Everyone does it.
You're standing or sitting somewhere with some time on your hands. Something happens. And immediately, your imagination runs wild. This most often happens to me when I'm left alone with my thoughts - driving, doing something mundane and repetitive like folding laundry or taking a shower. A key ingredient in this process is that I don't have visual stimulus - audio, sure. Podcast, radio, the low hum of people talking - all fine. But if I'm in front of the TV, this never happens. Which probably should be a commentary on how imagination works. Anyway, the point is that, left to my own devices, my mind morphs into the mind of Michael Scott from The Office.
Not sure what I mean? Walk with me.
I'm at work. I'm folding sweaters. Outside, I hear the screech of car tires. A sedan has narrowly avoided a pedestrian crossing the street. Everything is okay. Shaken, but otherwise unharmed, the people go about their business.
In my head:
The woman actually got hit by the car. I, being the only person who saw this happen, rush to the scene, sweater in hand. "Come back!" my co-workers cry as the magnetic sensor at the door sounds the theft alarm, but I can't hear them. I'm in the zone. The driver of the car is now emerging and, to his horror, this woman's bone is sticking out of her leg.
"DON'T MOVE HER!" I shout, the clear medical expert in the group. Then I become gravely serious. "If there's damage to her spine, we'll only make it worse. Someone call 911. Sir, take off your belt!"
"YOUR BELT, DAMN IT, I'M SAVING A LIFE!"
The man quickly removes his belt and hands it to me, marveling at my steady hands and expertise in a crisis. I look at the injured woman, who for some reason is Dame Maggie Smith. "Don't worry," I say reassuringly. "This is all going to be okay. Just try to breathe." I tighten the belt above the woman's knee as a makeshift tourniquet, the paramedics arriving at the scene. "Thank you, ma'am," they nod to me. "I can't believe you know so much about medicine."
"I was nothing," I reply. "I'm happy all those episodes of Grey's Anatomy have paid off."
And with that, I tip my hat (because I'm wearing one) and stroll away.
...see what I mean? Okay. Now that you've got the hang of it, let's do a few more.
Jordan is 4-6 minutes later than usual coming home from work.
In my head:
After 4 minutes, I call him and he doesn't answer. I get a sixth sense, which is really just my special name for the feeling called "completely unfounded anxiousness." That must mean one of the following things has happened:
- Terrible dental trauma resulting in someone's head being accidentally detached
- Grizzly car wreck that ends in an explosion
- Alien abduction
- Kidnapping, including a letter pinned to my door with magazine cut-out letters: "We have him, send $$$." Joke's on them. I only have $5.
I want to call him a million times, but I don't. I don't want to look crazy. (The irony is not lost on me here.) I call my mother and nervously chatter, all the while drumming my fingers on the table and sweating through my shirt. With every passing car, Tom Hanks' ears perk up and he runs to the back door, but it isn't Jordan.
I imagine my life as a widow.
Roughly ten minutes past the time he usually arrives home, Jordan finally pulls into the driveway. Turns out there was just traffic. He tried to call me, but I didn't answer. I now notice there are two missed calls from him. I am dumb. My diseased mind is now exhausted and I slip into a coma of exhaustion for the next hour.
I know of someone (let's call them "X") who did something once that was really despicable. X doesn't know that anyone knows they did this, but I know. X got away with said thing because not many other people do know about it. X is the kind of person who never believes they're in the wrong, but who regularly and definitively IS. In fact, X has been routinely awful to several people who are very close to me. I have never let on that X really bothers me deeply, but X really REALLY bothers me deeply. I would never actually speak up about X because it's not my place, and even if it was, it isn't really worth it.
(Are you scared X is you? Don't worry. It isn't.)
In my head:
X steps a toe out of line and says something offensive to one of the aforementioned people I adore. Something in me snaps. I, cool as a cucumber, go to my typewriter (because in this fantasy, I have this big, beautiful office featuring a lot of wooden things and a typewriter sitting next to a pile of worn but very valuable vintage coffee table books). I type a message. I put on driving gloves. I extract the sheet of paper from the typewriter with a flourish and meticulously fold it into thirds, then seal it in an unmarked envelope.
I write "X" on the front of that envelope. I call a teenager, who'll serve as my mule, as I myself can't be seen dropping it off. I instruct them to also wear gloves (because #fingerprints, duh), go to X's house, ensure no one is home, then leave the envelope in the mailbox. A half hour later, the teenager reports that the job is done.
X, coming home from work to find that the flag on the mailbox is suspiciously raised, is delighted to find a letter. X opens the letter and reads the following:
That thing you think no one knows you did?
And if I ever heard that you've been unkind to anyone I know,
(and I mean anyone)
everyone else will know it, too.
Be a better person.
From that point forward, X's behavior is straight as an arrow, and everyone that interacts with them notices the difference. X pretends to be confused and flattered by the way everyone takes notice of the positive changes, but they secretly know why they've improved. And SO DO I. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.
While driving on the Interstate, a guy in a muscle car pulls up in the next lane so that he can see into my windows. I look over and notice that he is making vulgar hand gestures at me and yelling obscenities, the G-rated gist of which is that he finds me attractive and would like to take me dinner; the actual version wouldn't even pass in a Quentin Tarantino movie. I look at him in disgust and speed up to avoid him. He continues to pull up beside me until another car blocks him out. Happily, I drive away.
In my head:
I call the emergency line for the Feminist Alliance of Superbadasses.
"Feminist superhotline, what is your emergency?"
"Yeah, hi! I'm looking at a guy who needs to be taught a lesson. He keeps making nasty hand gestures at me and won't leave me alone. I'm just trying to drive my car."
"Make and model?"
"I mean, I don't know. Ugly muscle car? It's red? I'll give you my coordinates."
And with that, the FAoS dispatches Gloria Steinam, who's wearing a fabulous leotard and cape. She flies down and stops traffic on the interstate. She invites every woman nearby to get out of their cars and stand behind her to glare at this guy with the fire of a thousand suns.
"Hey, jackass!" she begins. "Stop harassing this driver. What did she do to deserve that? Oh wait -- nothing. Because there's nothing ANY woman could do to deserve being the butt end of your nasty little ego. Do you think that this is appropriate behavior? Is this something you're proud of? Are you so small that you need to degrade women and make them feel uncomfortable while they're just trying to drive from point A to point B? Shame on you. You've lost driving privileges today. Hand me your keys."
The crowd of women behind her erupts into cheers as the man exits his car, head hanging low, and tosses his keys into Steinam's hand.
"Didn't you forget something?" she asks.
The man looks at her blankly.
"Don't you want to say something to Mary Catherine?"
"Oh. Right. Sorry."
"It's okay," I say. "Don't let it happen again."
"Trust me," the guy replies. "I've seen the light. That's the end of that kind of behavior FOREVER."
The women cheer and clap and shake his hand as he, a changed man, hails a cab.
So let this be a warning to you, parents. Encourage your child to imagine and to dream, but just know: it's possible they're going to turn out like me.