The Guy Who Came in From the Cold

June 23, 2006

There’s a plot cliche in science fiction and fantasy movies and books that a guy, an ordinary guy, suddenly gets plucked out of his routine life and carried away by aliens or thrown into a bizarre alternate universe, often one that exists in the sewers, where he faces various challenges and discovers reserves of strength and courage he never knew he had. Sometimes he gets returned back to his normal way of life, but usually he carries on saving the universe or slaying dragons in between doing basic accounting for dwarves. It’s never clear what happens to the people the guy left behind. Usually he’s such a dull, mundane guy in a low-profile job that no one misses him, which is strange when you think about the number of people who tragically go missing every year and there’s great effort put into finding them. Frequently in the books and movies the guy is a college student which is even more bizarre because, no matter what alternate universe or distant galaxy you go to, your college loan officer will find you. They even know the exact exchange rate for dwarven gold.

But I digress. This is such a common plot device that I wonder if life has ever imitated life, and, if so, why it’s never happened to me. I’m not saying I’m unhappy with my life. It’s more or less routine and I’m down with that, as I would say if I still cared about trying to be cool. What I’m saying is that if aliens have the power to snag me out of my corner of the continuum and drag me to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud in mere seconds, they should be smart enough to do it while I’m in the elevator on the way to my office, and able to bend time in such a way that they bring me back right about quittin’ time. The same goes for any powerful wizard in an alternate universe where unicorns, dragons, and competent customer service people are real.

But I digress. I don’t know why this has never happened to me because I regularly go off the regular path. I work for a university, and one of my job responsibilities is giving tours of the campus to new employees. No one knows the place as well as me because, when I’m out to lunch I live by the hey-what’s-in-that-building principle. Or there are those days when I’m walking to the office and I live by the principle of It’s hot/cold/raining/sleeting/I’m being pursued by warthogs so I’ll cut through this building on the way to my office. I’m not boneheaded enough to go around picking locks or wandering into off-limits areas, unless I see something really, really cool in the re. I did once take a tour of the Cleveland Botanical Garden by going in through the back door. I had to: the front door was locked. It was very nice, by the way. That was a couple of years ago, and it’s probably even nicer now, assuming that they finally got around to taking the plants out of their pots, removing all those "Hard Hat Area" and "Under Construction" signs, and getting the forklift out of the middle of the main floor.

But I digress. I guess I have had some small adventures. It’s just that mainly those adventures consist of wandering into a place and being asked what I’m doing there. I’ve learned to be confident, and just say, "I’m looking for Rick." For some reason every place has a guy who works there named Rick, but, what’s even stranger is that he’s never around. Maybe he’s been abducted by aliens and will be back around quittin’ time.

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