For two days I have been a ghost. I saw the world through a veil, and the world could not see me at all. I think it was less fun than any essay test or surgical procedure or first date I’ve ever experienced. Don’t let anyone fool you about being a ghost and watching people shower or listening in on private conversations, because it’s not like that at all. It’s like being divorced from the spirit of humanity. It’s like being set on an ice flow by your family to freeze or be eaten by the beasts of the sea. It’s like leaving your laptop, iPhone, and iPad behind in Lubbock because you’re a moron.
I can’t blame anyone but myself. I chose to drive to Lubbock to celebrate my niece, Wendy’s seventeenth birthday. We had fun. We ate fried chicken and birthday cake, and we went out to hear her boyfriend’s band, which I’m told was pretty good although I thought they sounded like gears grinding on a ’76 Chevelle. I gave Wendy an iTunes gift card and some earrings she probably didn’t like, although she said she did. I left on Saturday and didn’t realize until I got home that I left my computer bag leaning against the pot of begonias on the front porch. I said quite a few bad words.
I couldn’t do much right away, since it takes about a week and a half to drive from Lubbock to Dallas. That’s an exaggeration. It takes less than a week and a half, but I can’t say for sure how long it does take since half-way home I always fall into a meditative trance fueled by Cheetos and Diet Coke. But I got home at midnight, which was far too late to call my kinfolk in Lubbock unless someone in the family has died. My wife was in Illinois for a brief family reunion, so I crawled into my empty bed, full of disquieting ignorance about what was happening in the world.
The next morning at 6:01 AM I called Lubbock. I don’t think they understood the razor blade of panic in my voice, but they promised to Fed-Ex my bag right away. I began breathing almost normally. I debated just buying a new iPhone. Since it was Sunday the stores would be open by noon, and I thought I could hold out that long. But my Lubbock trip had cost me as much as an electricity bill and a bag of groceries. My cats were out of food, and when I’d woken up they had all been hovering over me like I was a buffet. I decided that buying cat food and more Cheetos was the wisest course.
I needed to attend a rehearsal Sunday afternoon for a show that might be entertaining if we rehearsed a whole lot more. I walked into the theater, which was cold enough to freeze marshmallows solid. Really, Mr. Wizard could do science experiments in there. I looked at my bundled buddies while goose bumps the size of Chicklets rose on my arms, and one said, “The air conditioner’s stuck. Didn’t you get my text?” I felt myself begin to fade out of the chain of human discourse, which was good because it distracted me from my body’s spastic shaking as it battled hypothermia.
After rehearsal I emerged into the grateful 60 degree sunshine. I looked around for my car, which was gone. Well, it might not have been gone. Gnomes might have shrunk it to the size of a June bug, just for fun. Barring that possibility, it was gone. I looked at my buddies, and one said, “We have to park around back today. I posted it on the e-group. You probably got towed.” I borrowed his phone and called the towing company. They gave me their address and told me I could get my car back for approximately the cost of two iPhones. I asked one of my friends to drive me, and I thanked providence that he had a phone with mapping capabilities. I could see myself walking into a gas station to buy a city map, and the clerk looking at me as if I’d asked for a flint knife.
I rescued my poor Accord and drove home. The phone handset in the kitchen was blinking with fervor, and I checked five messages, one from the drug store and four from my wife wondering what the hell was wrong. I called her, and she explained her concerns. Had I been in an accident? Had I dropped my phone in the toilet? Had the refrigerator fallen on me? She’d left three voice mails and then texted five times. She had checked Facebook and sent me a Google chat. Nothing. What was wrong with me? I felt myself drop further out of existence as I explained abandoning my electronic links to the world in Lubbock, as if they were worn out tires. She said she understood, but I could tell that she’d been shaken.
I stayed home the rest of the evening, tethered to my land line as if it were my only link to reality. That security was of course illusionary. Why would anyone else but telemarketers ever think to call me on my home phone? It would be like looking for me under a stone in Thailand.
This morning I drove to work to find that I’d missed an unscheduled 7:00 AM meeting with a new customer. They wanted to give us $10 million to fix something that they’d paid someone else $20 million to screw up. “I sent you an email last night!” my boss said before turning away to find a responsible person to fix this mess. I felt myself falter and slide into complete insubstantiality. I no longer had any significance in the daily lives of other people. I drifted out of the office, not even making excuses, and I let my car bring me home by vague, meandering paths. I spent the rest of the day resisting full entropy by using my land line to call friends, but none of them recognized my home number so they didn’t pick up.
At twilight, as I sprawled on a chair in the lightless den, someone knocked on my front door. After floating uninterested to entryway, I scanned through the peephole and unsurprisingly found no one there. I opened the door anyway, and a shiny FedEx box squatted on the porch like a toad of mercy. Had I been a South Pacific castaway, I’d have watched that box as if it were a parachute bringing me water, SPAM, and M&Ms.
Two minutes later I held my iPhone in my hand. I was about to reenter the great river that is humanity, and I wanted to make it meaningful. With shaking hands (which is easy, because my hands shake anyway), I sent my wife a message, since she was the most important person to tell about my return. I sent, “I text, therefore I am!”
Forty-five seconds later she replied, “Did you scoop the cat litter?”
I have rejoined the human race.
Casper the Friendly Ghost owned by Classic Media (http://www.classicmedia.tv/). It sounds kind of like ghost slavery, but I think it’s a lot nicer than that.