Wednesday, November 21, 2001

The amazing but true tale of October 31st (finally)

[email composed 21 November 2001]

Don't you hate it when someone apologizes for not keeping in touch better when they contact you, claiming they have been "meaning to" write (or call or send smoke signals or whatever)? Doesn't it bother you that they have thought of you but apparently you don't inspire them to turn off the TV for a little while one night and fire off a message to you? At least if they were busy or on drugs or abducted by aliens or simply wanted nothing more to do with you, you could understand that you've fallen off their radar, and you could adapt to the new arrangement without the occasional taunting reminders.

You probably find such behavior more offensive than the grammatically incompatible use of the singular "someone" with the plural "they/them" simply to get around the awkward "he or she". You know what is worthy of drawing your ire, and that pathetic attempt to assuage guilt by claiming good intentions surely is; colloquial errors of language deserve only momentary scoff.

Anyway, I'm not the least bit filled with anything approaching remorse about the lapse in the frequency of my messages. Maybe I've meant to write, maybe I haven't. Of course I've spent too many evenings distracted by television. I'm not proud but I refuse to be ashamed; unless you've cured cancer or ended world hunger lately, you're hardly in a position to assume any sort of moral high ground here.

I'm reminded of a line from an old George Carlin skit: "I suck, you suck. Let's change the alphabet." No, you won't get that. That's okay. Everything's okay, except what isn't.

If this is the first general message you've received from Doug, you've already read farther than he expected. You've no doubt noticed that he's switched to referring to himself in the third person. This will stop shortly: he's aware that it's not terribly clever (he's not terribly concerned about that). Welcome aboard.

Well, let's get down to business. Hope you're having a pleasant Samhain. No, I don't really follow ancient Celtic traditions, but I like alluding to them as though I was erudite. Anyway, Samhain is, as some of you probably know (better than I do), from what Halloween is descended. Even though we're on the fringe of Thanksgiving, I must tell you of my Halloween. Well, actually I don't but I will anyway.

I am one of the few people in my office who dresses up for Halloween. Dresses in costume that is. No one came in naked, at least that I saw. Anyway, this year I donned a hooded black cape, adorned myself in black from neck to toe, painted my face white with black around the eyes in an ensemble that I think was best described as "menacing hooded guy". I go more for to the idea of inspiring mild disquiet in people more than adherence to an easily explained look. I startled a few people on my floor, without doing anything more than coming around corners in a black hooded cape; I don't creep around or jump out: I simply go on my way and since people aren't expecting a black clad figure striding through the halls, they are taken aback for a second. However, I can't disguise my identity in the office: most everyone pegs me based on my height. And then I smile wryly and move on.

My girlfriend (at the time) works in the same building as I do, for a different firm. Ever since September 11th, we also must show a passcard to get from the lobby to the elevators, in our building's attempt at security. Both these facts are relevant to the story. When I entered the building, the guards smiled at me as I flashed my passcard, appreciating my spirit (and probably also recognizing me from my height).

In the late morning, having stopped unintentionally-but-sort-of-not-minding inspiring some of that mild disquiet, I received a call from my girlfriend. She had not yet seen my costume, but knew roughly what I might be wearing. She confirmed with me that I was in a black hooded cape, and what time I had arrived. When I asked her why, she explained that a secretary on her floor had told a story of being stalked by someone in such garb as she walked to the elevators. Now, not only was I not stalking anyone when I entered, I don't even remember seeing this woman behind whom I was apparently walking (of course, the hood does obscure one's vision). I wouldn't have even taken the same elevator as her, as the ones to the 23rd floor are in a different bank than those going to the 43rd. However, from my girlfriend I learned that my mere presence caused this woman TO REPORT ME TO SECURITY, where she was politely reminded that it was Halloween. Obviously, they said nothing to me. Still, I felt a perhaps-unwarranted sense of satisfaction at this inadvertent success.

Later, in a series of e-mails with my girlfriend--no, I really didn't get much work done that day--I learned more. The secretary in question apparently has a reputation for having a somewhat tenuous grasp on reality, making my feat--inasmuch as it was one--less impressive. Okay. Then another message revealed that the secretary in question was not merely frightened by me but WAS CONVINCED I WAS GOING TO ATTACK HER. Wait. It gets better. She was so fearful for her life that SHE HAD TAKEN HER KEYS FROM HER PURSE AND WAS ABOUT TO STAB ME WITH THEM IN HER DEFENSE. This was of course abated when I didn't follow her and proceeded oblivious to a different elevator bank. And here's the kicker: what she had actually said security about me was that she thought I was... a terrorist. I wish I was making this up.

There is absolutely no challenge to frightening people these days; it's shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Any satisfaction I felt earlier dissipated. I was then struck by the profound power of rampant paranoia when I realized how close having holiday (albeit pagan) spirit nearly got a set of keys impaled into my chest. I won't say the terrorists have won, but they did succeed in sucking the joy from a day that should be ruined by our own American creeps who put razor blades in apples and the like (and exhibit a psychosis that seems almost quaint by comparison).

Besides, I'd never attack people in cape that's dry-clean only. Puh-leez. Give me a little credit here.

Have a pleasant Thanksgiving everyone. I for one am thankful to still be alive and boring you with these messages. And to live in a country where I can still make sarcastic self-deprecating jokes.

p.s. Did I miss anything good on TV tonight?