Transmission (Hari Kunzru)

So I met my imaginary friend Bertie at Caspian Cafe in Germantown because I can't go three days in a row without eating their fabulous kebab. Oh, and he wanted to run his latest business idea by me before he meets with his potential "investors." Most of the time, I think that his "investors" are as imaginary to him as he is to me.

What does it mean if your imaginary friends have imaginary friends?

I met him in the parking lot. He was staring at the Popeyes next door.

"You don't want to go in there," I said. "This stuff is much better."

"Sure," he nodded. He noticed the book I was carrying. "How appropriate!" he said. "You're reading an Indian novel and we're going to an Indian restaurant."

"Dude," I said, with disdain. "The Caspian Cafe is not an Indian Restaurant. It is Persian. India doesn't touch the Caspian Sea."

"But they have kebab," he noted.

"Sure," I agreed. "But it's not the same spice. This is more buttery or smooth or something."

"Plus, I see they have fish and filet mignon kebab," he added after looking at the menu. "I suppose you don't see that much in Indian restaurants."

"Also," I said, "Most of the action in Transmission takes place in America and the UK, not so much India. Are you going to get fish?"

"Maybe. I sure like naan, though."

"It's not naan," I said. "It's pita."

At any rate, we made it through ordering and went to a table. My chicken was juicy and the bread somewhere between cracker and biscuit. Bertie picked up the book.

"So, this guy lets loose a virus --" he started.

"It's not a virus, really, it's...oh, never mind." I shook my head. "Any way, the book is pretty good, but it just made me think of work too much. Why don't you tell me your idea?"

"Ah, well," he rubbed his hands together. "Have you ever opened one of those jars of pickles or something and looked at the lid? You know what it says?"

"Yeah, something like 'Don't use if safety button has popped,'" I responded around bites of chicken.

"Exactly!" he cried. "So, after you eat the mayo or whatever and put the jar back in the fridge, jeez, you can't ever eat any more."

"Huh?" I said, intelligently. He certainly lost me quickly.

"Because when you pull it out, the label still says not to use it!" he said.

"Ah," I said, slowly, "The safety seal is still popped."

"Exactly. So, what I'm proposing is an automatically re-sealing safety seal."

"That ought to help clear out all those half-full pickle jars in the back of America's refrigerators," I said sarcastically.

"You don't think it's a good idea?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "Let's just say it might seem to solve the initial problem, but there are probably a good number of unforeseen problems with doing something like that."

He sat quietly for a minute. Then he nodded. "You're probably right. It doesn't really help those people who prefer mustard, huh?"

"Yeah," I said.

We finished our meals with a few words about the Nationals, then walked out to our cars. We stared at the passing traffic for a few moments.

"Not as much traffic on Rockville Pike as I expected," he said.

"It's not Rockville Pike up here," I said. "It's Frederick Road."

"Isn't it still 355?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, forget about it," I said. And we got into our cars and drove off.

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