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Today's quote:

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Life in lockdown


The Pedestrian is a science fiction short story by American writer Ray Bradbury, he of "Fahrenheit 451" fame. The address of the main character, Leonard Mead, happens to be the address of the house in which Bradbury grew up.

This caused speculation that he refers to himself in the story. In fact, Bradbury's inspiration for the story came when he was walking down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles with a friend some time in late 1949. A police cruiser pulled up and asked what they were doing. Bradbury answered, "Well, we're putting one foot in front of the other." The policemen didn't appreciate Ray's joke and became suspicious of him and his friend for walking in an area where there were no pedestrians. Using this he wrote "The Pedestrian" - read here or listen to it here.

The story features Leonard Mead, a citizen of a television-centered world in A.D 2053. In the city, sidewalks have fallen into decay. Mead enjoys walking through the city at night, something which no one else does. "In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not one in all that time." On one of his usual walks, he encounters a police car, which is possibly robotic. It is the only police unit in a city of three million, since the purpose of law enforcement has disappeared with everyone watching television at night. When asked about his profession, Mead tells the car that he is a writer, but the car does not understand, since no one buys books or magazines in the television-dominated society. The police car and its occupants can neither of them understand why Mead would be out walking for no reason, and so they decide to take him to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies and force him into the car. As the car passes through his neighborhood, Leonard Mead in the locked confines of the back seat says, "That's my house," as he points to a house warm and bright with all its lights on, unlike all other houses. There is no reply, and the story concludes.

With parts of the country again in corona virus lockdown, you might detect certain similarities. Even though it's not A.D. 2053 yet, beware before you put one foot in front of the other, or you, too, might finish up in the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.

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