Sunday, 14 March 2004
Topic: overheard conversations
The following is a phone conversation that occurred the other day between me and a character from one of my earliest works; postcards from the end of the world; mentioned previously in the entry titled ‘Why It Is Important to Kill Off Characters at the End of Your Stories’, and I think this exchange further displays the gravity of the situation.
I placed this call to the public transportation info number, and thought I was speaking with an employee of the department, until about midway into the conversation, i realized the horrible truth.
Furthermore, before i begin the narrative, i would like to reinforce the point that the person in this dialogue named Hector is a fictional character from a book I wrote about ten years ago, and not my cat, who also happens to share the name. I mean, let’s not get silly- cats can’t talk.
Thank you for calling Pub-trans, How can we assist you today?
“Uh, hi. OK. Basically I’m at Harlem and Trapezoid and I’m trying to get to Trapezoid and Flog Road or Flow Street. Now I think from when I worked out here years ago that there is one bus that goes down Trapezoid.”
Not as far west as Flog Road or Flow Street
“Hmmm… Maybe it was Chase Street, is there a bus that will go from Harlem and Chase all the way to Flow Street and Chase?”
If you really want to do all that walking. Look. Here is what you do. You stay right where you are and a number 90 H bus will be at your corner in 2 minutes 16 seconds.
“That goes south down Harlem though, doesn’t it?”
Yes it goes down to the Harlem depot, where you can transfer to the 3EE train at 3:45 which will take you to the airport.
“Yeah. You see, I don’t want to go south, or go to the airport. I am just trying to home, which is near Trapezoid and Flow Street.”
I understand that sir, but there isn’t one bus that goes down Trapezoid, they all head to the airport from here. Now from the airport you can catch the 138-A at 4:10 from terminal Green-Seven-Puppy.
“And the 138-A bus will take me to Trapezoid and Flow Street?”
No sir, the 138-A goes thru the west side of the city to the Jefferson depot along the border of the Project-Nations.
“Why on Earth would I want to get on that bus?”
I think you’ll find it very entertaining, intriguing even. It is soon to be the latest craze.
“Riding the 138-A into Crackton?”
Are you familiar with Mystery Tours? They are a sort of dinner theater which takes place on a train; they are interactive, the audience becomes involved in the story. During the course of the trip, a murder mystery is unfolded and it is up to the passengers to solve the crime.
“I am familiar with the concept, yes.”
The city is experimenting with a similar idea on scale for city buses. The 138-A is one of our first Urban Mystery Trips.
“Gangland Death-ride would be a more appropriate name.”
It is now the cities official stance that what was viewed for years and misinterpreted as gang violence occurring on public transportation was, in fact, actors, acting and preparing for this day. The city has been in the process of developing this project for over thirty years.
“It’s a good thing they weren’t in charge of inventing the wheel. We would all still be walking.”
You know I hate when you do that.
Whenever you write something in first person, in the course of almost any conversation that occurs, you will have the secondary character- myself in this case- play the straight man; basically feeding you dry, straight-forward dialogue off which you can zing out one liners and funny asides. You never give the good lines to the other guy.
“I don’t think that’s true at all. If you look at aftermarket soul for instance, you’ll see that even though its written entirely in the first person, the ‘Me’ character plays a mostly static role-
Oh, please, save it. I did not arrange this conversation to listen to you rattle on endlessly about your writing.
“Oh. Hello, Hector.”
Well, it’s about time. I thought maybe you had forgotten about me.
“Believe me, I try.”
See, i don’t know whether to comment on how that statement completely reinforces my previous point, or- just how flawed the thought process is which would prompt such a declaration from you.
“What the hell are you talking about?”.
My indecision on how to react. The fact that I can’t choose between to possible directions in which to move the conversation proves that I do possess freewill; which goes on to prove that I am a completely sentient being.
Look, the fact that I am sitting here talking to you on the phone; taking time out of my actual life to talk to you- proves beyond a doubt that you have gone completely nuts. I am a character from your book, right? But here I am, and I don’t really get it either; but I have to get up every morning and go to work regardless, i didn’t ask to be real; but I am certain of one thing- it proves that you are out of your mind.
“Why are you telling me this?”
I want you to stop writing about me. I want nothing further to do with you.
“But I don’t write about you anymore…
You’re doing it right now.
“I’m standing on a corner trying to get a bus home.”
OK. Whatever. You know what? Write anything you like. It doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t care. You know why? I am going to stop reading it. I am not reading another line you write. I quit.
“But you can’t quit, I wrote you.”
(long pause.. dial tone.. end of transmission)
©Robert Emmett McWhorter