Almost everyone was in the #LimaBlockParty chat room by then. As the room’s mod, Arturo was able to push-to-talk it, so he tapped the mic button and shouted “AIR-CONDITIONING!”
The adults laughed, the kids cheered, and people ran into their houses to fling open their street-facing windows and doors and crank their AC to max. Soon the street was alive with cool zephyrs that convected over the xeriscaped lawns and twined around the cacti and Little Free Libraries and the bare knees and ankles of the people of Lima Street.
The solar cells on the roofs of their houses glinted in the morning sun, spilling their power into the ACs, using up the electricity that Burbank’s grid couldn’t handle. The people of Lima Street began to smile, and people went back through their wide-open doors to bring out speakers and pair them to the #LimaBlockParty channel, throwing songs into a set list for everyone to vote on.
Arturo stood in the middle of Lima Street, sawhorsed at either end by city workers, and tapped his feet to the music. He’d volunteered to organize a sack race, a hot-dog cookout, and a live Speechify contest. But that could wait. For now, all he wanted to do was watch as the block party took shape all around him.
It had been nearly a year since the last block party and when he remembered most about it was the kids, the games they’d played, the scavenger hunt and the tug-of-war and the epic hide-and-seek through everyone’s backyards.
But looking around now, what he noticed was the grown-ups, whose work-scheduling apps had been able to rearrange their schedules to give them all an impromptu day off, right then, in the middle of a week, in the middle of a beastly heat wave, in the middle of their very own street.
He thought about the social-studies unit he’d done on the industrial revolution, about the artisans and farmers who’d gone to work in the factories, how the cities had taken away their freedom to make hay while the sun shone or switch to outdoor tasks when the weather was nice and do their indoor jobs when it was miserable.
Cities used to be a trade-off between options for jobs and people to marry and things to do, and no options for when and how you did them, because you were all packed so tight that whatever you did rippled out to everyone else. No one could manage all the complexity of checking in with everyone who’d be affected by your choices.
Someone was shaking him by the shoulders. Dad. “Come on, kiddo, you’re a thousand miles away! There’s things to do!”
Arturo nodded and went to help his dad carry out their picnic table.
“What were you thinking about, anyway? You looked so serious.”
“Just coming up with my Speechify topic for this afternoon,” Arturo said. “They’re going to love it.”