Welcome To My World

[From the Vault....Wrote this back in 2004. Not sure what made me think of it this morning...]

The Hyperion Chronicles
“People are out to get me just because I’m paranoid”

#308 Welcome to my World

“Do not doubt the sanity of the man who talks to trees. Beware the man who gets the trees to talk back.”
-Eldaratch Proverb

{Author’s Note: Although it may not seem like it, I swear the following is true.}

So, last Thursday I’m on my way to Denny’s to write (because there is a spot I write well in there and NOT because of any hot waitresses). I remember—and I only mention this because of what comes later—a strong desire to listen to a certain radio station1. Why? I don’t know, because I’ve always been a flipper.

(By the way: this may not be the most optimum time to bring this up (i.e., a column where you may think I’m insane after you read it), but how do you arrange your radio presets in your car? I find this says a lot about a person, if they do it randomly, chronologically, etc. I rank them by order of use (from left to right), except for the very right button, which is reserved for an old favorite that’s been there for me in the past; sort of like the “And” acting credit in a movie. I also reorganize on the first of every month, when I calculate the aggregate and average listening times, which I keep track of in my head. I know: I’m weird.)

Anyway, at 12:55 a.m. on Friday Morning, the song playing cuts out to dead silence. A few seconds later these—what I can only describe as—“tones” come on. It’s hard to explain what I mean. It was the sort of pitch you get at a hearing test, but more musical.

To tell you the truth, it reminded me a good bit of those notes the space ship plays in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The tones go up and down in what seems like a pattern, although not one I can recognize. I consider that it might be a test—like the Emergency Broadcast System—but that’s usually one sustained pitch. Every 23rd note the tone holds for 20 seconds or so, all the while rising in volume until it’s ear-splitting. Then there is blessed silence, and the whole thing starts up again, with slight variations.

Okay. I am not one for UFOs or making mashed potato mountains2, but this seems suspiciously like that message in the movie Contact. If I can just decipher this…I check other stations—finding them all normal—and then return to try to pick apart the pattern. I cannot.

It is time to take stock and consider the possibilities. I may not be the sanity poster child, but I can analyze like nobody you’ve ever met (unless you live at 220 or 222 Baker St.3, and even then it’s a close call). I’m alone in my car without a phone on a deserted road, so there is no way to immediately contact people. Either I am the only one hearing this or I’m not. If I AM the sole recipient, that means I either forgot to take my anti-crazy pills today or I’ve been chosen for some secret reason. (This may seem far-fetched but not if: A) you’ve been around me for some of the strange events of my life4 or B) you’re as grandiose as I.)

I don’t like the ramifications of the idea that this is coming to me alone, but I can’t do anything about that now. Best to focus on the option #2: it ain’t just me.

If that be the case, there seems to be several possibilities:

1) For some reason, the station is doing this on purpose, perhaps as a joke (it is now Friday the 13th, after all).

2) There is a malfunction in the machine that plays the songs.

3) There is atmospheric interference (like a meteor shower) that is causing it. (This sounds bizarre, but perhaps the interference reduces the songs to their digital state and this is how they sound, like 1s and 0s in computer code.)

4) The car is picking up some other signal (like a research center) that is broadcasting on this frequency for some scientific reason.

5) The car radio itself is acting up, and for some reason this is manifesting only on the one frequency.

6) Someone or Some Thing has high jacked the signal to send this out.

So there we are. None of the possibilities seem likely, and of course me being me I focus on the idea that is on purpose, sent to me or everyone.

Luckily at this point I’m nearing civilization. I come to the light to turn for Denny’s, and I notice a car on the other side of the intersection, parked in the turning lane with no lights on. Is anyone in the vehicle? I can’t tell, but I’m majorly paranoid suspicious.

I finally pull into the Denny’s parking lot, relieved to see people. I get out, intent on asking them to turn their radios on…and I just can’t do it. After freaking out the last 12 minutes (the time it lasted until I killed the engine), I cannot bring myself to voice my thoughts…and fears. I already stand out like a sore thumb everywhere I go. I already get strange looks and behind-the-back snickers for what I avow and believe. I just can’t pull the trigger.

I enter Denny’s in a weird mood. Then, to add insult to injury, my server gives my table away. Forget the fact that I’ve conceptualized and written some of my best stuff IN THAT SPOT, it’s the only place in the restaurant I can fit! Sometimes it sucks to be me. I go back outside, determined to get people to hear the sounds and at least figure out if it’s in my head, but of course the signal is normal and there is no mention of the event.

I return home, paranoid and defeated. My father sees me. “I thought you went to Denny’s.”

“I did, but I didn’t feel well so I came back.” That’s true enough. I’m sitting on a chair in the middle of the kitchen rifling through the phone book.

“What are you doing now?”

“I’m calling a radio station,” I say without explanation. He raises an eyebrow but mercifully does not pursue the matter and bids me goodnight.

Back on the phone no one answers at the station. I call several times, the last of which I let it ring 122 times. Nothing. Zip. Nada. This only heightens my unease and suspicion. Thankfully (I guess), I’m used to thinking this way. Welcome to my world.

The next day is spent quietly. The night was virtually wasted; analyzing and re-analyzing every remote possibility (including a few I chose not to list). Nothing came of it but jangled nerves. I wonder: is this what it feels like for people who think they’ve seen a UFO? I call the radio station several more times, but can’t get through. I’m afraid to tell anyone, because of how crazy the whole thing sounds. Believe me: they already have enough ammunition.

Finally, Friday night, I resolve to go back to Denny’s. Whether I’m crazy or the Magic Pygmy Rabbits really are attacking (or both), I am not going to let a radio station—and FM one at that!—defeat me. I defiantly put the dial back to the scene of the crime, daring whomever to do their worst.

Then I notice the time: 12:55 p.m. I couldn’t swear it, but I think I’m in the exact same geographical spot. All I need now is a Rod Serling voice-over5. On a whim I pick up the phone (which I wisely have with me this time in case this happens again, so I can wake everybody up) and call the station.

Miraculously, someone picks up. I wasn’t expecting an answer (does this happen to you?), and there’s a moment of pure panic. I take a calming breath and begin: “This is going to sound crazy, but last night about this time did you…” I explain best I can.

The DJ (Franklin) doesn’t think I sound crazy at all. He says there was a new guy working there the night before, who doesn’t know how to operate the machine. Franklin says he was at home, but heard a few seconds of it too. Franklin’s not sure what it is, but offers equipment malfunction or the Emergency Broadcast System taking over for awhile. I feel immensely relieved until Franklin tells me to call if it ever happens again. I tell him I did call last night—repeatedly—and he tells me the new guy doesn’t know how to answer the phone.

Wait a minute. How can you hire someone who not only cannot work the equipment, but can’t answer the phone? And who can’t answer the phone? Suddenly his soothing words and reassuring manner are seen in a new light. He’s telling me not to worry—that it was just a glitch—because he’s in on it! He’s part of the nefarious plot to…well, to do something! I bet it was he who was in that car at the intersection. I bet right now he’s tracking me and planning to…

Ah, screw it. I need some seasoned fries, a vanilla coke and some peanut butter pie.

August 16, 2004

1 No, I’m not going to tell you which radio station it was.
2 Richard Dreyfuss does this in Close Encounters.
3 Sherlock Holmes lived at 221 Baker St.
4 If you’ve read enough of my columns, you know this is true. The technical word is that I’m Ta’veren.
5 Rod Serling created and did the narration for The Twilight Zone.

Thanks to Tootsie for Editing
Thanks to Franklin the DJ

I'm not crazy; you're crazy!......Oh, yeah? Well, "they" said you'd say that!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having done a stint 'in radio,' I know of which you speak - there would be honest-to-God malfunctions, human or technical, but if you called there would usually be someone to answer who was either inept or truly bent on messing with the general public. I rarely met an honestly helpful AND qualified radio person.

So I'm left with one question: did you get probed?