Where is my Atomic Powered Monorail?

MonorailRemember how cool the future used to be?

If you don’t, you are probably too young.

Try Googling Popular Science, 1956 and see what it used to be like. Believe me, back then the future was a lot better.

In those days, the future had atomic powered monorails zipping between mile-high skyscrapers and cars that got 5 million miles per gallon (of uranium).

But coolest of all, everything had tailfins, even the architecture.

In that future, no one went unemployed, overtime started at two hours per week and all you had to do to clean the cat-box was push a button.

Fabulous, huh?

Well, not really. The future had its dark-side too. Mostly because of evil robots.

According to Analog Magazine, which my friends and I devoured, robots stalked the future’s nights – intent upon stealing women.

We never learned what maniacal plans were in store for these buxom fair-haired beauties, but one thing we knew for certain, they were always rescued in the nick of time, usually by preteen boys (much like ourselves) and of course, the beauties were always grateful, which we found oddly troubling.

So if this is what the future used to be, what happened?

Where is my atomic powered monorail?

Where is my troubling feminine gratitude?

Why am I stuck in dystopia, scooping turds out of a cat box instead of zipping through a cantilevered megalopolis in a car that gets 5 million miles a gallon?

I blame it all on Leon Hartman.

You see… Leon was the only teen to actually have rescued a buxom fair-haired beauty from a robot. Her name was Estelle.

Well… it wasn’t exactly a robot. More like a tabulating machine in the basement of the Liberty Fidelity Insurance Company in Buffalo New York, but he did indeed save her.

The machine, a notoriously clever IBM 407, had tricked the inexperienced Estelle into leaning too close. Her hair caught in its gears and slowly, maniacally, the tabulator began to draw the frantic Estelle into its mechanical maw.

In the nick of time, Leon pulled the plug and Estelle was, of course ,deliciously grateful – which troubled Leon – but not so badly that he failed to ask her out.

They fell in love, got married and purchased a new two bedroom rambler in a chic suburb midway between Love Canal and Three Mile Island.

Their home was a marvel of modern chemistry, boasting an exterior shingled with “Amazing Asbestos”, a miracle material that actually gets stronger with age and an interior made colorful by “the answer to the old alchemist’s dream” – white-lead paint.

But it’s not what you think. Leon and Estelle were blithely unaware of the ticking toxicity of their life, rather, the only flaw in their otherwise ideal existence came to their notice one morning after they moved in.

Estelle asked, “Do you hear that?”

“Nope,” Leon answered, “I don’t hear a thing.”

“Exactly,” replied Estelle.

“You lost me,” Leon said.

“The reason you cannot hear anything,” said Estelle, “is there is nothing to hear. Our development has no birds. Not a one.”

“So you want a bird?”

“No, I want a tree.”

“You are always losing me, Estelle”

“I want a tree for birds.”

It seemed a reasonable request, so Leon planted a beautiful silver maple sapling in the front yard.  No sooner had he turned on the hose to water it then an angry delegation of neighbors surrounded him.

The chairman of the association shook a dog-eared copy of the development’s by-laws in his face.  “You can’t plant a maple on Elm Street,” he shrieked.

“Why?” Leon asked.

“Because you moron, it’s, it’s, it’s Elm Street.”

This is where it would be nice to say, “then it hit him” but it didn’t. It hit Estelle first, a full week later while driving in bumper to bumper traffic just outside of New York City.

“Leon?” she said.


“What are we doing?”

“You are always losing me, Estelle”

“We are sitting in an automobile that looks like a rocket,” she said,

“Uh-huh,”  Leon said.

“Going nowhere,” Estelle said.

“Frustrating isn’t it?”

“It’s a metaphor – tailfins in a traffic jam. It’s our future…”

That is when it hit him.

“Let’s move to the sticks,” he said.

“Somewhere with trees,” Estelle echoed.

“Yeah, we’ll get a place where the cat can bury his turds outside so I don’t have to clean the cat-box. I hate that.”

Estelle didn’t say a word, but she smiled inwardly. She didn’t want to tarnish Leon’s dream.  The best dreams, she though to herself, are the ones left unfulfilled.