It wasn’t exactly inspiring – a squalid collection of flop houses, seedy rundown stores and the disorder and clutter of tired old, sad old, broken down relics of what must once have been a vibrant and exciting corner of the Grid. The place would have had the smell of diesel and burning oil, smoke and damp earth; equally, the old tramp would have exuded a distinctly savoury fragrance too… sometimes the limitations of SL were something I could be profoundly grateful for!
The distant sound of steam trains and steel wheels clacking across creaking rails hung in the smoky air, and I wondered what it was I was supposed to see.
“It’s all a bit rundown”, I replied. “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve seen better places.”
“That’s because you lack nothing”, came the response – I looked at the old tramp’s unshaven, lined faced, his dishevelled hair and battered clothing and wondered what he might be trying to convey: “I don’t understand…”
“You have a great deal, whilst I have little. Your inventory no doubt numbers in the thousands, whilst mine is barely worth counting; you have lindens in the bank, land of your own… whilst I possess neither.”
I still didn’t get it. What was I missing here? A train rumbled in the distance.
“Walk a little with me”, said the tramp, scrabbling to his feet and discarding the cardboard box shelter he’d been wearing against the elements. He led me away, along the tracks and back alleyways, pointing out the buildings that we passed.
“That’s the hobo shelter – free board and lodging, a bed for the night, the occasional bit of friendly company, and somewhere for a wash and brush up; somewhere you can get changed.”
“Now, across the street from here, is Arcadia’s… not exactly high fashion, but it keeps me clothed and decent and she does a decent line in shelters and bedding, and of course, it’s all free, which is handy if you haven’t a linden to your name, like me!”
Feeling guilty, I offered him a few bucks – he refused, with a laugh:
“Hey, it’s fine by me. You’re still not getting my point, are you? I don’t need cash, I’ve got everything I need here, and none of it costs me anything.”
He had a point – as we poked around the shabby shop frontages and seedy bars, it was obvious that pretty much anything you needed to scrape an existence in SL could be grabbed in Calletta for nothing. Coming to think about it, most of the people I knew inworld were shelling out a small fortune for most of the things he was getting for free – paying rent for rooms, a place of their own – it seemed a bit dumb when you could get by on nothing at all and still have the luxury of a roof over your head.
“This is where we go our separate ways”, he said, as we arrived at the station; the end of the line for me, but the start of another journey as far as he was concerned. “Yep, I’ve got business elsewhere”, he said climbing aboard a waiting train, “but I ain’t walking… that’s for mugs. Why walk when you can have free travel?”
I thought of the vast collection of cars, bikes and other vehicles stashed in my inv., an expensive and mostly unused luxury. Daft!
A whistle sounded, and the train – with my erstwhile friend hanging out of the window – pulled slowly out of the station. As he passed me on the platform, a thought occurred to me…
“Don’t you ever get sick of this dirty old place?”, I shouted.
“Don’t be silly!”, came the reply, “You don’t really think I spend all my time hanging out here do you? There’s a whole Grid out there to be explored… just because this is home, doesn’t mean I have to stay here!”
He waved, and disappeared in a cloud of steam and engine noise, into the distance.
We don’t need
Hazel O’Connor – Chasing Cars