Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Turn Out the Lights Dept.
A huge portion of the regular readers of this site expressed concern that when they fired up their favorite web browser, they were left without a fresh post to help them shake off a Garfield-strength case of the Mondays.
Fear not, gentle readers. Bunsen brings you back from the brink of the Tuedays.
I didn't neglect to post and intentionally, cruelly leave the world without interesting, self-obsessed words. I had a nobler purpose. Some of you might not know this, but most of the Northeastern United States was plunged into darkness and medieval chaos when some night-watchman yahoo who'd had one too few Diet Cokes mistook the Don't Touch This Button, It Will Plunge 50 Million People into Darkness and Medieval Chaos But With an Oddly Warm Sense of Community Button with the Button That Turns Up the Volume on Matt Lauer.
Luckily, this man's negligent actions didn't affect the West Coast, where me and my ilk could continue the business of entertaining the people of the world unimpeded by candle-light working conditions. But somehow this didn't seem fair. After I'd done my best to roll in the happy pig-shit of unlimited electricity resources, pangs of guilt began to set in. Why should I have light and Blind Date three times a day and chilled Aste Spumante while people in the world's greatest city sit on stoops, forced to interact on a neighborly level? So I did what I've always done when Guilt takes up extended residence in my poolside guesthouse:
I called Ford.
This wasn't easy, since it had been quite a while since we'd last locked horns.
"Oh, look who's calling now?" he sing-songed in my ear. "What are you going to do, flush the toilet and hang up on me?"
I took my hand off the toilet handle. "Indy, we've gotta do something about this blackout."
"I was thinking of doing something. Shouldn't I fly my helicopter over there and, you know, start rescuing people stranded on the top of skyscrapers without power?"
"Don't be stupid."
"Well, what then?" said Ford, then breathed loudly through his nostrils.
"Two words: blackout party. We're gonna turn off all the lights and play flashlight tag!"
"I am going to do no such thing," he said. "There are people that need help."
"Fine, don't play." My dismissal of his wishes was utterly casual.
"I won't," he said. "I've got to go and run Calista's bath, so if you'll excuse me..."
I let the line go silent for a long moment. Then, with the indifference of a hooker on her fifth trick of the night, I said, "If you are not over here in ten minutes with a flashlight, I'll just walk over to my tote-board and chalk this up as an easy victory in what is becoming an awfully lopsided titan-feud. And I'll write that you didn't show up because you had to run Calista's bath."
I heard only an incredulous "You wouldn't!" as I placed the phone's receiver in its cradle.
Eight minutes later, my door-answering girl responded to an impassioned knock.
Ford was, as they say, in the house.
"So how does this work, exactly?" he asked, pushing past me, clutching the biggest Mag-lite male-impotency totem available on the retail market. I, naturally, used a pen-light.
I explained that on my signal, the basement rumpus-room attendant would flip all the circuit breakers in the house, rendering my Hollywood compound a power-deprived oasis in a desert of excess wattage. I'd loudly count to ten as Ford would scramble through the house and then start the hunt for my blinded supernemesis. He nodded in agreement and absent-mindedly ran his fingers over the Mag-lite, much as a musician touches his strings while pretending to listen to you when all he can think about is the next chord.
"Power!" I yelled. The in-house curator of my acclaimed porcelain tiger collection flinched at the sound, as she'd never heard me yell anything but my own name in the boudoir. The house, like millions a continent away, was plunged into darkness.
"One!" I shouted, listening to Ford's feet scramble over the marble floor. Then, filling my lungs with the predictable air of treachery and poor sportsmanship, yelped "Ten!"
I tore off into the black, confident that I would stumble on no stray obstacles. I'd spent the previous two weeks grappling a severe writer's block (I was down to an anemic ten pages a day) by practicing running at top speed through a darkened house, quickly becoming so adept at navigating without my sight that I'd ask the staff to lay down in doorways when they'd hear me coming.
I had an inkling that Ford would immediately head upstairs, but knowing that he'd think I'd go upstairs to look for him and then countermove by hiding in the basement, I decided to ferret him out in the pantry. The mental chess game was on as I leapt into the pantry with my pen-light ablaze, apprehending only a half-empty box of Bisquick with my beam, my heartbeat thrumming in my ears. I wondered if the foot I thought I'd seen scurry out was a trick of the night; it could have just as easily belonged to my pretend-archaeologist quarry or one of the Twinkie-pilfering help.
"Where exactly do you keep that tote-board?" came a voice from behind me.
I knew defeat was nigh as I turned slowly, my vision washed white in the corona of his Mag-lite's beam. I could make out only the silhouette of his leather fedora (a fashion choice I'd always found affected), until he dropped the spotlight slightly and I could see he was feasting on a chicken leg from my refrigerator.
"I'll draw you a bath," I said, shoulders slumped, "and call Calista. Lights!"
The house was restored to its energy-guzzling normalcy, abandoning our brotherhood with our blacked-out compatriots. Televisions buzzed in unoccupied rooms around us.
Ford walked off toward the master bath, twirling the picked-clean legbone in his fingers.
Just as he disappeared around a corner, I turned to my tote-board and carefully marked a line in the Ford column, turned off the lights, then erased it with a swipe of an elbow.
Such wonderful things happen in the dark.