I saw this ad on the Internet about outsourcing your memory overseas,
so I decided to try it out, as it wasn't very expensive. I got a
pair of glasses in the mail, with built in speakers for my ears, a tiny
camera, and a little projection screen on the lenses, all hooked into satellite Internet feeds. Somewhere else
this guy probably named Sanjit, who said I could call him Gary, monitors
whatever I see and checks the images against a database so I can have
the names I need when seeing acquaintances on the street. It did
take some time entering the names and photos of everyone I know, but I
figured it would be worth it, particularly as Gary will enter any new
names himself, which might help me keep on top of things as I campaign for the presidency.
I went for a walk in the park, to try it out. I saw a little old lady walking her dog. That's your first grade teacher, Mrs. Lipshalk, said
Gary. That's incredible, I thought. She used to look a lot
bigger... Besides, I went to school back in the Midwest, how
could she be way out here? But I took a stab at it anyway...
"Hello, Mrs. Lipshalk! You probably don't remember me, but I had
you as a teacher for first grade. My name is Phil Steen, and now
I'm running for president!"
"Oh yes, I remember
you perfectly," she replied. "I always thought you could do
something great if you'd stop eating paste when I wasn't looking..."
Wow, she sure had an amazing memory! She has to be at least 75 by
now... Then I noticed she was wearing glasses like mine...
So that was her secret. But the paste thing! That
must be an amazing database they've got for these glasses... So
then I decided to see if the glasses would recognize someone I'd never
met... I started watching for anyone not wearing glasses.
There weren't a lot... I had just located someone when a
message from Gary flashed on my lenses.
you for your patronage. Because my business has grown, with your
help, I've decided to outsource some of my accounts to China.
Your personal representative will be Xeng Po, but you can call
him Bill. I'm confident he will supply you with the same great
memory assistance you have come to rely on...
seemed to do as well as Gary at first. But after a few
days I began to sense he had his own agenda going. If I saw any
kind of ad for travel, he'd mention the wonderful qualities of Rajnoor,
a place I was sure I'd never heard of before, so I wondered if he
weren't tampering with my memories. However, as time went on, I
adjusted to his idiosyncracies, and as long as we stayed off the topic
of travel, I felt this new memory system couldn't be beat.
I was drowsing off one evening, watching an old Peter Ustinov movie on
the classic movie channel, when Bill began telling me to wake up and
pay attention to the idol that one of the characters had stolen the eye
jewel from. He said the eyes of the idol were long gone, but that
the nose remained, for anyone brave enough to steal it, and that
with the Nose of Death we could both have unlimited happiness. I
suppose it was the way he kept badgering me about it, but finally I
gave in and booked passage to Rajnoor.
I did think it odd that so few people were going to Rajnoor. The
plane left from one of those charter terminals, so there were no lines
or security searches. The plane was the smallest I'd ever
flown on, particularly for an international flight. They handed
out Happy Meals and air sick bags and left us to our own devices.
Several of the other passengers were cleaning their guns, or
cleaning dark flecks off their knives. I played the banjo, in
such a way as to cause none of them to take offense at me.
Rajnoor Customs consisted of several men in uniform with machine guns
looking at you very carefully as you carried your baggage by them.
There was also an orangutan which I thought may or may not have
been sniffing for contraband. Bill informed me that the orangutan
was sacred in Rajnoor, and to ignore them or face the ire of the
populace, including the military. Fortunately I didn't have any
bananas in my baggage.
I had booked my
flight through Travelsteals.com, which threw in a 2 star hotel with the
ticket. When I saw the hotel, I figured out why it was included
for free. Parts of the hotel lacked a roof. As I checked
in, I asked about the missing roof, and they said it had been that way
since the typhoon hit. When pressed, they admitted the typhoon
had been 15 years previously.
I had been up
for 30 hours reaching Rajnoor, so I went to my room, staring up at the
stars through the ceiling before falling to sleep. I might have
slept for 12 hours, except the nightly rain began after 3 hours, and
the hole in the ceiling encouraged it to land on my hammock. It
was a long night, and I resolved to find a better hotel the next day.
The next morning I went to find the breakfast buffet. I finally
found a pot of rice, with a large bottle of soy sauce and some paper
bowls. It wasn't bad, but I was glad I'd resolved to move for the
Before setting out, I climbed to the third floor of the hotel and got a
vista of Rajnoor City. There was no grid to the city, only narrow
curving streets that made modern pinball machines look simple minded.
I got a map at the desk, and upon perusal, despaired. To
find the idol, or even another hotel, I would need a guide.
Fortunately the lack of a local economy made guides huddle around the
doors of the hotel. I was assaulted both verbally and bodily by
guides begging for my business, but how could I know which one to
choose? My information-laced glasses had been quiet since landing
in Rajpoor, except for an hourglass symbol that kept pouring sand,
indicating probably that time was passing by, or perhaps that my
warranty was running out... However, my attention was snared by
one voice, more strident than the rest, saying, "You need a gweed?"
"Gweed?" I said.
"Yes, to see the palaces, temples, and eedols."
"Statues of the local deities, you know, ruby eyes, that sort of thing..."
"Er, yes," I said. "You're hired."
"Ee thank you for heering me."
Gupta seemed a very capable guide, except for his having trouble with
the Long I sound. He had a cousin who worked at a much
better and cheaper hotel, with verified ceilings, so I grabbed my bags
and checked out at once. On the walk to the new hotel, I began
quizzing Gupta about the Eedols of Rajnoor.
"Eedols?" He asked.
"I mean idols," I said.
"Oh, eedols," he said. "I know where all the eedols of Rajnoor City are."
"Have you ever seen one with the rubies prized out of the eye sockets?"
"Oh yes, the ees are always missing--anything of value in Rajnoor is
stolen immediately. Perhaps you just noticed your watch
disappearing when that boy bumped into you back there..."
"What? Why didn't you say something?"
"I only noticed after he was gone. Actually you are better off.
The less wealth you have on display, the less notice will be
taken of you by the cut purses and cut throats..."
"I can live without a purse, but I'm attached to my throat," I said.
"Yes, currently Ee see that is true," he said.
The new hotel was much homier. In fact, we ate lunch in the
kitchen with the cook and his family, and the manager and his family as
well. It was a pretty crowded kitchen. After lunch it was
suggested I help with the dishes, and since the cook, who suggested it,
stood between me and the exit, I decided to go along, assuming it was
some local custom. A couple hours later Gupta and I set off to
tour the Idols of Rajnoor.
It's probably a good
thing that Rajnoor was a long ways from Europe in the Middle Ages, or
crusaders would have taken a detour here to smash a few hundred of
their idols. Of course that would have been bad for the tourist
business. They seemed to have idols for every occasion. And
Gupta hadn't exaggerated about the missing eyeballs. But most of them
were missing the nose as well, so I persisted looking for one with a
It was in Arup's House of
Idols that I was shocked to discover OD Esse, the famous adventurer
also perusing the idols.
"OD, what are you doing here?" I had to ask.
"I've gotten religion," said OD. "These idols inspire me."
It was then I noticed the glasses.
"You've got the Memory Glasses, just like I've got. Do yours work here? "
"They did till I landed in Rajnoor."
"The same for me." I started to get a sinking feeling. "Say, what's the name of your Memory?"
"I don't remember," said OD. "That's why I thought I needed the Memory Glasses.
"Was it Bill? Or, that is, some Chinese guy who goes by the name of Bill?"