It isn’t very often that i get the opportunity to go and sit in a park and do nothing on a sunny day in the middle of the week. To be honest, it’s far too rare an occasion that i take the opportunity at the weekend either, sunny or otherwise. i’ve plenty of good excuses… shopping to be done, housework left over from the working week and, to be perfectly blunt, the act of getting off my butt, simply to make the effort to get out and actually enjoy my time off relaxing somewhere seems to defeat the whole object of the exercise, so i don’t make that effort!
However, this occasion was different – time off work, a hot sunny day and i was determined i was going to do something worthwhile with it. That’s how i ended up in the park – which i have to say was completely lovely. It wasn’t long before – almost without noticing – i found myself falling into my usual habit of people-watching.
Sat on a bench in the sun, watching the world pass by, i realised that weekday park people tend to fall, more or less, into one of two categories. The first category are young parents – predominantly women – and their progeny: small fry who enjoy the luxury of being wheeled around in their carriages like miniature heads of state, whilst their ever-attentive lackeys ardently cater to their every whim. It amused me to see just how well-prepared for any eventuality mums and dads appear to be these days – most would put Bear Grylls to shame! Sporting capacious rucksacks, bulging with a multiplicity of baby-related extreme survival gear, they’re better equipped for a walk in the park than most Arctic explorers would be for crossing the Pole!
Those young ‘uns that aren’t being carted about in their luxury wheelbarrows are of the age that i believe is known as ‘toddler’ – although, i think ‘waddler’ is a more apt description. They scurry about, like crazed ducks, feet flapping and flopping like little steampunk piston-legged robots – eternally caught in the fatal loop: I’m falling… must walk faster to stay upright… I’m fallling…
Parents of waddlers have their own distinctive calls: “Come here. NOW!”; “STOP!”; and, “NO!”
i haven’t quite worked out why this particular group come to the park in the first place – it seems so much effort, with little return. Presumably it’s something to do with ‘fresh air and sunshine is good for the little darlings’ – but considering the efforts made to keep the little cherubs out of the sun and hidden away from any waft of fresh air once there, i wonder why bother? Maybe it’s just to escape the smell of dirty nappies, but i digress…
The other crop of weekday park enthusiasts seems to be the retired and crumbly brigade, who as far as i can make out, thoroughly enjoy the experience. They seem to have reached a stage in life where they have mastered the arcane art of relaxation, par excellence – sitting for hours on end, motionless, with jaws slackly open, on park benches. i was sorely tempted to poke one or two of them, just to see if they were still breathing! When these venerable citizens do move around, it’s as if they’ve regressed to some sort of second childhood – everything and anything is interesting and cries out to be pointed at earnestly – flowers, litter, insects, invisible things in the sky… they all get the treatment, gleefully pointed out and stared at, in much the same way a waddler will point out the embarrassing person on the bus and ask voluably, “Why does that man smell of poo?”.
Pop! Oops – that was my bubble bursting. If there’s one thing more distressing than watching a dog carefully take a dump right in front of your bench, it’s having to watch said dog’s owner stoop down, with a plastic bag gloved hand, and scoop up the still-warm turd, before popping it into their pocket and giving you an ingratiating smile. i know it’s the right thing to do – but i’d rather not be in the audience!
The soapy bubble of my parkotrophic reverie now completely vaporised, my thoughts turned to sl as i pondered on the possible future of our virtual world, now that the much vaunted direct delivery from the Marketplace is finally upon us. You see, i fear that it may only be a matter of time before sl could change beyond all recognition, effectively becoming one giant, empty park, with the odd beacon of life scattered here and there.
Being fair, direct delivery is pretty much a good thing and it’s something that traders have wanted for a long time. In the long run – if the Lindens ever get it to work properly – it will make things a lot easier for anyone to ‘set up shop’ in sl, it may put an end to delivery problems and result in a better service for merchants and their customers – but, looking at it in a wider context, is it good for sl?
Let’s consider some of the wider issues: with direct delivery, any need to maintain a costly inworld presence as a merchant is questionable. Why spend time and money building additional content, just to display your wares in a pretty environment? Why spend money on renting stores, paying tier for additional land, creating flagship stores and splashing out for extra prim allowance, when all you need to market your items is an inventory folder and a decent photo?
Does direct delivery mean the end of inworld stores as we know them? In the worst case, we could see the larger stores – with the greatest financial outlay – close down their inworld presence completely, (i know of at least one, very large, store that’s closing its inworld outlet as this post goes to press). As for new start ups – why should they even bother with going to the expense and hassle of setting up shop? – the result; vast tracts of abandoned land and empty shopping malls.
Then there’s the knock-on effects – landowners, deprived of revenue will hike up their prices to compensate for their losses; businesses that rely on land as a commodity will collapse and anyone who might have considered buying land in the past will think carefully before committing themselves to throwing money away on something that may bring little return. Eventually, we’ll see more parts of sl becoming exclusive, pay-to-enter zones as the land barons seek alternative ways to make their money. That’s not even touching on the effect that giving every single person in sl an easy, cost-free entry into the marketplace will have – up until now, becoming a successful trader has required an investment in addition to content creation; with the Marketplace becoming a free-for-all, it’s inevitable that quality will suffer.
i fear that in the future, without careful and sensible planning, sl will change. The commerce that once generated a thousand businesses will go offworld, leaving nothing to fill the void – just lots of open space. Much as i enjoy my park life, it’s only really meaningful when it’s an alternative to the rush and clamour of everyday life. If sl becomes just park land, then i fear SLife could become very boring indeed.
It’s got nothing to do with vorsprung durch technic you know
And it’s not about you joggers who go round and round and round
Blur – Parklife