It’s often remarked that Londoners are scared of other Londoners. That we don’t talk to one another, or even make eye contact. That last bit might be true (and rightly so – look away, please) but, on the whole, we’re not that unfriendly, we just don’t like plunging ourselves heedlessly into the other people’s grubby, sweat-clogged, germ-covered business.
Taking citizens’ phobia of contact to its logical extreme, TfL have set about making London’s transport systems touch-free. Want to board a bus? Then put those rounded bits of metal away, grandpa. Getting on the tube? Watch out for ‘card clash’ (which sounds like a Top Trumps offshoot, but actually means you’re waving too many magic bits of plastic at the card reader). It’s the same in the shops. Paying for something? You’ll want to use your contactless credit card for that, rather than jabbing your fingers against a grubby chip-and-pin machine like a Victorian physician prodding a syphilitic ulcer.
Point being, we shouldn’t have to touch anything any more. In the spirit of this noble, futurist endeavour, here are five more London activities that we think ought to become contactless.
1. Visiting the loo
In a utopian society you’d be able to open the door of a public toilet with zero fear that several hundreds of humans before you might have smeared traces of their own effluent over the handle. But this isn’t a utopia. It’s London, where there’s always some bloke who’s eschewed hot soapy water in favour of a quick wipe on the back of his jeans. In a squalid twist on Broken Windows Theory, this means that many more people are now going to stop washing their mitts post-micturation as – to quote a disgusting friend of mine – ‘What’s the point if you’re going to get them dirty again leaving the lav?’
The solution? Go contactless. Swipe a card and the loo door opens. Swipe again: the toilet seat lifts. Swipe a third time and your flies go down. Alright, that third one’s from the realm of science fiction – and has potentially dangerous consequences for public situations – but I’ll be damned if I still have to swing my own penis out of my jeans in the age of the iPhone 6.
2. The cinema
One of the main advantages of contactless payment is that you can’t see any money leaving your hands, therefore you haven’t really spent it. Bits of binary code shooting through the air don’t actually exist in a scientific sense (probably), so there’s no need to think twice about dropping £25 on a ticket to see ‘Let’s Be Cops’ and a bag of Minstrels. Added to which, contactless would do away with all that ticket-related faff. Simply swipe in and the cost will be added to your account in ‘the cloud’. What is the cloud? No-one knows, though some spiritual leaders speculate that it’s a place of infinite fulfilment, packed with easily accessible photos of naked celebrities.
No pens. No paper. No ballot boxes. Just a booth with a series of easy-to-distinguish card readers, perhaps modelled on politicians’ faces. Touch your card to the beaming visage of Ed Milliband and you’ve cast your vote for Labour. To be honest, this system would have to be contactless. Just imagine how much bodily fluid would accumulate on Cameron’s brow.
© Rob Greig
Books are like Kindles that you can take in the bath, and we used to have a lot of them back in the days of great literature – I’m talking Shakespeare, Rowling, whoever wrote ‘One Day’. They’ve gone out of fashion, however, as you can’t also use them to browse the internet. Perhaps, though, we could bring books into the modern era by making them contactless? If you wanted to take a buy a novel you’d just tap it, and it’d be yours. Or how about this, instead of actually reading the book, you could enjoy it remotely, via a virtual projection of its plot – a watchable book, of sorts, the pages of which unfold as some kind of condensed narrative, with vivid characters presented in stunning locations…
…oh wait, that’s just a film isn’t it? Yep, that’s a film.
A no-brainer, right? TfL has already revealed plans for all black cabs to take cards by 2016. A good move, but we need to go one further – we need to go contactless. A simple swipe and you’ve paid the fare, as opposed to fiddling about by that little slot in the crouched-over fashion of Gandalf the Grey posting something through a hobbit’s letterbox. If the powers that be can also find a way to make taxi rides ‘conversationless’ then that, my fellow Londoners, is the cold-hearted, emergent dystopia that I would like to live in.
By Jonny Ensall