Chapter 4. From Cash to Crash
Still stunned from the remarks made by my precocious guest, I did my best to keep up my side of the conversation. “I’m glad you liked the tea”, I said.
“Please do not twist my words, human,” was the mordant reply once again. “I said it was a unique experience, not necessarily one that I would repeat. Please be precise, as I would like my words to be taken down seriously if you are to repeat them later.”
“Sorry, I’ll have to work on that. It’s just that I don’t get too many visitors from your planet.” Although we seemed to be thinking with similar patterns and with thought processes that evidently ran parallel, we seemed to have fewer points of intersection than the non-parallel orbiting paths of the Baltimore and Washington Beltways.
“And you are lucky about that”, he said, in reference of his countrymen, while he turned to a peach color ready to be picked like a ripe brain after a brainstorming session. “I am not too crazy about them either, although I do understand them. But now, I am trying to understand the cause of your socio-economic flaws. After having given you an example of a comparatively more equitable system found in any tree, I would like to gain some insight into the human condition that has been pervading your own terrestrial planet. Please tell me more about your free market capitalistic system. Why do you feel that it is the best of all human possibilities?”
“Well, it’s a system pretty much used by democratic societies, although it is not limited to democracies alone. Free-market capitalism is a system in which supply and demand drive the passing of currency, or money, from hand to hand. It consists of people who have items of value to sell and other people who buy these items in exchange for something of value, such as money.”
“Capital idea,” he said nodding in a fashion very similar to the way humans do. “This is consistent with the knowledge we have already compiled. But what we need to know is, where do the buyers get the money for these purchases?”
I was surprised that he had asked this basic question. I thought he and his colleagues had done their research in some due-diligence activity, having checked out our cash cows, market bulls, and political mavericks. Nevertheless, I felt myself useful for a change, being the one to inform the alien being of our ways. “The buyers also sell something of value in exchange for money. That something can be either an item they own or it is work for which they are paid. In the long run it is an equitable trade agreed upon by both sides.”
He apparently was somewhat familiar with the trade concept from a distance, because his response was rather quick: “What kind of work are you talking about?”
Our conversation was dealing with the very elementary aspects of money, and I think he was trying to build up some sort of objective structure in his mind. So I continued, in order to answer his question: “In general, work can be in manufacturing, organization, maintenance, repair, management, or anything that allows the buyer to equitably gain money in exchange for the utility realized from the work.”
“So that is what keeps people moving,” he commented.
Again, I was surprised by his comment, because I thought he had known all about our ways, but wanted to know the root cause of our woes, as he had put it earlier. In any case, I confirmed his hypothesis: “That’s it. Without money, we the people have no food and no roof. It’s like the chemicals photosynthesized in the leaves. Without the chemicals generated from sunlight, the trees wouldn’t live, and that would affect all life on your planet.” I was using his example of the trees we were discussing earlier.
“Yes, this makes sense,” he interjected. “The money flow in the human economy is in theory very much like the nutrients in trees, except that in practice the flow is much less even for human society.”
I nodded in agreement, adding: “Between theory and practice there’s a gap the size of the distance to the farthest globular cluster.”
I didn’t know how to explain certain things to the alien. I really wanted to, but I was concerned that the cognitive dissonance would blow his alien circuits. I didn’t know if he came equipped with surge protectors or circuit breakers, and was reluctant to find his breaking point. It seemed to me that a useful illustration would be to explain the distinction between Value Money and Political Money.
So I decided to introduce the notions of “v-money” and “p-money”. The first of these two consists of that precious cash resource is what keeps our economy moving. It is used to pay the critically important persons who maintain our civilization for the services they render. Often it is a small amount, barely enough to sustain such important persons and their families.
On the other hand, political money, or “p-money” is the cash accumulated through political deals, campaign contributions, politicians’ salaries, and other effects that are of no consequence to the people and the value enhancements they seek. Both “v-money” and “p-money” are the made of the same dollars, like two pools of water. But in practice, the pool of v-money is often the size of a bath tub, much MUCH smaller than the large reservoir reserved for the p-money. The ratio of these two is very telling of the economic condition of a society. Our society today seems to have an overabundance of p-money and a scarcity of v-money.
In theory, p-money is equivalent to v-money. But in practice, the amounts of p-money are much morefuzzy. Amounts of p-money are often quoted in the millions, billions, or as of late even trillions of dollars give or take a few million. The problem is that it is that give-or-take million that is so precious when converted to v-money. It is the v-money which keeps the homes warm in the winter by enabling the people to pay for their utility bills, while it is the p-money that is wasted political runoff in fuzzy amounts of dollars. Between the warm and the fuzzy, there are is a wall of separation greater than the one in China, more impervious than the one that stood in Berlin, and more divisive than the famous street in lower Manhattan.
How does congress come up with a spending bill like $47 million for unemployment benefits or $294m for relief victims or $3.5 billion for healthcare or $68b infrastructure? Or $877b for bailouts? How do they get the earmarked amount? How is it calculated? Doesn’t the calculation take time? Doesn’t it require budgeting experts? Why don’t we ever hear about such calculations being performed and backed by the Government Accountability Office? Why is allocated cash amount always rounded out to the nearest million or billion? What happens to the p-money part that’s left over? Do they use the same principle as politicians use with leftover campaign p-money? Why can’t it be converted to v-money so desperately needed by the people who are ready to WORK for it? Where is all the hiring that should be taking place when such allocations are made necessary? When do these necessary-and-proper cash allocations become available to the public as v-money?
In practice, people have no access to p-money, and they have to work hard in several jobs in order to earn the rights to the coveted v-money. This is a true source of the economic problems we are having. Sometimes the government makes matters even worse: In order to pay for political pork projects, the politicians go after the peoples’ taxable v-money rather than the huge piles of politicians’ p-money, in a way similar to taking money from the poor and giving to the rich. What really scares me most of all is that such a pattern repeated over time will cause more social devastation than any alien invasion ever could. And it’s all from the inside.
Politicians are always looking for p-money, and usually in large chunks of unqualified cash amounts which later become unaccountable cash amounts. Lots of tit-for-tat pork projects get agreed on in a way similar to “One hand washes the other”, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” That’s the origin of political corruption. The distinction between v-money and p-money are separate, just like there are two types of people: valuable and political; or those who truly bring value, and those who pretend they bring value.
Sometimes it seems to be no limit to the absurd creativity of some of these projects. It’s only a matter of time before we hear of ridiculous projects such as a Bridge to Hawaii or a Bermuda Pipeline or a Ring-Around-the-Nation Beltway, or the digging of a subterranean passage from New York to Los Angeles. Then there are the funding of inconsequential studies such as investigating the effects that wildfires have on the trees or the correlation between college enrollment and total education expenditures.
The intrigued interloper saw that I was preoccupied with my own thoughts. He patiently waited for me to land back to Earth, then after a brief silence continued the volley in our interactive discussion, always wanting to find out more. This was indeed admirable.
“And what is your own role as an individual in this free market capitalist system?” he asked me.
I was a bit surprised and unprepared for this shift of focus. But I now understood the alien’s point of reference. He had a very general idea of our economic system and wanted to go deeper into the micro-economic aspects of our day-to-day survival. Since he wanted the truth that was out there, I simply gave it to him, from my own vantage point, and in something of a knee-jerk reaction. “It is currently my role …to be unemployed.”
The alien then looked up at me, now appearing altogether puzzled. He just looked at me, and then turned and surveyed the trees outside the picture window, and then looked at me again, this time with an expression of astonishment that seemed both earnest and sincere. It was as if he was working on some advanced mathematical problem even more complex than figuring out the necessary trajectory and escape velocity needed to reach a remote solar system.
This would have been an appropriate time to say to the alien “Welcome to my World.”
At least I didn’t have to explain the term “unemployment” to him, as he didn’t ask for a definition. But he was apparently befuddled by my being able to classify myself so as belonging to a caste of the inconsequential, like our own solar system, mapped on the suburban periphery of the mainstream stellar mass at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. No lactose intolerance in this galactic filament of the cosmos where the calcium phosphates of our bones and teeth compete with residual ga-lactic acid buildup. No planet left behind in THIS dairy area. We can all kiss our acid reflux goodbye.
Meanwhile, the alien was gradually able to overcome his bewilderment, and was able to return to his senses and then asked hesitatingly “You make unemployment sound like…a profession. Certainly you can not make a long-term career out of it, if I understand your society correctly…Why would you want to be…unemployed?” He may not have realized how ironic his question was. His understanding of our charitable unemployment insurance being temporary was accurate.
Anyway, I did notice a perceived change in his tone. It had become much less arrogant than before. He stopped talking to me in the condescending fashion he had done earlier in our conversation, although every now and then he did address me as “human”, not curious about what my name was.
By now he may have realized the limitations of his knowledge concerning humanity, that it was not as comprehensive as he had previously thought. Perhaps before coming here he should have read a basic introductory book into the nature of a race that was the master of its earthly domain. If such a book on humanity existed, it would probably have an appropriate title such as “Earth: for Dummies.”
My alien friend wanted to get at the truth, however, and I appreciated that. So I gave him the fruits of my expertise at being unemployed, both actual and factual: “My being unemployed is not out of choice. I didn’t ask to be unemployed.”
Unbeknownst to my alien visitor, that answer had encompassed within it a great deal of frustration and resentment at all my failed attempts to find employment. Normally I would have felt embarrassed talking to one of my fellow human beings – particularly those who were working and earning money.
But somehow I was able to partake in some level of satisfaction knowing that this impartial observer could not understand the logic in a society satisfied with having a portion of its population just sitting there and rotting away, doing nothing to help it and avoiding the possibility of extracting utility out of an otherwise wasted resource.
“Then I understand that you do not want to be unemployed” he responded somewhat reluctantly, proceeding with a caution as if he were walking on eggshells, apparently sensitive to my feelings, not wanting to hurt them.
“That’s right”, I answered. “I don’t want to be disenfranchised. I would rather be connected to society and earn my money earnestly, as I would prefer to be busy doing things that are at least somewhat interesting and challenging. I know that nothing’s perfect, but it would just be nice to be given the chance. I guess that’s how the financial depression leads to the peoples’ emotional depression.”
“Over the recession?” he asked.
“No, I’m not over the recession, and not over the depression, either,” I answered half-heartedly and half cerebrally. “The recession may be over according to financial definitions of economic growth, but the depression remains. As does the post-traumatic stress of long-term unemployment.”
The alien seemed both interested and concerned. His tone had changed completely by now. His color did, too. He was now a dark shade of purple, and was going through the spectrum of colors so quickly I thought he would have to invent a new one in order to avoid repetition.
Despite the alien’s apparent sympathy, I was still suspicious of his true intentions. Was all this nothing but a smokescreen? Was this dolosity a cover-up? Was he in fact part of an invasion force, such as that told by H.G. Wells and depicted on a radio program by Orson Welles? Did this traveler actually belong to a sinister species of the stellar unknown who had minatory designs on inheriting the earth if humans ended up killing themselves?
Sometimes it seems to me that our earthly birds are planning to do just that, and that they are waiting just for the right moment to overtake and inherit our planet by knocking down the human family tree in one fell swoop in a helter skelter, blue-jay way attack remnant of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Are we humans just paranoid, our fine feathered friends really out to take revenge on the extinction of the dodo bird, the laughing owl, and many other bird species that went extinct under our watch? Do we feel guilty that we eat poultry and hunt ducks and geese? Could our subconscious animal animosity towards them be the reason for the popularity of the video game Angry Birds became so popular amongst us humans? Were we just porcine featherweights in an upcoming struggle between the “Aves” and the “have-nots?” Do we subconsciously consider them a threat to our superiority as an especially suspicious species prone to “fowl” play?
If I were a bird I would pursue this possibility, and read another “dummies” book about human beings. I would find out about the elementary basics regarding the species in a book such as: “Humans – For the Birds”.
Or perhaps the birds are angry at us because we stole their tweet. Or maybe they are tired of the insults when we say tweeting on twitter is for the birds. Maybe those are reasons why some birds like to lower human’s self-esteem by calling us “cheap”. Others focus on the doctors, calling them quacks, finding it important to heckle and jeckle them in probably what caused Dr. Jekyll to become the first case of behavioral modification through medication. That doctor was a true pioneer, setting a trend that would transform the saw-bones into the bill-pushers they became today. Now THERE is a strange case.
As successful the birds have been in the world, human beings are to my knowledge the most prolific mammal by far. But does that make us more precious? Or does our expanding population make us more expendable? We know humans have been expensive to the planet, as both resources and humans seem spent. Not just spent; wasted too, in more ways than one. Earth may have once welcomed humanity as a species that grows on you over time, but that growth has been overly explosive. A lack of both self-control and birth-control has contributed to the organic growth of homo sapiens.
But as a typically paranoid human, I can’t help but suppose that birds of many feathers have their strategy all figured out and have begun already to put their diabolical scheme into motion, having already diversified themselves over extensive and climatically diverse lands from the poles to the tropics, beaches to mountains, adapting to extreme climates and climate changes over our planet. Look at how successful they have been: Penguins in Antarctica, ostriches in Africa, cockatoos in South America, weebills and emus from Australia…
My interstellar visitor was a different creature from the skies. I didn’t know much about ornithology but I did notice the alien didn’t have feathers, so he couldn’t have been a bird. It was doubtful that his species evolved from the dinosaurs even if one believed in Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, because his species was innovative to cross great distances. The skies may not have been the origin of his species, but they did seem to be its destination.
As a human I found it interesting that a being from our own galaxy could change colors so freely. There were earthlings such as exotic species of geckos and chameleons that could change color, but they didn’t seem to match the wit and wisdom of this inter-worldly traveler, whose timely visit I had appreciated at a time when I myself had been feeling so blue.
Despite his intelligence, he probably gave no special thought about skin color, and probably considered us humans as stupid beings for having placed such racial emphasis on skin color rather than character content. All that bigotry and prejudice our species has known was not only a shame, it was a waste of space-time in a continuum which was virtually boundless. So many racists had pre-judged the Obama-led nation as an abomination before he even swore the first time to execute the office of president faithfully. Our racist ways seemed to me to be so primitive. I was sure the alien and his Technicolor dream coat of skin – a coat of many colors in its own right and light - was not a source of jealousy among his brethren who probably shared the same capriciously chaotic changing skin color characteristic. His superior race was no doubt far more advanced than ours and wouldn’t understand the mixture of idiotic and crazy inferences from which we derive the idiosyncrasies of racism. His planet was probably above such prejudice, whether intraracial or interracial, whether intra-planetary or inter-planetary. Like Mr. Spock, this alien most likely didn’t give skin pigment any more consideration than it was due.
The alien then broke the silence: “I understand that you and the other long-term unemployed send resumes, one after the other, in a continuous on-going process where you search for potential employers, then research them in a due diligence, customize your resume, and send that resume.”
“That is correct,” I said. “But the more time one spends customizing a resume and researching a company, the less time one has to actually search and send. It is a delicate balance of available but limited energies. And it is very discouraging.”
“But if you send one after another in a continuous activity, and keep up a positive attitude in the process, you should definitely succeed after you have done this for a significant period of time,” he countered.
His argument made sense with statistic reasoning, although not inductive. Statistical analysis at times seems to be the opposite of inductive reasoning. If one repeats an activity that has a one-in-a-thousand chance of succeeding, after one-thousand tries statistically one should achieve success one time. Inductive reasoning is different. If you repeat a process one thousand times and have one thousand failures, then it is intuitive to many humans that one should not try again, as the results will most likely be the same. This relates to Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing again and again and expecting the same results.
Baseball is a great example of this. If a player has gotten a hit in each of his last ten at-bats, then statistically he will most likely not get a hit in his next at-bat. But inductively, based on observations of the recent past, he should get a hit in his next at-bat. Statistics is fascinating, particularly in baseball. There is no difference between a .200 hitter and a .300 hitter except in only one at-bat out of ten. If a player has gotten a hit in each of his last ten at-bats, then statistically he will most likely not get a hit in his next at-bat. But inductively, based on observations of the recent past, he should get a hit in his next at-bat.
After some consideration and deliberation, the alien asked earnestly: “What are some of the reasons that long-term unemployed professionals are rejected for an interview or are simply ignored?”
“Sometimes,” I added “I will get a rejection message that tells me that I have been rejected because of a low credit score. Often the long-term unemployed individual owes too much money and has no income. Consequently that candidate’s credit worthiness is considered low, and such a person’s candidacy for the position is disqualified, and will not be considered for the job. It’s a vicious cycle, like the chicken and the egg. Getting back to the workforce is like trying to get on the beltway with all the other cars, only you don’t have access to a ramp.” Clever simile, if I do say so myself.
The alien nodded slowly, absorbing my humanly complex situation and appearing to understand the whole issue of credit scores, and what they meant. Apparently humans do not behave normally and in this respect the electric currents in our neural transmitters turn awry, and consequently we as a species are perhaps all alone – in our way of thinking.
I was relieved that I didn’t have to explain more of this to him. He seemed to have gotten it without me having to dig deeper into our human shortcomings of which I was getting more and more ashamed as I tried to explain them. Nevertheless, he turned to me and was about to ask me a question which it seemed he was trying to word carefully so as not to hurt my feelings.
“So in these cases you are not getting hired because your income is too low?” He asked, appearing altogether perplexed. That doesn’t make sense.”
I was glad it was he who went in this direction, and that it was he who made the observation, independent of any prodding or leading on my part. I really wasn’t alone.
“You’re absolutely right,” is all I can say. It’s a viscous cycle, something we used to call a “Catch 22. ”it’s where the effect becomes the cause in a chicken-and-egg cycle.”
He seemed to understand the analogy of my last comment. He added, “I see why you call it a viscous cycle. It results in a type of frequency resonance wave that has been known to collapse otherwise sturdy suspension bridges.”
I didn’t know anything about suspension bridges. I knew only about my own collapse. “That’s true with me and others like me, I can tell you. It leads to an acceleration of the downward spiral. As a result, the longer one is out of work in the long run, the less likely that person is to find work even in the short-run.”
The alien was absor-bing all what I was saying, and perhaps I should have slowed down. I should have, at this point, considered that the illogical explanation would be too much for him.
“Another absurdity exists with jobs that require security clearance,” I added, remembering that I didn’t want to give away sensitive information. On the other hand, I didn’t have any such information, and my own situation wasn’t one that I was keeping a secret from him.
I always wondered why there are so many job offerings with people requiring they have security clearance. Why not just investigate these people. It was a mystery to me why so many trusting, hard- working, experienced people like myself can’t get security clearance as a condition to work. I never understood why there was such a barrier without investigating people for sensitive positions. The same investigating apparatus that passed Snowden wouldn’t consider investigating me and others who could serve their country in sensitive positions. With my luck I would be told that before they hired me they would have to kill me first. I have other anecdotal spy-stories, but If I told you, you’d have to kill me. That would reassure my future as a ghost-writer, and then I wouldn’t have to collect unemployment insurance anymore.
You would think that being a ghost writer pays well, but such writers are typically paid with ghost money. And if they were alive, the politicians and celebrities would have to kill the authors so that they can find ghost writers to do the real stunts. They need stuntmen who’ll work for practically nothing and will remain unseen except for a few errant EVPs. I have heard that such is the case of the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, and the Shakespearean plays who many reliable historians claim were actually written by the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
Maybe the government prefers there to be unemployment rather than to hire good-willed, experienced, trusted people who could work to prevent more 9-11 catastrophes. It’s unfortunate, even in the light of the claim that unemployment is a threat to national security even more severe than any damage that Snowden could have ever caused.
I continued my verbal dissertation, further describing my frustrations. “I see many job announcements that state explicitly that the candidate must have a security clearance. But the only way to get the experience is to get the job. It’s another chicken and egg situation just like the one where I am rejected because of low credit.”
While these thoughts were going on in my head, I took further notice of what seemed to be the alien’s own thoughts. He appeared to be sizing me up, thinking hard as if trying to solve some complex mathematical problem. In what I sensed to be a blend of both fascination and frustration, he stared at me with his eyes, those two protrusions peering at me from side to side as if to inspect the goods to see what could be wrong. It seemed not only that he was having trouble figuring out my paradox, but that he wasn’t used to such difficulties in problem solving.
Poor guy. He had been trying to think outside the box, and found himself boxed-in. Perhaps he should realize that understanding human beings is not a science at all with rules and equations and proven theorems, but rather something of an art, if were at all possible to call it that. I began to feel sorry for the being of apparent intellectual superiority. He couldn’t make sense out of what I was telling him. It was definitely alien to him.
“Are you okay?” I asked him, once again concerned about my guest’s welfare, afraid of a relapse due to more information overload. Again I felt like I was the investigator trying to understand the Zatoccian ‘whys’. Perhaps his mission was more complex than he and his dispatchers had expected.
Still interested in being a decent host, I asked “Would you like another cup of tea?”
After a few more moments of his scrutinizing my abilities, his eyes caught mine in an apparent reflection in which he realized that he had been making me feel uncomfortable in the way he was inspecting my situation. But I was neither uncomfortable nor insulted. I realized that he was here to analyze the human condition, and this was part of his work. I was curious as to whether they were paying him well, but then I thought about how I would feel if I were asked that, under my current circumstances of unemployment.
Actually, I was concerned for this alien being’s own well-being on our host world. Perhaps something in our air was incompatible with what he was used to from his surly planet. I was relieved to hear him speak once again, having needed some sign of life after having been responsible for overloaded his circuits.
“I am fine.” He reassured me. “I am very sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. I was just trying to figure out the cause of your plight. And I was considering how to phrase my next question so that it would not cause you any pain or anguish.”
“Next question?” I was truly intrigued. I knew he wasn’t going to ask me something frivolous, like why do we humans stir our tea with a spoon and our coffee with a narrow straw-like stirrer when there were plenty of forks around that would get the mixing job done more effectively. He wasn’t going to waste his time asking why we insist on having umbrellas that fold so compactly that the bent metal breaks in the slightest wind, rendering the umbrella useless. Those were good questions, but I knew he was more interested in the darker and lighter sides of humanosity. “Go ahead, and ask,” I instructed him, opening the door to a Pandora’s box that would never be left shut again.
“Well,” he said “I know how easily humans can get insulted from certain types of queries, but…”
“What is it? Go ahead. I won’t be hurt, I promise…now that I’m prepared”
“Well,” he started again. As I said before, I find it very strange that someone of your abilities is still not needed by your society. So I wanted to ask you…Is it possible that…did you ever consider that…maybe there is something wrong with you? Maybe you are just not as good as you think and they do not want to insult you by telling you that.”
Obviously he had no idea how painful his words were. He might as well have tied me up and performed painful experimentation techniques we often hear about in alien abductions. I would have preferred this. Such a probing would be far less uncomfortable than the inquisition-like poking which this extraterrestrial explorer was doing on my already depleted self-esteem.
He apparently took notice of my discomfort, and so he continued down a different path: “Maybe you have not expressed to the hiring person how much you really want the job. Maybe you need to express how much you want to contribute to humanity in some meaningful way.”
His statement was so naïve but it did seem to underlie a fundamentally significant difference in perception between our two species. His race apparently found meaningful contributions more important than financial gain. I had to keep this in mind in our discussion. It was an important difference between our two peoples. In any case, I answered him politely: “You have to learn to better understand the humanity-gritty”, I said, feeling clever – I have not felt clever in a very long time.
I was waiting for my friend to say something, but he had fallen silent. He was apparently busy at work trying to process the information that I had provided. I could see what appeared to be his eyes bulge out of that long tubular head of his. His veins seemed to expand and contract near the base of what could best be described as his neck, and I was worried what this vascular movement could mean. Could he in fact be able to read my mind after all?
I never tried to read other peoples’ minds although I was taught that “reading is fundamental,” just as that slogan used to say when I was growing up. I was never much of a reader, and never thought of myself as being a creative writer of poetry or prose.
When I was a student I was neither the best nor the brightest. I thought I could be an astronaut like my current alien space traveler because my school teachers all said that in society I would be taking up space. They turned out to be right. Today I am still unemployed, and serve no contributing purpose to society, maximizing my utility only when I was on the couch. Apparently my beams were dull, and they didn’t enlighten any of the experts on any latent abilities, if in truth I had any. I used to struggle just trying to write a few lines of poetry, and I envied my classmates who could easily compose quaint Japanese poems called haikus. I always liked them. But I never could write them. I wasn’t that good.
But I always did enjoy reading Dr. Seuss books. He really put the FUN in fundamental reading, and even when I was a kid found even then his anapestic tetrameter altogether contagious:
As if to answer my plea for a rescue, the alien made a groan that sounded a little hideous and then he went silent again. I appreciated his interruption to bring me back into reality, if this indeed was that. I stared at his freaky physique and wondered how anyone with such an anatomy could have it and live. He was still, and I decided to wait for a sign of recovery. In the meantime I went back to thinking about how to connect and consider all the points, with the natural license for poetic devices.
I enjoyed spontaneous rhythms. In recent years I found I liked writing quatrains and quietly singing them to myself on the subway to work. I wasn’t much of a poet, just a wayward busy-body on a bus who has a way with words when they don’t get their way with me. My favorite began with “I’m” and then continued repeatedly “a lunatic from Georgia Tech - a rambling wreck - oh what the heck - I picked a peck and took my pick - held up a stick and gave a kick…a lunatic from Georgia Tech…” and on and on until I reached my stop, going from worse to bad, then again from the top, even with no sound of music, the rhythm went non-stop. Like this one:
In the meantime I looked back at the alien, and I saw there was no change in his condition. This was getting serious, but I couldn’t call a doctor because I didn’t think there was anyone in the world – our world - who knew enough about alien physiology, and I was concerned that his health care package included travel to such dangerous parts of the galaxy such as the planet earth.
Soon I saw a stream of white smoke come out of his ears, and he appeared as if he had made some important papal decision. I then went over to the window and opened it just in case the fumes were dangerous for my own human inhalation.
I sat my freakish friend back down on the couch, and was rather relieved to see his original and supposedly normal burgundy complexion return to his face. I wasn’t sure whether I should bring him a glass of water or ammonia or formaldehyde, and I didn’t want to poison him.
My first instinct was to call for an ambulance as I felt responsible for the alien’s apparent mental breakdown. But I wasn’t sure our physicians could do anything but send a bill. Once upon a time we referred to doctors somewhat affectionately as “saw-bones”, but later they have often become known as “pill-pushers”. Today, many categorize them as “bill-pushers”, placing their long bill down a worm-hole light-years away in order to catch unsuspecting prey.
What happened to the alien, in any case, is apparently all my fault. I guess I should have exercised better judgment when I disclosed my own experiences to such a sensitive creature of conscience.
Although he had begun our conversation in a more arrogant tone, he had adjusted his demeanor and behavior and unveiled a rather likeable personality, although he couldn’t be called “person” by any stretch of the imagination.
I wondered, was this particular alien ahead of his own time? Or was his species just ahead of time? Was he a radically-rooted revolutionary? At times he did seem rather revolting, with all those weird body parts, appendages and tree-like limbs.
He had been resolute in his attempt to understand us, and I admired his resolve to get to the root of our problems. But now, he was having trouble adjusting to our atmosphere, or to our way of thinking, or both. Perhaps he was homesick for logical ideas that made good common sense, and his findings here on earth were throwing his metabolism out of kilter. If his oscillating pale color was any indication, he would be classified as being in unstable condition in any competent hospital emergency room. His native hue of resolution was sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.
I suppose I should have known better, dumping the human woes on his broad but pointed shoulders. He was, nevertheless prepared for the risks in coming here and opening an investigation on such a queer species as human beings. Anyway, I had a clear conscience and knew I was not to blame. After all, let’s not forget that it was he who had dared to venture into alien territory with all its wondrous discoveries and exotic trappings.
I did feel responsible for his condition, however, and wanted to help. I simply didn’t know what to do. Like our government in this regard, I had lost the name of action and decided to resolve the problem the way our leaders did: I would do nothing and hope for the best. I stood by with hope and prayer that my visitor would have a speedy recovery.
So it was that I, the subject of an interstellar research investigation, now took on the role of observer of alien behavior. Although it was a great responsibility, I was fascinated with this endeavor, even if I may have been a bit – I hope the alien would pardon the expression – “freaked” out by it.
In the meantime I didn’t see signs of life – if he wasn’t in fact carbon-based like us. I was starting to get concerned. I began to panic. What should I do?
Would he get better? Did I have an interstellar incident on my hands? Would I be blamed for his demise? Would his vengeful cohorts come looking for me?
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