Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Future is...

So much for friends, eh? The latest YouTube viral, with five million hits overnight, revolves around concerned friends convincing a drunk that he has been in a coma for ten years. Imagine doing that? Imagine waking up in a hospital bed, having been asleep for ten long years and then going out for your first encounter with the new world. I did:

So, big day today. Ten years? How much could things really have changed? The last I remember was stepping out into traffic and then… nothing. Just a fuzzy head when I woke up this morning. Everything seems to be working, although my legs feel a bit wobbly. Anyway, here goes. They say the past is a foreign country so logically the future must be too.

I’m outside and first impressions are… Wow, it’s busy. And there seems to have been some building done; it’s all so much denser than I remember. Both buildings and people - it’s so crowded. And people are so rude, bumping into me. And so alien-looking and strangely dressed. I feel a bit threatened, actually; there are groups of sullen young men staring openly at me in a challenging way.

Wait, I’ve got it. I remember I was on holiday when I had the accident and I must be still here, although I can’t entirely remember where that is. Of course, that would explain why all the signs are in scripts I can’t read and all the chatter on smart phones in tongues I don’t understand. It didn’t seem so odd in the hospital because the NHS is almost entirely staffed by foreigners anyway. Now I know I’m still in… where? My memory is still vague; I’ll see if I can work it out.

Most of the signs seem to be in Arabic, but there are other alphabets here too. That looks a bit Russian, over there, and there are a few in what looks like Chinese – but I suppose you get that everywhere. Oh, hang on, those young men are pointing my way. What have I done? Don’t you hate it when you don’t know the local ways? I would hate to cause offence just because I don’t understand the customs of the host country. How shameful to get deported for a breach of etiquette. Oh, god, they’re walking towards me.

I’m picking up my pace now and walking away; if in doubt, clear out, I say. But I can hear the clamour behind me and I think they are catching up. This could get messy. I’m lost now and I think I’m walking further away from the hospital. I’m the only white face on the street and I stick out a mile; pale and sweaty and flushed and afraid. There’s a barrier up ahead and beyond it I can see things are different; if I can just get past that.

Travel broadens horizons...

And suddenly I feel safer. I’m still the stranger in the crowd but the milling throng has thinned a little and I feel I can breathe again. Dare I turn around? For a few seconds I just stand still and control my breathing and then I slowly look back over my shoulder. My tormenters have stayed behind the barrier, draped across which is a banner written, at last, in English. I turn to get a better look. "Muslim area, it says, Sharia Law Here". And then it dawns: Bollocks. This isn't the future, I’ve just woken up in Tower Fucking Hamlets. 

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