Author : Aaron Koelker

The old man looked over his shoulder at me. His clothes, hands, and face were just as greasy as any of the parts within the dinosaur engine compartment beneath him. His arms were black with it up to the rolled sleeves clinging at his elbows.

“What is it, kid?”

My iHUD told me the man had slightly elevated arterial tension, heart rate, testosterone levels and activity in the left brain hemisphere; along with a minimal decrease in cortisol levels. He was mildly irritated. He also took note of the pause as I read the data streaming down my peripherals.

“Cut out that damn Trekkie stuff,” he said. “You know what I told you.”

The testosterone feed fluttered a bit.

“With all respect, sir,” I answered, “why are you so against it?”

“I don’t need a machine stitched into my face to know whether or not you’re bored.” He ducked his head back under the hood of the old beater. “Finish checking the rest of those spark plugs I gave you yesterday.”

“They’re too old. Just buy some new ones.”

The old man turned round again. “I’m sorry, did they force you into this internship? Because I sure as hell don’t need you here back talking me. In fact, I don’t really need you for much of anything. You’re supposed to be here to learn.”

I was tired of the old man constantly belittling me from his high horse of nostalgia and old age. “You’re just afraid of change,” I said. “And things you don’t understand.”

The old man took a rag from his back pocket and unsuccessfully tried to clean his hands. “Don’t pretend you know how any of that stuff works, kid.”

“Of course I know.”

“Then please share,” he said, unconvinced. He dropped the rag over the grill of the car and leaned against the fender, arms crossed.

“Scanners in the eye take a reading of the various chemicals in the body. Heart rate, brain activity; basic bodily functions…”

“You’re telling me what it does, not how it does it. I can tell you my eyes see the sky and tell my head it’s blue, too.”

“That’s different.”

The feed said my heart rate had increased by twelve percent.

He barked a laugh. “How? The problem with the world today is that we have all this fancy technology yet no one knows how it actually works. They know what it does and how to use it, but they have to rely on others to actually innovate. To fix it, to build it. And those people have to rely on yet more people to handle all the other things, because even they have only mastered one trade. Everyone just consumes these days. No one learns. No one can take care of themselves.”

My cortisol plummeted.

“And I suppose you’re the exception.”

“No, but I’m sure as hell more self-reliant than your sorry generation. I actually know how a combustive engine works. I can hunt my own food and properly dress it. I know the difference between a blackbird’s song and a blue jay’s and I can make a dovetail joint. I can temper a piece of iron and knit myself a shirt if it ever need be. And I can tell when a kid is embarrassed without some chip built in Taiwan.”

The feed alerted me of an adrenaline increase, as well as an isolated dilation of the blood vessels across my face. My metabolic processes slowed by twenty-two percent and my pupil diameter had increased by thirty-seven.

I quit that lousy “History of Mechanics” internship the next day.

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