Greg's Fascinating Life - A Flash Fiction

Think about seven billion things. Er, let me make this more concrete for you. Think about seven billion of one item, maybe seven billion marbles, or biscuits, or plungers. Doesn’t really matter what it is, whatever works for you.

If you thought of websites as your item then please realize there are only a tad over one billion websites, so multiply the Internet by seven and you’ll be on track with the rest of us (and please try to keep up, this is only the introduction and those thinking of marbles are tired of waiting for you to get with the program).

If you thought about days, you need to know that you’re looking at about 20 thousand millennia there. You know what? Marbles. Just go with marbles and we can move past the whole website/days fiasco and get on with the story.

OK. I think we’re all on the same page with seven billion marbles in our mind. Now, that’s a big number so I want you to think about how you would sort those marbles. By size? By color? By personality? (I don’t recommend sorting marbles by personality type--it is no easy task, let me tell you.)

Point is, you will be able to sort them. Actually, you wouldn’t because there are so many you’d find you are dead long before you even got all the marbles home from the marble store. I guess if you were an OCD vampire, you could swing it with the whole not dying thing you have going on, but vampires don’t read my blog anymore since I did the tell-all about Dracula (I had to take it down after Dracula’s estate sued me, but whatever).

OK, of those seven billion marbles, what are the chances that any of them are exactly alike? Seven billion is a mind-blowingly big number so, yeah, there will be lots of them so similar as to be the same.

Now I’ve got you where I want you. Are there any people who are so similar as to be indistinguishable from one another? No there’s not.

Why’d you have to go and bring up identical twins? You really don’t want to hear this story do you? No, no, I’ll play along with your little game here. Have you ever known twins? Sure, they look the same, they speak a secret twin-cult language, and they can read each other’s minds, but they have distinct personalities. Plus, go back to your high school days and go to a twin’s house to ask the father to date his daughter (or son), but say it doesn’t matter which twin you go out with. Yeah, that will go well for you.

There are seven point four billion people on planet Earth. All distinct in a way seven million marbles can only be jealous of. (Well, not all marbles get jealous, but if you went with sorting by personality type, I’d keep my eye on those marbles that got EFSJ on the Myers Briggs Personality inventory).

We are moving on from the marbles now, so you can roll those out of your mind. This story was never about marbles anyway, they were just an analogy.

This story is mainly about 0.000000015 percent of the Earth’s population. That is, this story is primarily about one Greg Cunningham.

One, distinctly unlike-anyone-else Greg Cunningham.

During the 70’s he discovered a number of things about himself. This was not a uniquely Greg thing as it was in fashion to discover things about yourself in the 1970’s. However, the things Greg discovered were not the things one thinks of someone discovering about oneself in the 70’s.

Greg discovered that he was not particularly attractive, nor did he care to be because he was not attracted to anyone else. He discovered that most everything made him anxious, but it did not matter because he could avoid most everything.

One thing Greg could not avoid was work (don’t we all know how that is--or is that what I am doing right now?) What do people do when they want to work, but they hate being around people? They learn to program computers. So, our friend Greg learned to program computers. (Mind you, he’s not really our friend, I’m just trying to make the guy more personable you so you will be engaged in the story. Sorry if you thought you had a new friend you could call up and have over for biscuits and a rousing game of marbles.)

Now, Greg liked computer programming not only for the social isolation it afforded him. In fact, he loved the diametric way computers think. Switches were on or off. Cards were punched or not punched (whoa, if you don’t know about punched cards that’s like saying you don’t know about AOL disks...dude, I’m old). Basically, things are pretty black and white in the old programming world, and Greg adopted this as his life philosophy.

If Greg found something that worked for him, that is how he always did it. He bought a Honda Civic when he began working, has had its oil changed religiously at the dealership every three months, and he still drives it today.

Sometimes, Greg did have turmoil in his life. For example, he drank exactly one Coca-Cola every day with his lunch. New Coke was released in 1985 (yes, kids, Coca-Cola tried to change its taste to something drinkable, but the populace demanded the old swill back and eventually got their way. And, frankly, I’m tired of having to tell you this stuff, don’t they teach this in school?) So, New Coke comes out and this puts Greg off so bad he changes to Pepsi. Pretty soon Coca-Cola realizes its mistake and brings back the old taste. Good for Greg, right? Nope. He couldn’t risk Coke changing flavors on him again so he stuck with Pepsi. (Really, he should have gone with the superior RC Cola, but I’m only telling you what happened and I have no personal control over this story or we could have avoided all those marbles at the beginning.)

I wish there was time to tell you more about Greg, living your life by seeing only “yes” and “no” as the answer to everything can lead to finding oneself in some very peculiar circumstances. I mean, think what would happen if someone were a one issue voter, or couldn’t cross party lines because they made a decision fifty years ago when they registered to vote. Luckily, nothing like that happens in real life (and this is just a story after all).

Anyway, I wish there was more time because Greg does find himself a bit perturbed being a digital person in an analog world. But, I can’t tell you more because you used up all your time trying to think about marbles with no regard to the great story you were going to miss out on because of it. You're still doing it, aren’t you? You're still having trouble picturing seven billion marbles at the same time.

It’s OK, not all of us have all our marbles.

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