By Nathan Leslie
Photography by Leeta Harding
It is very important to do things in entirely new ways because clearly the old ways were not working. It is unclear why things must be done in entirely new ways—it might have something to do with TikTok. Also, if things are done in entirely new ways then there are new things to buy to do those new things. If there are new things to buy, then there are new industries, and if there are new industries there are new people to employ to work in those new industries. And if there are new people to employ, there must be new kinds of drinks and foods to be eaten in all new ways, also, for these new people building new things, who must do everything in an entirely new way now. For some reason.
This is all rather vague, you might say. Can you cite an example to help your case? Sure. Let’s talk about bicycles. Bicycles are great and all but did you know that they also hurt your back and your groin and cause severe spinal damage? None of these claims are actually true, but let’s just pretend they are for the sake of argument. Back in the 1990s there was the trend of the recumbent bikes—but those are goofy-looking and dangerous as a result of being so low to the ground. It would be quite easy to run over a recumbent bike with, say, a tractor trailer. But let’s say—also for the sake of argument—that a new means of transportation is invented which approximates the speed of bikes but involves running in place on a tiny treadmill. That treadmill is attached to a series of sensitive balls and those balls are connected to larger balls. And those larger balls make things go. You would just run and, by virtue of running, the treadmill would go and the balls would make the treadmill go like you were really running on the ground. This would be so much easier than biking. More body-friendly, also.
Or take drinking water. Traditionally we have liked to put water in a glass and hold the glass to our mouths and thus drink the water from the glass. However, did you know that, as a result of positioning your gullet in this way, it puts extended pressure on your esophagus and, as a result, your entire digestive system? Drinking water from a glass can lead to multiple cancers and you would not even guess it was as a result of drinking water. You would think it could come from your proximity to the electrical lines or your use of various bleaches and perfumes and shampoos or the fact that you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and wash it down with whiskey sans rocks. But we have found that if you pour water into a trough and lap it up as a dog or cow or sheep might it reduces the pressure on your entire system and leads to a longer life. Your neck may hurt and you may suffer feelings of insecurity as a result of the fact that you are mimicking a barn animal, but it will be fine.
Or take showering. First of all, baths have been proven to be more effective at reducing body scum particles and keeping said particles from multiplying. However, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you insist on showering. Fine—do the world a favor and make sure to lay prostrate on the floor of the shower so that the water falls onto your entire body and not just onto your back and shoulders area. Then what you want to do is make sure to lift your legs and buttocks up into the air so that the water also lands on the under-represented parts. We are used to thinking about quickly drying after showering—no, a thousand times no. What you want to do is let your body soak in the water. Just like house plants, we need complete immersion, not just a quick sprinkle. So rather than drying your body and face frantically after the shower, make sure to stand in the shower stall itself for an additional half hour and allow the water to slowly evaporate into the moist air. We realize this is a time commitment you may not always make, but it is vital to let your skin experience such soaking. Alternatively, you can take a bath. If you are in a hurry and do not have at least an hour to devote to your wellness, either refrain from showering/bathing completely or simply put your clothes on directly after showering without drying. This may result in a rather moist situation for part of your day, but are you not able to sacrifice some comfort for the overall health of your skin? Your clothes will survive and your colleagues will applaud your dedication.
Language is in an interesting position in today’s society. Some might say that we spend far too much time focused on trivialities such as the correct pronunciation of forte (is it accented as in ballet or a hard stop as in this fort protected me?), however, it is important to communicate directly and effectively with those around us—including younger people, older people, and fish. As a result, we are interested in how one might effectively burble to a guppy and receive a comprehensible response (burble gurble furble = would you like more fish flakes?). More on that another day. As for people, we seem to have transitioned into a milieu where we communicate in a closed circuit. Our friends understand us and we understand them, but can we negotiate that language outside of a network of seven people? As a result, we suggest transitioning into universal language which includes six steps—to accommodate for words that may be overly jargon-based or self-referential. Step 1. Text the person directly in front of you your comment and/or insight. 2. Have this individual read your comment and/or insight aloud. 3. Confirm. 4. Listen to response. 5. Receive texted response. 6. Attempt to comprehend. For instance, you can try this process with the phrase: “Please pass the salt.” In the past, this request may have been quite easy to understand. Please = Please. Pass = Pass. Salt = Salt. But now, is please sarcastic? Is it suggesting that one would really prefer no salt? Is it passive-aggressive (does the person already have salt in his/her pocket)? Pass—and how should I pass it? Hand deliver it with tracking? Hurl it like a Tom Brady Hail Mary? Slide it like a bartender? We want it to be done in the intended manner. And salt—you can’t mean pedestrian table salt when there is the pink salt from K2 resting by Mrs. Junger’s left elbow.
Last but not least, let’s talk about your laundry. In the old days people washed laundry by hand in the river. Then there were washing machines. Then there were waterless washing machines. Now, thanks to the high tech world we live in, there is lay-your-clothes-on-the-sidewalk-and-let-the-sun-clean-them. Little did we know all these thousands of years, but the sun is essentially the laundromat in the sky. All these years we were using water to clean our clothes, when all we really needed to do is take them off our bodies and throw them on the ground. Of course, it may rain, which could ruin everything. However, even then you just let it rain and then the sun eventually comes out (unless you live in those areas where it doesn’t). Not only is the sun-cleaning method cheap but it is also free. It is true the sun may not get rid of those pesky coffee/blood stains. It is also true that the sun will not leave your clothes smelling like detergent. However, the stains will fade over time and really we did fine without deodorant for centuries. Is it really a necessity?
Nathan Leslie won the 2019 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for his collection of stories Hurry Up and Relax, his tenth book of fiction. He is currently the series editor for Best Small Fictions, he runs a reading series in Northern Virginia and he is the publisher/editor of Maryland Literary Review. He has written for The Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Orlando Sentinel, Orange County Weekly and many others.