There’s a newfangled security measure I had yet to encounter that I recently met.
I’ve never worked in any kind of corporate job. Never enjoyed the privilege of low-pile grey industrial no-nonsense carpet, the kind that causes constant shocks each time I imagine lowering myself into my aerodynamically-designed low-pile corporate turquoise computer chair. I’ve never been privy to the myriad of mysteries and adventure brought to life by the audible squeal of the opening supply cupboard, pencils, rulers and paperclips glimmering just beyond my reach. Never been within fifteen feet of the legendary watercooler, nor have I heard its tales of last night’s AMERICAN IDOL or KING OF QUEENS.
So it was natural — obvious, even, that there were things in this brave new world of rat-race-pencil-pushing that I wouldn’t understand. That I couldn’t understand. That I shouldn’t understand. Short of imaginary visits to a corporate criminal’s jail, I’d never seen a room that necessitated fancy welcoming glass office doors that mysteriously lock in secure measures previously seen only in the opening sequence of Get Smart, sealed strong enough to resist the combined bodyweights of the Dallas Cowboys 1995 roster (and yet… made for a woman). I’ve never yet encountered the large red button that overrides the aforementioned locking mechanism and delicately, digitally defeats the door’s blocking capacity, also diminishing the amount of facial bruising caused by the average Joe’s typical daily interaction with the smug, unfrosted, clear-handled bastard of a door.
You think this story is about a door, don’t you? Don’t you? Don’t you?
This is a story about a button. A red button that protruded from the wall like a mysterious nipple, a scarlet siren that begged to be flogged, yet was shaped hexagonally, invoking a traffic-oriented collective-unconscious archetype. This button demanded you to STOP, CEASE, DESIST — DO NOT TOUCH ME. There was no labeling on or around the button, no “push me” or “don’t push me” tags had been attached, and so, intimidated patrons of the doorway were much like Alice through the looking glass: wondering which side of the mushroom would provide the desired effect, as the blasé Caterpillar slithered blithely away, vague and glib answers emanating in puffs of coloured smoke.
About an inch and a half under the button was a fire alarm. This, of course, had been dramatically labeled as such, but was so close to the mystery button that it provided less of a distinct juxtaposition between which button was to be pressed ritually and which was to be reserved for the far more dress-up occasion of flames, smoke and panic. As I stood in front of these buttons, a small crowd gathered behind me, also waiting to exit the office. I felt like the child who had been triple dog dared into sticking his tongue to the telephone pole as I wiped the sweat from my brow and poised my finger above the red hexagon. I imagined it, cartoon-like to be screaming a rubberfaced “NOOOOOOO” as i poked my french tipped index finger into the center of it’s cyclops’ eye.
Successfully, the glass panels opened, Open-Sesame-style. The worker bees behind me filed through the open french doors and those comically augmented moments of delay and frustration were traded once more for the buzzing hum of shuffled papers and forgotten pipe-dreams.
I stood on the low-pile mottled grey carpeting and relived the moment in front of the buttons. I could very easily have imagined myself “accidentally” pulling the fire alarm instead, and began then, to wonder how many other people — like me — stand daily in front of that door, contemplating the social suicide of playacting the unintentional pull of the fire alarm, riveted by their own daydreams of playing the sad, blue-eyed-victim-of-it-all, explaining, with glistening eyes the mistake, the hand slip, the trip on the low-pile carpet to the boss, the chief of police, the burly ash-covered fireman. Blaming non rubber-soled shoes, decaffeinated coffee or excessive amounts of Jergens lotion for the total decay of the civilized workday.
I imagined these same people going home and feeding their cats, in constant worry that for the one brief second when filling the cat’s paw-print shaped dish with f-grade byproduct gelatin-horsemeat, they would be compelled to instead take that viscous forkful and plough it right into their unsuspecting mouth, not realizing the fatal error until the moment the gag reflex had been suppressed, the mouthful in stasis just past the surprised esophagus. Imagining them in front of the Doomsday button, and realizing that for this individual any given situation had Doomsday potential, if logic and reason ceased to define “proper” actions derived by impulse and instead impulse became hardwired to rebel against social and hygenic convention, bypassing reason entirely.
I left the building in a daze. Crossing the street I began to fantasize in ten second bursts, about the impulses we have, the impulses we are aware of an obligation to avoid (so as not to seem completely insane), and of how having those impulses; I mean, being aware that one must not even fantasize about such illogical and terrifying consequences to situations that don’t actually even exist is actually quite crazy in and of itself, and this, perhaps, is what differentiates the artist from the rest of society. The casual ability to slip into a moment of hideous and unrealistic possibilities with every minute action denoting chain reactions of epic proportion.
I imagine being hit by cars, shot at, followed, licking stranger’s faces, stealing food from homeless babies, grabbing an old woman and forcing her to Tango, walking four-legged on a treadmill at a high-end gym, answering the door for a deliveryman while wearing a horsebit, accidentally breaking the fingers of a businessman while shaking hands on a million-dollar-deal. I imagine and enjoy each sensation of embarrassment and awkwardness while I pride myself on my ability to walk away from each of these imagined scenarios with a sense of exuberance at having fooled another sucker, Guess I’ll Die Another Day.
In my dreams, I push the Doomsday button and laugh as the Eiffel Tower collapses. I wake up and of course I’m happy it’s still standing. It’s a curious affliction, one that I’m not sure isn’t more of a curse rather than the blessing of a vivid imagination.
Two clips, one funny, one uncomfortable, and both apt.
Anyway, the new single, ALL THE LITTLE THINGS is now on Virgin radio as well as MuchMusic, so I’ll post the links, and I’d love it if you’d all request it about a zillion times.