say pretty much whatever passes through your mind.

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