just before and just after I went to sleep once.

[A man was working for the American national Security Agency on a project called the Echelon System. It was a system which monitored all phone calls, e-mails, text-messages and jotted down notes, searching for key words or sets of words which might interest the police or government, such as 'heroine' and 'shipment' in one sentence together. Echelon is coupled with similar systems in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, covering most of Western civilization. At the main computer terminal, the man typed a new search word to see what would happen: 'Inverse Tan']

Transcribed Mid-Phone Call:

A A funny thing happened to me at work today

B Yes dear,

A Yes. A funny thing. You see it was a slow day, raining outside, though not hard enough. A young man came in; perhaps he was in his early 20's. He waited patiently for me to finish on the phone -

B Yes

A - I wasn't talking to anyone really. I just do it or the look of the thing.

B I do too, yes.

A So he says how much a bed is. I tell him three quid for three minutes, and he asks how long he can sit there before he has a decent tan. He has fair skin

B Like mine

A Yes. Like mine. So I say about eight to ten minutes. He asks if he can get a tan, which will make him visibly darker like, in eight minutes -

B You'd have to build it up -

A - Yes that's what I said. Like collecting stamps from the Co-op or mud on the soles of your high-heels in a wedge shape. He nods and pays twenty-four quid cash makes for booth #1, and then stops in his tracks, turns and says, "I'll get burnt won't I, if I stay in for twenty four minutes. Do you have any sun-screen lotion?"

B Any what?

A Sun tan lotion. I say no, this is a tanning shop; you don't come in here to not get a tan. But he is already on his way telling me he's off to Boots and will be back in three minutes. Not two minutes pass, and he's back in the shop clutching a small Boots carrier bag in one hand a fresh receipt in the other, which he stuffs into his jeans pocket. He smiles hello and disappears into Booth #1, with the Factor 8. It wasn't until later on in the day that I realized that there isn't a Boots in Heaton. You know where my shop is doing you?

B Yes - the high street.

A Boots is everywhere. Not offensively like Coke or McDonalds, but everywhere. All smelling the same, all laid out the same, all the same staff with the same slippery manager who refuses credit. Franchise is it?

B Not sure.

A Anyway, he comes out half an hour later scrubbed clean, but with no tan at all.

B None?

A His arms, face and neck are all the same pallid fleshy tones. He smiles at me and proudly shows me his lack of tan, pulling up the leg of his jeans inefficiently. Then he says, "Check this out," and he pulls down the waistband of his pants five inches to reveal a very tanned patch where his boxer shorts would be. He then takes off his watch to reveal a watch shaped brown patch underneath on his wrist. He says, "I've got a completely reversed tan," he says proudly like a boy showing his Gran his poo. "Where you'd expect me to have a tan, I'm white a normal, and where I'm usually white after a holiday, I'm brown. I used this suntan lotion. Best part of it is that no one will ever know. Except you. Unless they ask". And with that, he left.

B That's odd. Had he done under his rings?

A Not sure if he had any.