Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.
These streets have a hollow echo. The slightest sound – a rustle of leaves, the call of a distant finch – bounces from wall to wall, leaving behind a trace of vibration and electricity. The city yearns to be alive, to be filled with noise and chaos, but there are no people here.
A light wind, almost soft to the touch, glides through the tunnels and alleyways of the city’s empty corridors. Once through downtown, it picks up speed in the manicured grass and uniformed houses of the suburbs, finally gusting out to the deep forests and thick brush of the true outdoors. There is no one to disrupt it or slow its course.
There is no one to buy coffee or newspapers. No one to smoke cigarettes or do crossword puzzles on the train. No one to ride the buses or drive the cars. No one to trigger the crosswalks or ride the elevators. No good mornings, no hellos, no how are yous. No fuck yous, no kiss my asses, no suck my dicks. Not even a cough, a sneeze, or a deep breath to break the complete, utter silence.
Yet if one listens closely enough, stands still for just one moment, a sign of human life can be heard. It doesn’t matter if one is in the dense city streets or the open rural areas. The sign is the same everywhere. It’s the faintest sound of gunfire, heard through a closed window, coming from a television set. For today is November 10, and everyone in the world is at home playing Modern Warfare 2.
“Sorry, but I’ve taken ill today and won’t be able to make it. It seems I’m coming down with something. Yes, just a towering pile of vomit throughout my home. You wouldn’t want me at work today. Yes, there certainly does seem to be something going around. Some sort of 24-hour virus that only affects men in their 20s and 30s. Make sure to mark this as a sick day and not a vacation day, because I am literally vomiting into the phone right now. Yes, it’s . . . it’s difficult to hear you. It’s clogged up the earpiece. Goodbye.”
The American economy is suffering, but there are two glimmers of hope. First, that 4.7 million of us were doing well enough to spend $310 million in one day on a single product. Second, that all of us felt secure enough in our jobs to play hooky on a day when our lie couldn’t have been more obvious. The only thing more transparent than calling in sick on the day Modern Warfare 2 comes out is calling in sick the day of a free blowjob giveaway held by local sorority girls. It doesn’t matter how old or out of touch your boss is, he saw the ad in the paper too.
Actually, you could probably do that one on a lunch hour. It would be a very long lunch, though, as the lines for such an event would wrap around the entire universe three times.
The video game was worth missing a day of work, by the way. You get to have a shootout in a TGI Fridays and a Burger King, battle terrorists through the California suburbs and the White House, and you also get to play online and taunt people from all over the world after shooting them in the face with a rocket launcher. If people had explained this when calling in sick to work, I think most bosses not only would have approved, but would have invited themselves over.
Really, the release of any game where you can throw a sticky grenade on the back of a fictional character’s head and watch them squirm until it explodes should be a national holiday. Shooting people in the face in a video game helps people relieve stress, which keeps them from shooting people in the face in real life. When the junkies who work at McDonald’s give me a cold egg and cheese biscuit, I stay calm knowing I can pretend shoot people in the face later. When the city bus driver pulls over and makes an entire bus full of people wait five minutes while he runs into Hardee’s to grab breakfast, I don’t choke him to death with my belt because I know I can pretend shoot people later.
And also because I know driving a bus for a living is way worse than being choked with a belt once.
Girlfriends, on the other hand, will not understand this benefit. Most of them don’t consider shooting people in the face to be an enjoyable activity. But they’ll have no choice but to put up with us, because honestly, it would be a real hassle to find a new boyfriend who is single, employed, not revolting while clothed, and hasn’t yet lost his driver’s license from a DUI. Those qualities combined are rare in a man, so they’ll just roll their eyes and go watch How I Met Your Mother in the other room.
Which is what we’ve always wanted them to do anyway. Cheers to Modern Warfare 2 for yet another great benefit of ownership.