“To be a writer, you need to like spending a lot of time by yourself in the company of imaginary people.” Jane Lindskold
Sometimes I say the funniest things. In my head. I mean really, funny, funny stuff. In my head. In my head, I am the funniest person I know. I can make myself laugh out loud. Then someone will see me laughing out loud to myself and ask: “Hey, what’s so damn funny, Jokerman?” Then I’ll say out loud what was so funny in my head that made me laugh out loud, and then there will be silence; nothing but quizzical looks. Damn. If this scene played out on TV, the producers would have employed the go-to ‘crickets chirping’ sound effect to drive this wretched silence home. Growing tired of these instances, I have vowed to never allow this to happen again. Must foil the silence.
In life there are no coincidences . . .
On an overcast and muggy Wednesday afternoon, I bought a tiny black Radio Shack cassette player from a guy selling personal stuff on his lawn. Inside the cassette player was a MEMOREX recordable cassette tape with a faded hand-scrawled label. MAX WEBSTER / NUGENT / GREASE. On the lawn was a couch and wheelbarrow. On a rickety card table was a blue plastic milk crate with some vinyl records along with a few green chipped ashtrays, a white Best of ABBA 8 track, and a 1000 pc jigsaw puzzle of Charlie’s Angels.
He wanted nine dollars for the black Radio Shack cassette tape player with the cassette, but would throw in a red bowling ball with the name DAWN engraved on it. The red DAWN ball came with an awesome green vinyl bag and everything. He’d also throw in an assortment of pornographic magazines from 1974, and a Star Wars scrap book. I left with the black Radio Shack cassette player with cassette, and the red DAWN bowling ball & green vinyl bag.
I took the cassette player home and dropped myself backwards deep into the couch with the TV remote and began surfing the channels. I was looking for something. Scannning. Searching. Then, boom, there it was. I stopped clicking at the first network sitcom I came across. Perfect. I grabbed my cassette player, rolled down off the couch and tiger-crawled up to the left speaker of the TV’s sound bar. I held out the player then pressed the little red REC button. I taped a few seconds of canned laughter from a situational comedy that still relied heavily on canned laughter to veil (albeit thinly) the sobering fact that the ‘live studio audience’ wasn’t laughing at anything. Big Bang Theory. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never watched it. In mere seconds of viewing, I realized that without the canned laughter, there would be only the sound of ‘chirping crickets’. So, I recorded about 3 or 4 seconds of riotous fake laughter and tucked the tiny tape player in my back pocket, tiger-rolled back to the couch and resumed my position. Mission accomplished.
Since I was back on the couch, it only made sense that I take a nap. Nine hours later, I took the player for a dry run. Down in my bunker, I called out for my son Lurch. I told him I needed his help with something. He lumbered down. Then I said “Hey, you know how I say funny stuff in my head, then when I say it out loud no one laughs?” He rolled his eyes. “Well, check this out.” I clicked PLAY on the cassette player and jacked the volume – and there it was ‘laughter’ glorious laughter. “I’m gonna carry this where ever I go and I’ll show the world! What do you think?” I pressed STOP. He grabbed the player, looked at it, then said: “This idea is worse than the time you tried to turn your watch into a flamethrower.” Then he hit PLAY and there it was again – laughter, glorious laughter.
Baby steps totalling 143
My daughter is young and hip with a thing that she wears on her wrist which synchs up to her phone. It looks like a digital watch, and it monitors her sleep patterns, heart rate and how many steps she walks over the course of 24 hours. It’s not what I would call ‘fun technology’. If the fitness watch thing shot out massive balls of fire, then that is something I would call ‘fun technology.’ She can rack up a lot of steps over the course of 24 hours. Thousands. Out of a morbid sense of curiosity, I wore it to work. I was tempted to look at it every few minutes regardless of whether I was walking. I was also tempted to ‘fake walk’ while sitting by just swinging my feet under my desk.
I forget about this disruptive device for a few hours; immersed in my daily routine. While working, I was listening to a BBC Radio documentary on the sordid, scandalous history of glue. It was 3 hours and it kept me very calm and centered while I fired off and replied to emails and such. Then, the workday was over. I remembered the fitness watch thing. The small screen remains black until you press a tiny button on the side of the face. I tried to guess how many steps I had taken during the day. Maybe about 1,500? That sounds normal. I pressed the button. I was expecting a single horizontal row of 4 white digits, brilliantly illuminated. What I wasn’t expecting was a single horizontal row of 3 white digits, brilliantly illuminated. 143. I work in a beautiful loft on the shore of a river which is about 26 steps from the balcony from where I stood. A few kayakers were floating down river. I was confident that I could throw the fitness watch into the river and hit one of those kayakers, but then I would have to tell my daughter why I sent her hip-watch downriver. She would be pissed, but I’m sure if I had my cassette player with me, she would laugh along with my studio.