Chip Mosher: Happiness, Nevada

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Recently, our planet lost one second of time, which, this past weekend, was arbitrarily added to the world’s atomic clocks as a “leap-second.” However, this cosmic burp opened up the perfect opportunity to surf a little wave of the space-time continuum into the future. So I jumped on it, to Las Vegas in 2042.

Bad idea. I have landed in the old downtown area, during daytime. Everything here is gray and bleak — the sky, the buildings, the air. Breathing is difficult. Apparently, in 2042, Las Vegas isn’t Las Vegas anymore because models of that once-iconic sign hover all over the place, saying: “Welcome To Fabulous Happiness, Nevada.”

It’s hot, 131 degrees according to a big blinking digital clock. The few people on the streets are skittish. If I approach them, they put their heads down and shuffle off in other directions. Their eyes are blank. On billboard-sized posters everywhere is the face of a man I recognize — Tony Hsieh, founder of a company called Zappos back from where I have come. Underneath his huge photo is a slogan: HOPE IS NOT A GOOD PLAN.

I cough from the soot in the air and notice an old man sitting on the curb. As I draw near, he barks at me.

“Da fuck away! I’ll kill ya!” he yelps, phlegm garbling his words.

I apologize then walk away.

“Wait!” he says. “Your voice, it’s clean. Not from around these parts, are you?”

When I tell him how I got here he asks me to prove it, which I don’t know how to do. He orders me to empty my pockets. They contain a pack of gum, some coins. He goes crazy over the gum. Says he hasn’t seen a luxury like that in years. I ask him how things got this way in Vegas. He says for some gum he’ll tell me the story. So I give him a piece, and here is what he says:

“Based on a rave party he once attended, Tony Hsieh developed his tribal psychic-surrender concept, or TheoCommerce, where employees give their whole souls for the happiness of the company. He rebuilt downtown Vegas in his own image. Eventually his ideas spread to China, India and Europe. That’s when the first worldwide corporate war, WCW One, hit in 2022, to rid the globe of labor unions. Vegas plummeted as a tourist destination during this period, and Tony grabbed up the Strip cheap, turning it into the holy land for his philosophy. After WCW Two in 2030, the war that divided the world into corporate states and sweatshop states, Tony fenced off his Strip mecca as a corporate zone — inside the sweatshop state of Nevada. I used to work for him, but got too old to jump high enough to prove my faith at company revival meetings. So they dumped me into the sweatshop zone. I work at a rat factory, making soylent food for other sweatshop states. Some folks say Tony’s corpse is preserved in the pyramid on the Happiness Strip, where millions come to worship annually. Others say it’s a fake body and that Tony is hiding in CorpCanada, living his life in luxury befitting a corpoguru.”

When he finishes talking, I ask his name.

“William Loman,” he says. “Friends call me Will.”

I’m sending his story back in time by a trick I picked up surfing time’s ocean. I hope my editor gets it. Happiness is hell.

<strong>CHIP MOSHER has traveled through his fair share of time</strong>