The Here & Now Project
Every Friday this summer, The Here & Now Project will post a new short play, written by one of four playwrights selected from across the United States. These plays focus on dramatizing where these playwrights are and what’s happening there now.
THE TIME: Now.
THE PLACE: A branch of the public library, Toledo.
Public library computer cluster. Maybe it resembles the virtual landscape in Tron. Or maybe it doesn’t. Everyone seated at a computer. Everyone mystified and frustrated, except for TERELL.
FATIMA stands up.
I’m really really mad at you.
I need an email.
Apparently I need an email.
I’m told I need an email address
To create an account
So I can advertise a room
So I can pay bills.
To do that I need an account;
For that I need to have an email
And for that I need to do this captcha
Which is a problem because
I do not know
What is a captcha.
It’s just a test. It’s a test to make sure you’re a person and not a computer. A computer can’t read it so when you read it then the site knows you’re not a computer but a person.
Then maybe I’m a computer
Because I cannot read it.
Is that a D or an eight?
Does it try to say “despond?”
Why so twisty, captcha?
Why so swirly and with a line through you?
I can’t read that. So
Maybe I’m a machine.
I just need someone
To rent my room.
I just need the money.
Well, if it says you need an email to place the ad—I don’t know, you should probably do the captcha.
And if I do that,
That will fix it?
I did it wrong.
There is a new captcha.
I want to throw my belt from the Gap at you.
I need to apply
For an extension
Of my benefits
Because they didn’t hire me at
The casino or
The university or
The Red Robin or
The cleaners or
The medical center or
The Red Robin.
(You already said that.)
(No I tried twice, I applied there twice.
I know right?)
So I need to file for an extension
But they have my old email
Which got hacked
(I think by someone in Morocco?)
So I need a new email
With a new username
That no one else in the
Universe has already taken
I have to do this captcha,
This fucking captcha.
If you hit the refresh it’ll give you a different one, a different captcha.
A better one?
A different one.
And that’ll fix it?
It won’t hurt.
I’m about ready to go on and slap you.
I need to find the article,
The not-so-long-ago article
About the woman at the gas station
At the corner of Central and Talmadge
Who parked a little too far away from the pump
And so who said to her eleven-year-old niece in the car,
Said “Pull it on up a little closer hon,”
Because what’s the worst that could happen,
And short story short both the car and the pump
Went up in flames. Did you see that?
Did you see that story?
No one was hurt but still: flames.
I need to find that story.
You uh shouldn’t need an account to—The Blade site is free, why do you need to do a uh—?
I don’t just need to find the article.
I also need to send the article
To my mother
For her to know about
And to think about
For the next time she wants to talk to me about my parenting.
It’s just a Turing test. Don’t think too hard about it.
And that will fix it?
Just keep trying. It’ll keep giving you new ones.
I don’t want new ones.
They’ll never run out.
I don’t—Do you think this one says “abject?”
I cannot read it, apparently I am a computer.
I typed "turingtest,"
Is that what you said to do?
It didn't work.
Oh my God.
I’m ready to full-on baseball-bat you.
I need an account
To send a package
To my son in prison
Which you can't just send a package
To your son in prison
You have to go to this place on the computer
And put it together from the stuff they have to offer
Their snack bags and Dial soaps
And to do that you need an account
And to do that you need an email
And to do that you need to do this...
And I've got to get this done
Because I said I'd get it done
And they make it all so hard
And everything takes so long
And I can't just take forever
Because I've got to pick up my grandkids from school.
When do they get out of school?
Uhh—half an hour ago.
Would you like to meet my mom?
Just do it. Just type it and do it. It's annoying but it's just a thing. It's just a thing that you have to do and it's not the hardest thing, just do it and just do it.
And that will fix it?
Sure that will fix it; that will fix everything!
I'd like to go to Morocco.
On top of everything it's Ramadan.
Does this one say "surrender?"
I'll probably never go to Morocco.
Nope I guess it doesn't.
I would kill now for a Ritz cracker.
Have you ever seen anyone in real life spend this much on a Twizzlers?
Are these things harder than they used to be?
Who is Craig and why is it his list?
Does this one say "resigned?"
I think I just turned the computer off.
My job thing—
This will fix it?
My money thing—
This will fix it?
This thing with my mother—
This thing with my son—
This life and stuff thing—
NOREEN AND KENDRA
This will fix it?
Oh! Come! On!
Can't you people see
That I am trying to enjoy
And it's getting really really really really
—You are looking at pornography?
Yes I am!
And do you know why
I am looking at pornography?
Probably yeah, yes.
Because it doesn't ask questions.
It doesn't need help.
It doesn't expect anything
All the time!
It just does
What it's supposed
And you know what else?
What site... is that? That you're—?
You've all ruined it.
I'm outta here.
Why, um, isn't he—?
I'll get up and leave shortly, thank you.
The OTHERS stand.
O captcha! Dire trickster!
O how you warp and bend,
I prove my life but not enough
To fix it and hit "send."
End of play.
The digital divide is an issue everywhere, though it's easy to feel—in a city where only 24% of the adults have a college degree—like it's more pronounced here. The problem of eleven-year-olds setting gas stations ablaze with their unsophisticated parking skills may well be a more localized phenomenon.