Veblen* Vacation

Only ten minutes until pick-up time! Not prone to panicking, Ako takes a deep breath and sits down at the kitchen table. First things first now. He activates the screen mode of his implant by double pressing the first phalanx of his left pinkie with his right thumb and index to check his travel documents.

It’s all there on his left forearm, displayed in cool turquoise letters. Perfect contrast with his dark skin. The interface upgrade didn’t come cheap, but this is far more comfortable to read than the yellowish scribbles delivered by the basic version. And much more classy to display in public.

Ako discards the wave of career & earnings pride. At this stage of their vacation, he has to focus on the essentials.

First of all, his own passport, with a permission to access the wild zones formerly known as EU. As part of an organized group and in the company of a tour guide only, of course. No sane individual from a civilized country would freelance into this mess. 

A copy of Ebu’s passport, also validated for their adventure trip. 

Their health status, including a long list of vaccinations that took them half a year to acquire.

Who would have guessed there was an ailment going by the name of permafrost scabies, and that one had to vaccinate against it?

The recommended health precautions sounded a bit scary at first. But the tour operator as good as guarantees a safe trip, for participants with their kind of global health care coverage. And the neighbors did it.

Last not least, enough cash in the bank to buy a minor EU town. They’re easily able to afford purchasing whatever additional items they might need. No need to worry about forgotten face masks, toothpaste or anti-frostbite unction.

Satisfied with his trip readiness, Ako calls towards the sounds of frenzy emanating from the bedroom: “Honey, just close that bag and come sit with me for a ready-to-go coffee, please? We’ve got two days in Paris, we’ll go shopping.”

Ebu might be in panic mode, but that’s not going to stop a multitasking champion from arguing back. Shouting to make herself heard above the sounds of her own frantic packing, she goes: 

“Shopping in Paris? Are you mad? We’d pay ten times the Lagos price! And for some items, there’s no way, they’re just not there.

Ever seen a picture of what Europeans call a pharmacy? You’re better off heading for a bar if you need anything as basic as painkillers. The pharmacy will probably sell the very same moonshine, but the bar is less likely to have run out.

Just get up and help me find those bloody protein gel sachets, please, darling, now!”

She’s the doctor, and his wife, and hot, in every sense.

Ako joins her in the bedroom and starts rummaging through the second wardrobe before starting to argue back: 

“Honey, half a billion people live where we go. Suggests survival is possible. And we’re with an experienced tour operator. Our guide will know where to find essentials. They won’t come cheap, OK.

But being able to afford not cheap, that’s exactly the point of us making good money.

Besides, it’s only just pick-up time. On past form, we’ve got at least an hour to go until the driver shows up, to give us an earful about Lagos traffic.

Why not close that bag for now, and join me for a cup of coffee? It will help us remember where we put…”

Ako doesn’t get to finish his well calibrated plea.

With a triumphant “In the fridge!” Ebu rushes past him, travel bag and what must be the designated protein gel sachet container in hand. She’s sort of doing what he suggested. Ako counts himself one up on the authority score.

Three high rush minutes later, a proudly grinning conductor heaves their bags into the trunk of the red three seater before complimenting them onto the passenger seats. Mister Grin will be sitting up front behind the wheel, to take over in case of an emergency. For now, there’s no need for him to do anything.

It’s Ako giving their trip the go, prompted by a cute flashing traffic light icon on his left forearm.

While they roll towards MMA II airport, past waterfront holiday resorts and the kind of gated communities he aspires to buy into for the family stage of their marriage, with Ebu checking whatever on her pink-on-black forearm display at this side, Ako is both cursing and priding himself.

He of all people should have had Autonomous Only Saturday in mind.

No conventional driving in Greater Lagos on Saturdays, except in life-and-death emergencies.

And LMA, as in Lagos Mobility Authority does mean it, the fines are huge. No traffic jam on Saturdays. No need to schedule their trip with the usual delays in mind.

At their current speed, they’ll reach the airport in twenty minutes, and will have to wait for their flight to start boarding for six hours. 

Amazing, how smoothly the pretty thick traffic flows.

As foretold by their preliminary study, there is a higher proportion of taxis and carshare vehicles on the road. They get subsidies to go solar, and all electric vehicles are autonomy enabled.

But there are also a lot of private eVs around. It has become a trend, and it’s picking up speed.

A moment of quiet engineer pride for Ako. He’s behind this. Not just him alone, but he’s definitely a major contributor to this marvel. Without the base stations he installed, none of this would happen.

Outside, the pretty estates with their palm groves have been replaced by box-type buildings surrounded by easy-upkeep carbon capture greenery.

Some manufacturing, mostly high-end components based on petrol intermediate inputs. These well paying companies take advantage of the big refineries and recycling plants further downstream.

Some logistics, often displaying the company names in both Mandarin and English. Very Asian, logistics. Like electronics.

A lot of foodstuffs. All kinds of, all stages of processing.

The African tropical belt feeds most of the continent nowadays, mostly via Lagos. Plus some processed food gets shipped towards the few Europeans lucky enough to be able to afford imported supplements to their very basic diet.

Amazing, how one climate event can affect billions of people. Back in the 2020s, they were the lost souls living it what was referred to as a hopeless country, in polite company, and promised to suffer most from climate change. People aspired to be allowed into the EU. Until things went topsy turvy, out of a sudden.

Ako missed the early stages of the switch.

He was too busy scrambling for his degree while failing to seduce beautiful fellow student Sophia. She went for a hotshot wedding with the UK visa holder  instead, leaving Ako too heartbroken to care about world events.

Something will have featured in global news, about Greenland ice and the Gulf Stream. But this is not what you notice when struggling with romantic misfortune in a forty degree high heat wave.

By the time the dimensions of the switch registered with Ako, Europe was racing to the bottom faster than a bob slides. Most of it just froze over, for most of the year.

Remittances stopped. Their former senders started to beg for job recommendations, to be allowed to return. Sophia called to casually drop the news of her upcoming divorce and refound freedom.

Ako smiles at the memory of him mentioning his happy marriage with wonderful Ebu. “You’ll love her” he told Sophia, “let’s meet for a drink one of these days”. He would have gone on for a while, to savour this little revenge, but Sophia hang up with a foulmouthed curse. He’s so lucky not to have conquered this bitch.

Time to blow an air kiss at his wonderful wife at his side.

Yes, Ako is a lucky man. In the right time, at the right place, with the right qualifications. And here comes the airport.

With a frisson of anticipation, Ako gets ready to enjoy his first poverty porn trip.

*Please check the definition of Veblen Goods if the title fails to convey meaning