Halloween is for the Birds

Drama is life with the dull parts cut out.” -Alfred Hitchcock


Folks might leap to the conclusion that I outright hate Halloween. That is not quite the case. If others want to craft intricate costumes and go to parties, then I have no problem with that. I simply do not have that drive myself.

But I do appreciate when decorations go inappropriately wrong

But I do appreciate when decorations go inappropriately wrong

A large part of that stems from having met my quota for costumes. I work in a movie theater. When we had a big superhero flick opening, I was the one most willing to don the outfit. I was the person that dressed up as Batman four of five times. I put on a Spidey suit more than once. And I am here to tell you that the Iron Man suit is the most comfortable getup you will ever find. (The suit itself was not overly confining and the fake muscles were like little pillows you could take a nap on. ‘twas bliss.)

That being said, I should mention that most superhero movies come out between May and July. As the summer heat starts to really kick in, costumes become more problematic. batguysFor example; consider the setting for Batman Begins. It was Father’s Day weekend. We had invited some rather well-known Batman creators to come hang out with us on a sunny day. Our lobby is an all-glass building. And there I was, in a full-body, all-black, snug-fitting Batman costume, next to creators that I admire and tried not to geek-out over, all as the sun beat down and made that suit feel like my own little oven. I believe the best descriptor would have been “toasty”.

I have met my quota. Let the others adorn silly attire. I would rather not walk through the workplace and be attacked by fake cobwebs, but I chuckle when people squeal at a fake rat or some other harmless decoration. My annoyance at low-hanging skeletons is balanced by seeing those folks freak out over a spider that is clearly not real.

No, what I hate are birds.

Popcorn. When you introduce crumbled and spilled pieces of popcorn around an area that is half outdoors, you often acquire some trouble. Trouble with a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” that stands for pigeons. Oh, how I hate pigeons.

Running after pigeons and waving my arms wildly is beneath me. I am not three. I would rather walk up to them, use my height and loud stomping feet, and lecture angrily. I maintain my calm demeanor when met by the feathery cretins. I clomp around, I yell, and I throw things in the general vicinity of their perch but never actually at them. (I would never hit the little twerps, no matter how much I want to. I believe fear of being hit will suffice just as well as being bonked on the noggin.)

I am, in all ways possible, sick of this crap.

I am, in all ways possible, sick of this crap.

Monday I came across a particularly vexing pigeon. We had just installed some very ugly perch-pokers so that the birds would no longer sit above our entry doors and atop our sign. We thought our days of cleaning gobs, lakes, and assembled masses of poop were over. Sadly, this one pigeon had found a new railing to perch on. So I did what anybody would do and chased it off.

When I ventured back outside a few hours later, there was the pigeon again. “What do you think you are doing?” The pigeon continued to sit there in a curled up feather ball. If it were a puppy or a kitten it might have been cute. But I have seen what these little fecal-factories eat and how often their feathers fall out. “Cute” is not an attribute they possess.

“Hey! Scoot!”

The pigeon looked up a bit. There were elements of sleepiness and a touch of contempt in its beady little eye. There was no trace of repentance for trespassing in that tiny-beaked visage.

I waved my arms towards him as my feet stamped their disapproval onto the floor. Closer and closer I got until it flew up the staircase. I followed it and shooed it some more. Reluctant efforts to escape my badgering were made. At last, I got the pigeon to fly off into the rain. Only a random feather or two and a collection of poop were left behind.

You understand story structure. You know there is always a third arc. You know the villain of the story must return one last time to do epic battle with that noble hero.

(A refresher: I am the hero here. Me. I tear tickets and provide customer service. Pigeons create unsanitary environments and plague my existence. Me-good. Pigeons- harbingers of death and messiness.)

I came out to what I assumed was an empty area. It was after our daytime hours. The crowds were winding down. A pleasant stillness had descended on our grounds as it often does. Everything was okay. Until I saw it.

There was the pigeon. Again. Perched on the stairway railing. Again. Asleep over a giant collection of poop. Again. This time we both played for keeps.

I made my feet beat like warning drums. It ignored me. I yelled. It gave me the look of insolence. I approached closer. That was when the real fun began.

I neglected to mention that this stairway was halfway between the second floor and the ground floor. The pigeon had options on how to retreat. This time, it went down. I chased it, it flew downstairs. I chased it again. It circled to the left and perched on the floor. I chased it again. It circled more to the left, this time threatening to go in the office door. I chased it again. It circled to the left and threatened to go into the bathroom that had its door ajar. I chased it again. The bird circled to the left (Did it know that there was more than one direction to fly? Take a right, mix things up! Further proof that pigeons are idiots) and swooped over my head. I was convinced that the ne’er-do-well was out to scratch me or open its payload doors on my face. Thankfully, I escape unmolested.

After another series of two or three chases, the bird went up the stairs, out the upper courtyard, and flapped away into the rainy night.

I chose to believe that I had really won that time. Despite its greater reluctance to flee, I wanted to believe that our story had come to a conclusion. However, a tiny part of me was still cautious. In horror films, the unstoppable killer that is “slain” often comes back once more.

Those were the sort of thoughts I had as I walked to the downstairs bathroom a few hours later. I was ready to go home. My shift was coming to a close. And if I could just go the bathroom, bide my time in the theater, and keep anything from catching fire then I would be done for the night.

I walked up the railing, hoping that I would not see the same sight as before. It was clear! (Well, the poop was still there. But the giver of gifts had fled the coop.) I had won! Victory was mine. Strutting like a peacock, I walked to the restroom.

The door to the restroom tends to have its door propped open. This is partly to make it easier to find, partly to get fresh air from the outside, and partly to avoid that whole door-opens-into-someone’s face moment. (Which is comedy gold if you are prepared for it; less so if you just want to dry your hands and get out.) I strolled up to the urinal and took care of things. All was well. Or so I thought.

I like to think I have a feel of what is going on in my surroundings. I always recommend having a grasp of any unknown people or elements around you. At that moment by the urinal, my peripheral vision sent a warning straight to my brain.

I was not alone in the restroom.

There, by the sink-counter, was a bird. At least, I was pretty sure it was a bird. It was a large mass perched on the marble surface right by the door. My heart rate shifted into gear. I gulped. I knew exactly what had occurred.

The bird had plotted my demise.

We were in a confined space. Its wings, talons, and beak gave it the distinct advantage. It had been spurned and wanted payback. In order to get out the bathroom door, I would have to get past the beast bent on revenge. I zipped up my pants and did the only thing I knew I could do.

I turned around quickly, inhaled a sharp breath of courage, and charged towards my attacker! I would meet it face to face.

Or, as the case was, face to rubber.

For it was not the dreaded enemy of the skies and discarded corn that faced me. Instead, I was confronted by a fake vulture. The prop had been left there by my coworkers in their festive attempt to liven up the place.

Only the fear is real.

Only the fear is real.

Annoyed and embarrassed, I went back to my pigeon-less existence and finished my shift grumbling,

“fr#@*^-in’ Halloween…”

Hitchcock gets it.

Elevator of Terror

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Elevator of Terror

Linus knocked on the door and gave himself one final check.  His polo shirt finally seemed to be free of cat hair and the dress shoes he had had since college looked respectable enough.  What were the odds that she would want a good look at his shoes?  He heard movement in the hotel room and swallowed the nervous lump in his throat.  He heard the sound of the lock being turned and took a deep breath, sucking in his gut and hoping that his chest was puffed out.  When the door opened, Linus’ breath was immediately taken away.

Standing in front of Linus, in all her glory, was Brenda.  The two had met in a wedding yesterday; she was the maid of honor, he was the best man.  Linus had given a rather amusing toast and had convinced Brenda to share a few dances with him before the event had ended.  It had been the best possible first impression Linus could have made.  He had been wearing a tuxedo, he was charming, and the lighting had been just right.  He was drawn to Brenda, especially her height.  She had regaled him with stories of going to college on a basketball scholarship and he could see why.  With her heels, she was an inch or two taller than Linus, but with a sense of grace about her.  Her pixie-cut brown hair framed her round face just right.  She lived in Florida and had just the right amount of sun freckles dotting her nose and cheeks.  Linus knew they lived across the country from each other, but he asked her for a date regardless.  Now, upon seeing her attire compared to his, he wondered if hadn’t squandered the first impression he had made.

“Hey Linus”, Brenda said.  “Thanks for picking me up.”

Linus only nodded as he took in her appearance. Brenda wore black flats and wearing a tennis bracelet was Brenda.  But Linus couldn’t take her eyes off of her dress.  It wasn’t the length; it was the fit that surprised him.  It was a typical dress that went down to the knees and had a modest enough cut up top.  However it clung to every curve in her admittedly pleasant physique.  Every muscle, every curvature of her body was on display.  Linus tried his best to pick his jaw off the floor and look her in the eye.

“I’m ready if you are”, she offered.

“Oh, yeah”, Linus replied.  “Sorry, it’s, I, well, you look stunning.  I feel bad that my attire isn’t quite up to yours.”

“I think you look fine”, Brenda said as she walked up to him and put her hands on his chest.  “I like polo shirts.  And, can I let you in on a secret?”

“Sure”, he said.  He was grateful for anything that might resemble a conversation starter.

“I only brought this dress with me on a dare.  For Jackie’s bridal party we were all told to bring our sexiest dress.  It was jeans, my bridesmaid dress, or this.  I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t think I could possibly mind in the least.”

“Okay then.  Shall we?”

Taking up Brenda’s prompting, Linus offered his elbow and she linked elbows with him.  “So did you wear flats in case I wanted to feel taller?”

Brenda laughed.  “No, I didn’t think my white dress heels from yesterday would match.  Like I said, I only had so much attire to choose from.  I didn’t know how long the girls and I would be out and I refuse to wear heels for too long, you know?”

Linus did not know.  He pushed the button to cue the elevator and it graciously came to their floor scant seconds later.  He offered the door to her, watched her walk in, and then he stepped inside himself.  Linus pushed the lobby button and marveled at how slowly the elevator moved.

C’mon Linus, he thought to himself.  You’ve used up the attire conversation.  She gets it, she looks good.  Think of something else.  You can do this.  You’re charming enough; just pick a topic and form words.  Words that make a sentence would be terrific, but any words will do.  C’mon.  Any time now.  Seriously.  You get how she’s fidgeting with her bracelet right there?  You see that?  That’s a bad thing.  That signals boredom.  You might want to say something.  Or you could just stand here like a mime.  You always see mimes walking around with drop-dead gorgeous gals like her.  Oh no, wait.  You don’t.  Women want a guy who can carry a conversation.  It’s been ten floors.  Move it!  Linus was thoroughly regretting Brenda’s room being on the forty-second floor.

When the elevator reached the twenty-eight floor, an older couple came in.  Suddenly, Brenda started talking loudly and with hands flailing about in gestures.

“…so the guy is just lying there on the ground with blood pouring out of his nose.  All the while, I’m standing next to my husband, whose finger is still in the kitchen sink.  I’m wondering who this stranger is while at the same time freaking out about what to do about the finger.”

Linus was confused.  He looked at the elderly couple.  The sixty-something woman with a sparkly sequin dress hugged her husband closer while they both looked agog at Brenda.  Brenda had plenty more to say.

“Then I remember back to an episode of t.v. that I saw where they say they can reattach a finger if it’s well preserved.  Or maybe it was a movie.  Remind me, Linus, was it in that spy movie that we saw a few years ago?”  Linus looked around, having no response for this question.  He shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, I look all through the kitchen and find out that we don’t have any sandwich bags.  Not a one.  What are the odds, right?”

The elevator stopped at the sixteenth floor and a man in his early forties entered.  He took a spot in the front corner and closed his eyes and leaned against the back wall.  None of this gave Brenda any reason to pause her story.

“In the meantime, I hear the intruder is trying to get up.  I run back to Dirk’s side and try to get him off the floor.  He’s squeezing his finger in pain but he still manages to stand.  He looks at this man I’ve never seen before, and he tells him, ‘Guido, that’s my money.  I worked hard for it.’  This other guy, who I guess is Guido, just replies, ‘You don’t get it, Dirk.  You take three and a half million from the operation and don’t give us a cut, we’re going to take our cut from you.  The finger was just a first payment.’  I didn’t know what to do Linus, I really don’t.”  

“So what did you do?”  The man who looked so tired when he gotten on had woken up in five short flights.  He looked to Brenda pleadingly, wanting to know the rest of the story.

Brenda lookeds at him, fussed with her bracelet, and turned back to Linus.  “Anyway, I’m still worried about this finger I have in the sink.  What if gets all wrinkly like a raisin and the skin doesn’t match the rest of Dirk’s hand?  What if it falls down the sink?  How’m I supposed to get a finger out of the sink, Linus?  How?  I run to the living room, grab one of Dirk’s comic books, and throw it out of its bag.  Then I run back to the kitchen, fill it halfway with ice, put the finger in, and top it off with more ice.  Dirk and Guido had just gotten to their feet when I threw the bagged finger in the fridge.”

All eyes were locked in suspense on Brenda.  In any other room they’d be focused on the dress, but here she was the queen of the story.  Linus almost wished he had popcorn to excitedly nibble on while she continued.

“I tell them that I’m going to call the police, but Dirk won’t let me.  He tells me that the police are involved; that this goes up higher than I know.  The Guido guy pulls out a knife and eyes it while Dirk says something about ‘the government can’t be trusted on this’, or something like that.”  Brenda’s eyes flickered for a moment to the floor indicator lights above the elevator doors then she resumed her tale of horror.

“So there’s blood coming from Guido’s nose.  There’s a pool of blood where Dirk was standing, and as he’s holding his cut hand with the other hand, I can see that he’s gone with in the face.  He’s only seconds from passing out.”  Brenda grabbed Linus by the shirt collar and pulled him close.  She spoke in a whispered tone that the crowd in the elevator strained to hear.  “Dirk calls me over.  I lean in close.  He tells me, ‘There’s only one way out of this.  You’ve got to…’”

At that moment, the doors sent out a “bing” noise.  The mirror doors slid apart to reveal the lobby with its grand chandelier and old leather couches welcoming its guests.

“Oh, Linus, we’re here!”  Brenda was cheerful and pulled Linus out by the arm.  The three people that remained in the elevator hurried out.  They tried to remain subtle in how they followed, but Linus could sense them walking behind him.  “Where’s your car?”  Brenda’s calm demeanor was unchanged as Linus walked her to his vehicle.  The three others gave up and went about their night plans.

Linus opened the passenger door for Brenda.  She thanked him and lowered herself into the seat.  He closed the door, rushed to the other side, and nearly slammed the car door shut.

“So what happened next?  What about this former husband of yours?”  Linus didn’t know anything about a former spouse, but he wanted to hear the ending regardless.

“Oh that?”  Brenda laughed.  “That’s just my elevator story.”

Linus was dumb-founded.  Brenda’s attire was hardly the most engaging or amazing thing about her.  Feeling the ice had officially been broken; he put his hand on her leg and leaned in.

“You’re kind of fantastic.  You know that, right?”

“I like to liven people’s night up a little.  Who doesn’t like an exciting story?”

Linus turned the key in the ignition as he shook his head in small arcs from side to side.  He grinned and thought to himself, Best first date ever.

(Hollywood lore tells us that Alfred Hitchcock had his own “elevator story” that he used.  The idea just makes me want to hug him.)

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