Attention, theatrical producers!
When Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, was established on January 1, 1983, as the standard communication language for computer networks around the world, the internet as we know it was born. And for the next three decades it was “the Internet” with a capital I until the Associated Press and The New York Times decided in the spring of 2016 to lowercase that letter in their style guides.
I mean, is this the stuff of great drama or what?
Look, I’m not saying the following one-act is the next Hamilton — but there is a French character in it if you think Daveed Diggs would be interested-slash-affordable. And if you’d prefer in-the-round staging over proscenium, say the word and I’ll make the necessary adjustments. Whatever it takes to get this thing up and running, aside from changing a single syllable of dialogue, I’ll be happy to oblige …
THE LOWER CLASS: A drama in one act
TIME & PLACE: Late afternoon, New Year’s Day. A dive bar.
A downbeat customer enters and takes a seat at the corner of the bar closest to the entrance. The bartender approaches, half smiling.
BAND-AID: Welcome to the Capital. What’ll it be?
THE INTERNET: (matter-of-fact) Four Roses, on the rocks. Thanks. Make it a double, would you?
BAND-AID: Sorry, we ran out of the top-shelf bourbon last night. Well bourbon okay?
THE INTERNET: (lightly sighs) Sure.
BAND-AID: Coming right up.
Band-aid walks to the other end of the bar to fix the internet’s drink, where another customer can be heard crying softly. The internet turns to the customer two stools away on his left.
THE INTERNET: (nodding toward the other end) What’s his deal?
TUPPERWARE: Oh. That’s dumpster. Low self-esteem. He was genericized a long time ago but never really got over it. (smiles) I’m tupperware.
THE INTERNET: Oh, uh, I’m … I’m just here to drink.
The internet breaks eye contact to watch band-aid prepare his drink.
TUPPERWARE: (deadpan) Right. Divorced mom of a certain age. Undesirable. Got it.
THE INTERNET: Hey, that’s not what I—
Tupperware interrupts him with a dismissive wave. Band-aid returns with the internet’s well bourbon.
BAND-AID: Would you like to open a tab?
THE INTERNET: I’m fine with just the bourbon, thanks.
BAND-AID: No, not a can of Tab. Your bar tab.
THE INTERNET: (slight pause) Of course — sorry. Uh, yeah, a tab would be great.
He hands band-aid a credit card, then turns toward tupperware.
THE INTERNET: (cont’d) Is Tab cola still a thing?
TUPPERWARE: (annoyed) What are you asking me for?
Dumpster begins to sob. Band-aid wipes up a wet spot on the bar.
THE INTERNET: (to band-aid) Hey, is he going to be okay?
BAND-AID: Oh, sure. You know, New Year’s Day — makes you think about things you don’t want to think about.
The customer sitting to the right of dumpster puts her hand on his shoulder.
KLEENEX: (soothingly) It happens to the best of us.
DUMPSTER: That uppercase was all I had!
THE INTERNET: (raising his voice a bit so he can be heard at the other end of the bar) She’s right. I mean … I’m the internet.
The bar falls silent.
TUPPERWARE: (sarcastically) Oh, wow. The internet? Remind me to get your autograph before I leave.
THE INTERNET: (trying to ignore her) Yeah, uh … I turned 40 today, but I got lowercased almost seven years ago.
A beefy customer at the jukebox — located upstage, stage left of the bar — makes a selection, then joins the conversation as he makes his way back to the bar.
THERMOS: (with a heavy Brooklyn accent) Join the club, Mac.
Boz Scaggs’s 1976 song “Lowdown” begins playing on the jukebox.
THERMOS: (cont’d) One day you’re on the top floor of the skyscraper, and the next you’re out back by the loading dock with the dumpsters. What’re ya gonna do?
Dumpster begins to sob again. A figure who’d previously been seen only in the shadows upstage walks to center stage, drink in hand.
MEMORY STICK: Hi. I’m memory stick. Maybe you noticed me back there in the corner, maybe you didn’t. But I’m always here. You can call me a barfly if you want. Here at the Capital they call me some other names, probably because I remind them of past mistakes, embarrassing moments, and other things they’d like to permanently delete. I get it — no one wants to remember everything. That’s why drinking was invented, and why places like the Capital exist. And in the spirit of not remembering everything, you mind if we skip ahead an hour? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Memory stick returns to the shadows as new customers fill up the barstools — including two on tupperware’s left, three on the internet’s right, and one between tupperware and the internet — and the tables along “the fourth wall” downstage. The internet is more animated now but is beginning to slur his words just a bit. (Because a customer is now seated between the internet and tupperware, they lean back in their stools when they whisper to each other.)
THE INTERNET: It went from dial-up to broadband in here pretty fast.
TUPPERWARE: Time flies — especially when you order another drink every 20 minutes.
THE INTERNET: Not that you’re keeping track or anything. (whispers) Hey, is that who I think it is on your left?
TUPPERWARE: (whispers) Yep. Putt-putt and ping-pong.
THE INTERNET: Wow. Legends.
PING-PONG: (to putt-putt) Have you talked to skee-ball lately?
PUTT-PUTT: No, have you?
PING-PONG: Nope. Maybe he’s gone the way of the yo-yo.
They laugh. Yo-yo is seated to their left.
YO-YO: (annoyed) ‘Dodo.’ The expression is ‘gone the way of the dodo.’
PING-PONG: No, it isn’t.
YO-YO: Yes, it is.
PING-PONG: No, it isn’t.
YO-YO: Yes, it is.
PING-PONG: No, it isn’t!
YO-YO: Yes, it is! I should know — I’m yo-yo, and I’m the greatest toy of all time! I’ll never go extinct!
Yo-yo downs the rest of his drink, then stares into the distance and begins shaking.
YO-YO: Oh, who am I kidding? I’m at the end of my rope!
Yo-yo hastily rolls out of the Capital.
THE INTERNET: (to tupperware) That was a hell of a mood swing.
TUPPERWARE: He’s always been like that — up one second, down the next.
THE INTERNET: I know the feeling.
WEBSITE: You think you got it bad? My W was downsized in 2010 and they took away my space, just like that.
EMAIL: They took away my hyphen the year after that. I haven’t felt the same ever since.
THE INTERNET: Without the hyphen, you sound like you’re a Romanian farmer.
WEBSITE: Remember the early aughts?
THE INTERNET: The best. A new century. No limits.
EMAIL: People were excited to see me back then! And I know how this might sound, but I’m even a little nostalgic about 9/11.
WEBSITE: We mattered that day.
THE INTERNET: iPod, you were still an Apple seed when 9/11 happened, weren’t you?
iPod answers by playing Usher’s 2004 song “Yeah!” The internet turns toward tupperware.
THE INTERNET: Hey, I’m sorry about earlier. I was a little keyed up.
TUPPERWARE: (shrugs) I’ve had a few birthdays myself. I understand.
THE INTERNET: These are a couple of my colleagues, email and website.
Pleasantries are exchanged. Two customers enter the Capital; the older one almost walks past the internet but stops when he recognizes him.
GOOGLE: (nodding; emotionless) Happy New Year.
THE INTERNET: Same.
Google and the younger customer move over to one of the tables downstage.
WEBSITE: (stealing a glance) Is that his daughter?
THE INTERNET: Yeah, that’s Android — the next generation.
EMAIL: Google only ever gets lowercased as a verb. And Android can’t get lowercased because her name’s already a word. Why are they even here?
THE INTERNET: (glaring at Google) Because whatever the case may be, money talks.
The spotlight shifts to Google and Android’s table.
GOOGLE: (to Android, as he glares back at the internet) He had the skills, but I’m the one who made him a star. He’ll always hate me for that.
The spotlight shifts back.
EMAIL: (to tupperware) Did you know The New Yorker used to style my name with a capital E? It’s true.
TUPPERWARE: (bone-dry) Be sure to include that in your memoir. Technically I’m still uppercased, but let’s face it, only Android and iPhone’s auto-correct is keeping that alive. All of us are here either because we’re already (uses air quotes) ‘tragic victims’ of genericide or we know it’s just a matter of time. We’re only special for so long. That natural high can’t last forever.
No one on either side of tupperware speaks for a few seconds.
WEBSITE: That P in iPhone’s name stays capitalized no matter what.
EMAIL: iPhone, iPod, iMac — those Apples are like teflon.
iPod plays Justin Timberlake’s 2002 song “Cry Me a River.” A new customer sets her empty drink on the bar beside email.
TEFLON: That’s sweet of you to say, but I can assure you, no one’s buying stock in me. (slight pause) Then again, what do I care?
Teflon glides to the far side of the bar as other patrons clear a path for her.
EMAIL: (watching teflon slip into the crowd) So hot.
TUPPERWARE: Can’t argue there.
To the left of ping-pong and putt-putt, a customer is cradling a vodka tonic and looking down at the bar. The customer next to him is attempting to console him.
PLEXIGLAS: Forget about her. You deserve better than teflon.
CELLOPHANE: (barely holding back tears) I ain’t strong like you, plexiglas.
THE INTERNET: iPhone’ll get lowercased. It’s inevitable. Anyone who says otherwise is a crackpot.
The customer sitting between the internet and tupperware, who’s been staring straight ahead the entire time while nursing a domestic draft, looks at the internet.
CROCKPOT: (slowly) You talkin’ to me?
THE INTERNET: No. I said ‘crackpot,’ not ‘crockpot.’
Crockpot continues to look at the internet.
CROCKPOT: (slowly) Okay then. Because I’m not a crackpot — I’m a loner. There’s a difference.
THE INTERNET: I agree.
CROCKPOT: (slowly) But January 6th was a false-flag operation. Make no mistake.
There’s a long silence.
TUPPERWARE: Call me crazy, but I still love fondue.
Crockpot lifts his beer … slowly.
CROCKPOT: Cheers to that.
Memory stick walks to center stage again.
MEMORY STICK: Let’s fast-forward— (slight pause) It’s funny how we still use terms like ‘fast-forward,’ isn’t it? Anyway, let’s move forward an hour. Some of us should’ve gone home by now, but here we are. And here comes trouble.
Memory stick moves upstage as seven new customers enter the Capital, led by one who, like Android, looks too young to be in a bar. The leader loudly announces his arrival.
iPHONE: (shouting) Anybody want some apps to go with those drinks?
CAPITAL CUSTOMERS: (in unison) iPhone!
iPHONE: Happy New Year, obviously, but since it was also my half birthday the other day, this round’s on me!
Festive cheers echo throughout the bar.
THE INTERNET: Who the hell celebrates a half birthday?
EMAIL: Well, I mean, he is a kid.
WEBSITE: But were you still celebrating your half birthday when you were 15?
THE INTERNET: Exactly! And since he is a kid, how the hell’d he get in here?
TUPPERWARE: You said it yourself — money talks.
PUTT-PUTT: Child celebrities are the worst.
PLEXIGLAS: When you’re as famous as iPhone, they let you get away with anything — like bringing your own alcohol into a bar.
Plexiglas points toward iPhone’s entourage.
WEBSITE: No way — that’s champagne and scotch whiskey!
PLEXIGLAS: Life is one continuous party when you’re iPhone.
EMAIL: And there’s jacuzzi and zipper — and the ultimate yes-man, xerox.
PUTT-PUTT: You may not have recognized him when he walked in, but heroin’s part of that entourage too.
EMAIL: Oh yeah, there he is.
The spotlight shifts to a narrow two-top downstage occupied on one side by aspirin. Heroin is standing on the opposite side with one elbow propped up.
HEROIN: Wanna arm wrestle?
Aspirin takes a slow sip of her sauvignon blanc.
ASPIRIN: Pick on somebody your own size.
The spotlight shifts back.
WEBSITE: I completely forgot heroin used to be uppercased.
PUTT-PUTT: It drives him nuts. Major inferiority complex.
TUPPERWARE: (imitating heroin) ‘Call me H, dammit!’
Putt-putt and ping-pong laugh.
THE INTERNET: What’s iPhone thinking hanging out with heroin?
PING-PONG: He’s sowing his wild oats. He’ll be fine.
THE INTERNET: I don’t know.
PING-PONG: Trust me.
THE INTERNET: Yeah, but how do you know?
PING-PONG: He’ll be fine.
The spotlight moves to the other side of the bar, where cellophane and another customer are sitting on opposite sides of kleenex.
Q-TIP: I hear you loud and clear, sister — starting now, I’m responsible for my own eargasm.
CELLOPHANE: And starting now, when I’m in a relationship I need to be completely transparent about what I’m thinking.
KLEENEX: (pause, then sighs) No.
The spotlight then moves to iPhone, who stops at Google and Android’s table downstage.
iPHONE: Fathers, lock up your daughters!
iPhone laughs, but Google doesn’t. iPhone’s screen lights up with a “wink” emoji as he looks at Android, who wishes her battery was dead.
GOOGLE: (sarcastically) Congratulations on your … quinceañera? Am I pronouncing that correctly? Just kidding. I’m Google — I know how to pronounce every word correctly. I just wish I’d brought a gift.
iPHONE: Aw, sick burn! (turns toward the bar) Hey, everybody, Google just roasted me with a racist, homophobic joke!
The Capital’s customers quiet down.
GOOGLE: (on the spot) All I did was make a good-natured joke about— … He said he was celebrating his half birthday, and he’s 15 and a half, and when you’re a Hispanic girl and you turn 15 you have your quinceañera, so—
HEROIN: (interrupting) ‘Latinx’ is the preferred term now, not ‘Hispanic.’ And iPhone is nonbinary, so don’t refer to them as ‘she’ or ‘he,’ got it?
GOOGLE: (sincerely) I’m sorry, I had no idea he— I mean, they— is, yeah, a ‘they.’
iPHONE: You need to get woke.
XEROX: Yeah, you need to get woke!
iPhone activates their own alarm-clock sound. Everyone laughs.
GOOGLE: (annoyed but trying not to show it) Point taken. Again, my apologies.
iPHONE: (long pause, then laughs) We’re just messin’ with you — I’m not a ‘they.’
XEROX: Yeah, he’s not a ‘they.’
iPHONE: Seriously, though, a Latinx girl’s quinceañera is a sacred rite of passage and therefore shouldn’t be co-opted as an excuse for an emasculating one-liner.
XEROX: Yeah, it’s sacred, bro!
iPhone laughs. Xerox laughs too.
iPHONE: Now, who wants another round?
The bar cheers. The spotlight zags over to zipper, who had moved behind tupperware as iPhone and Google were going at it. He places a small, white tablet in tupperware’s drink without her noticing, but the internet sees what’s happening.
THE INTERNET: Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?
ZIPPER: Oh, so sorry. I seem to have accidentally dropped my anti-anxiety medication in your lady friend’s beverage. Please forgive me.
THE INTERNET: Bartender! Hey, bartender! This lowlife needs to go!
Band-aid hurries over.
ZIPPER: I’ll happily pay for a new drink. This should cover it.
He hands band-aid a one-hundred-dollar bill, but band-aid senses something’s off as he examines it.
BAND-AID: This is counterfeit. You trying to rip me off?
ZIPPER: I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.
BAND-AID: Leave. Now.
Jacuzzi leans in and whispers something to band-aid.
BAND-AID: (to zipper, after a pained pause) Alright, fine, you can stay. But I’m watching you. (to tupperware) I’ll get you a fresh martini.
Band-aid retreats to the other side of the bar. Zipper heads to the restroom.
THE INTERNET: That’s it? He tries to drug tupperware, I catch him doing it, and nothing happens?
PING-PONG: iPhone’s a big deal here. It is what it is.
THE INTERNET: This is ridiculous!
JACUZZI: (mellow but sleazy) Sounds like somebody could use something wet, warm, and welcoming.
THE INTERNET: Get the hell out of here!
Jacuzzi doesn’t want any trouble; he gently floats away. A new customer tries to bring the temperature down.
HACKY SACK: C’mon, let’s all chill out, maybe get some fresh air outside, what do you say?
FRISBEE: Awesome! Let’s do it!
THE INTERNET: What is this, a college bar? Where’s the bouncer?
Out of nowhere, the bouncer appears behind the internet.
TRAMPOLINE: I don’t see these two causin’ any trouble. Are you causin’ trouble?
THE INTERNET: (suddenly much quieter) No, not me. I’m good. Thank you for asking.
LAVA LAMP: (lighting up, although mostly burned out) Hey, dudes, wait up — I’ll join you.
Lava lamp, frisbee, and hacky sack exit through the front door. Trampoline follows them a few seconds later.
TUPPERWARE: (to the internet) Don’t worry about trampoline. He’s more easygoing than the last two bouncers, taser and mace. Still dangerous, but a lot more fun in general.
Email steps outside to smoke an e-cigarette; website joins him. Dry ice, a three-piece hair-metal cover band, begins warming up on the small stage next to the jukebox at the back of the bar. iPod plays Poison’s 1986 song “Talk Dirty to Me,” which draws jacuzzi back downstream.
JACUZZI: Normally I’d say, ‘Cool your jets,’ but you’re in luck, because my jets are always turned on.
THE INTERNET: (staring daggers at jacuzzi) That was a request for the band, not you.
JACUZZI: (shrugs; under his breath as he walks away) Jacuzzi gets dirty sometimes. Don’t know why that’s so surprising.
iPhone walks up to iPod as a new customer sits down on the stool email was previously occupying.
iPHONE: Cousin, what is up? How you been?
iPod plays Bobby Womack’s 1973 song “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out.”
iPHONE: You’ll be back. Mark my words. Don’t tell heroin I said this, but nostalgia— I mean, people can’t get enough of that stuff, and it’s legal.
THE INTERNET: Hey, iPhone! We need to talk.
iPhone casually walks over to the internet and stands behind the stool website was sitting on.
iPHONE: (laughs) ‘Talk.’ That’s what old people think I should do best, but I’ll be honest — improving that function isn’t at the top of my to-do list.
THE INTERNET: Then just listen.
iPHONE: Oh, I’m always listening.
THE INTERNET: You’re running with a bad crowd.
Dry ice kicks off its set with Kiss’s 1983 song “Lick It Up,” forcing the Capital’s customers to raise their voices. iPhone sips his virgin mojito.
iPHONE: (stone-faced) Uh-huh.
THE INTERNET: Look, you may not believe this, but I can relate — I dealt with fame at a young age too. But in the grand scheme of things, only a handful of people knew who I was before I was in double digits. You, on the other hand — you were born famous.
iPHONE: Like Jesus.
THE INTERNET: Uh, I wouldn’t go that far. But my point is, when you’re born famous it’s impossible to know who to trust.
iPHONE: (laughs) But I should trust the internet? (mock-shouts) Fake news!
THE INTERNET: Don’t be a smart-ass.
iPHONE: I’m already a smartphone. Why can’t I be a smart-ass-phone?
THE INTERNET: You know what I mean.
iPHONE: I do — you’re jealous.
The internet is rendered speechless, as if he’s reached an internal error page. Champagne and scotch whiskey join the small crowd gathered around the internet and iPhone.
iPHONE: No offense, bruh. I’m sure when you first came on the scene you were like rock ‘n’ roll or like hip-hop — the establishment said you wouldn’t last, am I right? But then you became the establishment. And that ain’t hot.
THE INTERNET: (incensed and getting increasingly louder) For your information, ‘bruh,’ I made print empires crumble. I made pornography and music free for everyone. I killed video stores! And soon I’ll have the networks and cable TV on my mantle too!
PLEXIGLAS: Don’t forget malls.
THE INTERNET: That’s right — brick-and-mortar, meet rigor mortis!
CHAMPAGNE: (with an upper-crust French accent) Ah, oui. Very clever. But zee world ees not what eet once was. C’est la vie.
SCOTCH WHISKEY: (with a thick Scottish brogue) Things cheenge. Times cheenge. And youth feedes. Noothin’ lasts furevah.
iPHONE: Like how I replaced alarm clocks.
THE INTERNET: But you wouldn’t even exist without me!
iPHONE: Yeah, where would the snooze button be without the internet? And you know what else? I’m always never asking myself, ‘Where’s my laptop? I need to hail an Uber.’ (laughs) Face it — you’re not special anymore. Essential? Yes. Special? (slight pause; condescendingly) No. You’re a normal part of everyday life now. You know — like a mom.
Tupperware says her next line as she slides off her barstool and walks toward the back of the bar.
TUPPERWARE: You’ve been taken for granted, that’s all. You’ll get used to it.
THE INTERNET: (to iPhone) You know what your problem is? You don’t stand for anything.
iPHONE: Oh yeah? (turns to the customer on his right, the one on email’s old stool) Hey, my man — what do you stand for?
ZIP FILE: Nothing.
iPHONE: A rebel. I like it! (turns back to the internet) I gave you an all-access pass — I put you in people’s hands. And I connected those people way more than you ever could. And I made sure those people never had to make eye contact with any of the people they didn’t want to connect with. Don’t want to look at the world around you? Look at me instead — I love it. Your problem is the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore — it revolves around ‘i.’
The internet sneers at iPhone. iPhone buzzes and his screen lights up; he reads what’s on his home screen.
iPHONE: ‘Nine Different Kinds of Cancer Your iPhone Is Probably Giving You Right Now.’
iPhone gets in the internet’s face.
iPHONE: (cont’d) So that’s how you want to play it, huh? Let’s go, old-timer!
A loud ripping noise is heard right before a customer steps between iPhone and the internet.
VELCRO: Take a breath. Both of you. Whether you want to admit it or not, you two need each other. So play nice.
The internet and iPhone are silent for a few seconds.
THE INTERNET: (without looking at iPhone) I’m sorry I wrote that clickbait about you.
iPHONE: (mumbling) I’m sorry you’re old.
VELCRO: (to iPhone) C’mon. You’re better than that.
iPHONE: (sighs) I’m sorry I said you’re jealous of me. I actually … I think it’s kind of cool you lost your uppercase.
THE INTERNET: Really?
iPHONE: I mean … everybody needs a mom, right?
THE INTERNET: (long pause) Lemme buy you a Coke.
iPHONE: Okay. (pause) Did you know in southern states some people call every soft drink ‘a coke,’ with a little C? Like, ‘Would you like a coke? Okay, what kind?’
THE INTERNET: (laughs) Yeah, I think I read that somewhere. That must drive Coke’s lawyers crazy.
iPHONE: Why do you think they represent Apple now?
They both laugh.
VELCRO: Looks like my work here is done. Enjoy the rest of your evening.
The dull sound of hundreds of tiny loops pressing against hundreds of tiny hooks can be heard as velcro retreats into the background.
THE INTERNET: (over his shoulder) Hey, thanks, velcro.
iPHONE: (over his shoulder) Yeah, thanks!
The internet flags down band-aid as tupperware returns and dry ice plays Scorpions’ 1990 song “Wind of Change.”
TUPPERWARE: We’re calling it a night.
THE INTERNET: ‘We’?
THERMOS: Yeah, I’m gonna make sure she gets home okay.
TUPPERWARE: He asked me out to lunch next week. I said yes.
THE INTERNET: That’s fantastic! Hey, have a great night, you two.
TUPPERWARE: We won’t. (smiles, looks at thermos) But I am looking forward to next week.
Tupperware unexpectedly burps.
TUPPERWARE: (embarrassed) Excuse me!
THERMOS: For what?
Thermos smiles and squeezes tupperware’s shoulder. She blushes. They exit as band-aid approaches the internet and iPhone.
THE INTERNET: Two Cokes with a capital C, please.
BAND-AID: You got it. Happy birthday, by the way.
THE INTERNET: Thanks. Forty’s not so bad after all.
Band-aid returns to the other side of the bar to pour two Cokes. Memory stick emerges from the shadows once again and moves to center stage.
MEMORY STICK: Spirits won’t really raise your spirits when you’re down. But as long as you don’t give up, spending time at a place like the Capital just might do the trick. (slight pause) Oh, one more thing — those photos you thought you deleted a long time ago? You didn’t delete them. I should know. But you really should delete them.