“Remember when we used to have traffic problems here in the valley?” asked Pat as she sipped a glass of Chardonnay.
Across the table, Sam listened distractedly as he watched a ball game through his ocular implants.
“Not really,” he said. “It’s been years since Uber II took over all the transportation needs across the planet, and my Personal Transportation Subscription Service picks me up and drops me off wherever and whenever I want. I can’t believe people used to drive themselves. How self-centered they must have been to have their own personal vehicle that was idle for most of the time, taking up precious space and resources! They even wasted space with parking lots. Can you believe that? Very primitive.”
Pat nodded her head. “We’ve come a long way.”
She was pondering what to do for the upcoming weekend, though the concept of a weekend had lost most of its meaning. For years they hadn’t needed to work because nearly everything was automated, including cleaning and cooking. When she was younger she focused most of her time on conservation efforts, but now clean energy was used to make all the synthetic food and power all the machinery. Water was no longer a problem since plenty was made from desalinated ocean water.
Both Sam and Pat were politically active when they were younger, but since the government had largely been replaced by computer programs based on a composite of all past presidents (excepting a few who had been purged from the historic record due to popular demand), things had run smoothly. Years ago they’d both had careers, but all career paths had been eliminated when people figured out that they could vote in their own interest, which resulted in creating a system that paid everyone to be themselves, free from the burdens of responsibility or merit. Besides, money had largely been replaced by social currency, people now mostly trading in “likes.”
“I’ve been thinking I might start making my own wine,” Pat said.
Sam nodded slowly.
Pat looked out the window. The sun was setting over the ocean with a light golden mist lifting from the water. She waved her hand toward the window, switching the view to one of a vineyard scene, this time of a sunrise with the fall colors of the vines radiant and glistening as if a light rain had recently fallen.
Pat knew Sam had gone back to his game, but she continued anyway.
“I miss all the old vineyards,” she said quietly. “Remember when there were vines and we didn’t drink synthetic wine, but it came from actual grapes?" Now all the old farms have been replaced by housing cubicles.
“I miss the vineyards, too,” said Sam. “They gave a certain smell to the air.”
“I thought you might not be listening — isn’t the game on?” Pat asked, surprised.
He reached across the table and gently held her hand. She smiled.
“We should take a vacation soon,” she said.
Sam nodded in agreement. “Sure, honey, anything you want, but we can go anywhere virtually, too, if that’s easier.”
“No,” Pat answered firmly. “I want to go and walk in a real vineyard. I want to touch the vines and get my feet muddy, like when we were younger.”
“Okay, honey, I can order a sleeper Uber II and we can head to one tonight, if you like. I hear there are a couple of remaining vineyards in Oregon.”
Pat nodded and looked back out the window. The view had shifted to an ad for a virtual-reality trip to the vineyards of the world, hosted by holograms of the world’s most famous historic winemakers.
She nodded and sighed as she waved her hand toward the window again, changing the scene to an old home movie of their young family opening presents around a synthetic Christmas tree. “Remember when kids were born naturally?” she asked “Now they’re created using the newest genetic-engineering technology.”
“Now let’s not get started on that topic,” Sam said. “We both know the removal of all genetic imperfections has already been agreed to by the New World Order Organization, and most people follow the guidelines.”
“If that’s true, why do I see so many young men‑all 6-foot-8-inches tall‑walking around lately?” Pat asked. “And that new trend of genderless children seems completely against nature.”
“We’re just old-fashioned,” Sam said. “I’ll bet our parents complained the same way about us when we were kids.”
“Probably,” said Pat.
Sam nodded, but his attention had shifted back to the game.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Pat said, swirling her glass high in the air. “But I can tell you this much: the wine we drank when we were younger, you know, the stuff made from real grapes, certainly tasted better than the reconstituted stuff.”
Sam didn’t respond. The 1951 San Francisco Giants were up and had tied it in the bottom of the ninth. Babe Ruth was pitching for the 1916 Boston Red Sox, while Willie Mays had come to bat. There were two outs. This was turning into a real nail-biter.
Originally published in the Northbay Biz, March 2017