Swans Commentary » swans.com June 1, 2009  



My Good Neighbor Policy


by Michael Doliner





(Swans - June 1, 2009)   The other day I beat the crap out of my neighbor, Bob, and forced him to borrow money from me at an exorbitant interest rate. This was like screwing a pipeline into his bank account. My only problem now is: how do I win Bob's heart and mind? I didn't have a clue about that, but luckily a young anthropologist lives right down the street. So I paid her a couple of thou to go and find out just what makes Bob tick. Is he a Sunni, a Shi'ite or, you know, whatever. Well, it turns out Bob is a computer nerd! No wonder his bank account produces like an oil well. So the next time I saw Bob come through his front door I ran out quick as a flash and called, "hey Bob, how is your RAM." I figured talking to him in his own language would be just the ticket. Well, instead of answering me Bob got on his bicycle (an operation that looked quite painful after the thrashing I had given him) and just pedaled away. I thought that was quite unfriendly. But being the kind of guy who always wants to think the best of everyone, I just assumed that he hadn't heard me. So when he came back I scampered out again and said, "hey, Bob, I hear you've got a really cool CPU." I figured, nothing like a little compliment to win over a heart, if not a mind. Well, if you can imagine, Bob did not return my friendly greeting. Instead he gave me first a smoldering hateful look and then the finger.

I must admit that that drained most of the good feelings I had for Bob. I mean there I was, being perfectly nice, and he has to go and give me the finger. I began to suspect that there was something cultural, or perhaps even genetic, which caused Bob to dislike me. Perhaps it was something rooted far back in prehistory. But I am an optimist by nature, and as everybody knows, I have a basically sunny disposition. I decided that I would just have to learn more about computer nerds. So I called up a couple of shrinks until I found one who had actually treated computer nerds. When I found one I made an appointment and hustled right down to his office. You see how hard I tried to go the extra mile? When I got there I flopped down on his couch and began revealing all my fears of computer viruses and worms and whatnot. At one point I thrashed around and began screaming, "conficker C, conficker C!" I think he fell for it. In any case he revealed some very interesting information about computer nerds.

Because of their peculiar culture, computer nerds are morbidly afraid of two things. First, a computer nerd will not like having a broomstick shoved up his ass. And second, a computer nerd will not like having high voltage electrodes clamped to his balls. It all has to do with his beliefs about sex, God, and death, and is far too complicated for me to explain even if I understood it thoroughly, which I readily admit I do not.

Now, Bob has a roommate named Steve who is also a computer nerd. So I figured all I had to do was shove a broomstick up Steve's ass and Bob would see that there was no point in being my enemy. We could then become friends. So when Steve came home one night that is just what I did. I grabbed him, dragged him into the basement, kept him in a small, dank, dark place, and finally shoved a broomstick up his ass. Now, even though Bob had given me the finger I thought it would be good to show that there were no hard feelings. Let bygones be bygones I always say. So, to show my good will I didn't even clamp the high voltage electrodes onto Steve's balls. Heck, when I let him go he was fine, able to crawl home all by himself.

Now, I kept my eyes peeled until I saw Bob helping Steve out to the ambulance. Then I popped out and said, "Hey, Bob, did you get a load of that new Asus Spaceblaster 4 video card that just came out?" As you can see I had made the effort to learn a little more of his language in the meantime. I always try to bend over backwards (still guarding my ass, of course) to go the extra mile. Well, if you can believe it, instead of Bob and Steve greeting me in a neighborly manner, Fred, their other roommate who is also a computer nerd, came roaring out with a pistol in his hand. He blazed away at me, and I just managed to dive back in before two shells crashed into my door.

When the coast was again clear I examined the door and found that the shells had drilled holes in it. Fred had damaged my private property! Why? What had I ever done to him? I had barely said three words to the guy since he moved in. I began to see a pattern forming here. Here were three computer nerds all behaving very peculiarly and being quite hostile towards me. Me! A friendlier more outgoing soul you wouldn't want to meet. It was clear that there was a lot more to this than met the old eyeball.

Now, it so happens that I have an old school chum, Sven, who works in a think tank. I figured Sven would be just the guy to know what's up here, for I certainly had no idea where all this sudden hostility could come from. So I gave Sven a call and got his machine. "I can't come to the phone -- ever. Leave a message," it said in Sven's familiar voice. Good old Sven. It sounded like he hadn't changed a bit. So I left a message and almost before I could hang up the phone two agents broke down my front door and strip-searched me. But Sven must have told them who I was, because neither one of them punched me in the face.

It was hard to get into the SUV with handcuffs on but the agents kicked me a couple of times to help me out. I knew better than to open my mouth: language pisses guys like this off. We jolted along for awhile in silence until, at last, we came to a whole campus of buildings. We went through four checkpoints and I was strip-searched at each one. Can't be too careful. I found out later that I had been treated as a "friendly," so that explained the kid gloves.

At last I came to the think tank itself. At first it looked just like a giant swimming pool, but of course it was filled not with water, but with think. The think swirled and bubbled all around the tank, apparently on its own. Most of the think was recent brown and black think, but here and there you could see ancient rainbow-colored think visible only for a moment before it quickly mixed with the darker modern think.

There were quite a number of think-tankers paddling around in the think. Most of them seemed to have their hands full just keeping their nostrils above the think. But there were also some tankers supported on rubber rafts and smoking cigars. These were obviously the older, more established tankers. They seemed to want to stay above the think. Sven wasn't among these and I couldn't spot him among the swimmers, most of whom were more aptly named drowners. But although almost all seemed to be drowning, none actually drowned.

The stench of the think was overpowering and I had almost given up finding Sven, when there he was, slowly waddling towards me through the think and waving cheerfully. Good old Sven, completely bald (from all the time in the think) and with newly acquired Cheneyesque smirk and Rumsfeldian scowl, but good old Sven nevertheless. When he lifted himself ponderously from the tank (for once-svelte Sven had put on a pound or two) I could see that he was wearing a very stylish, tailored three-piece Brooks Brothers suit. Although the suit was dripping and oozing think, I could tell that it fit him quite nicely. The final touch was a red power tie.

For a couple of minutes we stood beside the think tank, just a couple of old friends with nothing whatever to say to one another. Then I told Sven of my encounters with Bob and the roommates and my suspicion that this was bigger than I had first thought. Sven appeared to nod gravely although his Cheneyesque smirk concealed his true feelings. After a few minutes I noticed that Sven was growing wan. He seemed to be losing energy, and I saw that he was chewing on the shreds of think that had clung to his suit and were now drying out pitifully. When I asked him what was wrong he confessed that he was no longer able to survive out of the think, and he suggested that I join him in the tank.

Well, naturally I was honored. To be invited to enter the think with Sven was quite a coup! But, unfortunately, because of the way the agents had ripped me from the bosom of my home, I was not properly dressed to enter the "thick of the think," as Sven waggishly called it. You can't just wade into a think tank with jeans and a T-shirt. But this problem had long ago been addressed by the think tank management. Sven led me to a closet filled with three-piece suits, and although I could never hope to be fitted as Sven was in his tailored beauty, I found a gray getup that, with a red power tie, (all the ties were red.) was more than adequate.

Soon I was standing on the edge of the think tank in my gray flannel suit, my gold toe socks, my wingtip shoes, and my red tie. Savoring the moment, I rocked back, looked up, and noticed one of the younger tankers on the diving board. With a couple of strides and a bounce he sprang boldly into the air, did a half gainer and a couple of flips, came out into a swan, and landed, splat, on the cement. For the high board did not jut out over the soft think, but over the hard, tankside cement.

I took the plunge and found myself sinking down, down into the brownish-black think. What to say about my first experience of being in the think? Exquisite? Sublime? First of all, unlike what one might expect, the think is not silent. There are constant murmurings, anguished moans from all sides, cries of "yes, Yes, YES!" and much more. Then there is the temperature. For the most part the heat of the think is so close to body temperature that you can't tell where you leave off and the think begins. But here and there icy patches that can freeze your buns and hot spots that can blister your skin require the sojourner in the think to be constantly ready to breast back and reconsider. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the think is its ability to lull the unwary into complacency while he is, in fact, drowning. I myself would have sunk blissfully into the think if Sven hadn't pulled me violently to the surface.

Sven and I paddled around in the think, nearly drowning, as seemed to be the custom of the tank. As we did so I continued to recount my tale of, first, mystification at Bob's rude behavior, and second, suspicion that more than I first thought was afoot. At one point Sven, without much ado, herded me towards the far end of the think tank. I noticed that most of the other tankers had joined us on that side, and that only a few obviously inexperienced tankers had remained at the far end of the pool. Suddenly, with a huge roar, a large pipe high up on the wall that I had not previously noticed erupted with a veritable tide of hot new black think that cascaded down on the hapless tankers who had not taken the precaution to move to our end. The cascade of new boiling think buried them, and while doing so stirred up a tsunami in the tank that massed and bore down on our end, squelching all the old think out onto the surrounding cement. Before I could panic, Sven took my arm and showed me just how to gracefully ride up higher and ever higher on the tsunami of new think, and then glide back down smoothly on the other side. What a thrill! I couldn't imagine a more beautiful sight than that Cheneyesque smirk and Rumsfeldian scowl of my good old buddy Sven. What a long way Sven had come!

Attendants quickly cleaned up all the old think that the tsunami had forced out of the tank, and order was restored. When I finished my tale Sven paused for a moment. It was hard to tell whether he was playing the good cop or the bad cop. Then suddenly he dove down into the think. For what seemed like an eternity Sven dove into "deep thought," the dark unfathomable realm far below the surface of the think that only the bravest think tankers dare to explore. I frankly was becoming worried for his safety. Had he given way to the seductive siren song of the think that had so easily enchanted me at the start? Had he lost his train of thought? But no! With a grunt of triumph, Sven -- his bald, rather densely-freckled head cleaving the bounding main of think like a dolphin rising -- emerged from the depths. And in his hand he clutched -- a flash drive.

With the gleam of triumph in his eye, Sven handed me the drive. Then immediately his face clamped shut and I quickly realized that now that my work in the tank was finished I no longer had any business being there. Unceremoniously, Sven boosted me out of the tank and I found myself standing at tank side with stringy bits of think clinging everywhere to my three-piece suit. Some of it even seemed to wriggle as if alive, but it soon became apparent that outside the tank it would quickly dry up and blow away. Then attendants surrounded me and led me away, my gold toe socks squishing horribly in my wing-tip shoes.

When agents had removed my three-piece suit and all its accessories, and attendants had hosed off every last wisp of think still clinging to my person, they returned my clothes to me and dumped me unceremoniously at the side of the road. It seemed that lack of ceremony was a point of honor at the think tank. Still, they couldn't take away my memories. When I finally got home, I plugged the drive into my computer and soon discovered what a wealth of information about computer nerds it contained.

Computer nerds compose a large far-flung secret society that has penetrated every corner of every country in the world. They originally came from a mysterious country named Nerdistan that was, it is rumored, where the red peril, the yellow menace, and the Islamofascist hard-boilers all met for breakfast. Nobody knows just where this Nerdistan was, but it is one of the stans, so it must have been full of uncivilized hairy guys who spoke gibberish. All that is small potatoes compared to what the computer nerds have up their sleeves now. First of all they communicate in "code" so that the rest of us can't understand what they are all about. They have not one but many "computer" languages in which to hatch their terrorist schemes. And each of these languages has "code" of its own. They are masters at disguise and can look just as friendly and as innocent as, well, your next-door neighbor. They can blend in so completely that not even the national intelligence services can detect them.

When I had gotten through a tiny fraction of what was on Sven's flash drive I understood everything that had happened to me. My hunch had been right all along. My efforts at trying to bring reason and neighborliness to Bob had been doomed from the outset. He harbored an ancient implacable hatred to everything that I stood for, everything that I was, and everything that my ancestors were. His is an ancient blood enmity and he will always hate me no matter how nice I am. This goes back to Biblical times. Even then the nerds, in one guise or another, always hated the nice guys. It has always been that way and it always will be. Very well. Two can play that game. Bring it on, Bob!


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About the Author

Michael Doliner has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He lives with his family in Ithaca, N.Y.



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Swans -- ISSN:  1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/mdolin44.html
Published June 1, 2009