I've made it through the first half of 2009 without being tainted by
scandal, sparking a controversy, or otherwise stumbling into the glaring
spotlight of unwanted public scrutiny.
In this era of instant news cycles and global media coverage, it's not
easy to lurk unobtrusively in the shadows of modern America.
Freelance paparazzi are everywhere. Any person walking around with a
wireless phone-cam could secretly record me having a nasty encounter with a
crazed chimpanzee or other agitated primate and post it on YouTube, where I
would become an instant target for thousands of caustic online commentators.
It's impossible to measure the happiness I feel every time a new reality
show is announced and my name isn't on the cast list. It makes my hair
stand up to think about the psychic shock waves that would rock this country
if a TV audience saw me shivering in a loincloth on the next version of
Survivor, or vivisecting the fox trot on Dancing With The Stars.
I did attempt dancing once, back in 7th grade. After spending many
youthful Saturdays watching American Bandstand I decided to try out my moves
during a noontime sock hop. After a few minutes somebody tapped me on the
shoulder and said, "You're not dancing. You're jogging in place."
Another source of satisfaction is my complete lack of political or
financial involvement with people like disgraced financier Bernard Madoff or
impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I'm positive we've never had
one single conversation or any other interaction that would bring reporters
stampeding onto my front porch seeking some new tidbit of spin or
My only real worry is that sometime in the near future, Bernie or Blago
will pick up a phone to call a friend or relative, dial the number
incorrectly, and connect with my line by accident. If that ever happens
I'm just going to shout, "No sir, I do not have Sir Walter Raleigh in a
can!" and hang up.
My efforts to project an image of near-total insignificance pay regular
dividends. Recently while shopping at a local garden center, I bought three
heavy bags of planting compost. Pushing the load on a flatbed cart toward
the parking lot, a woman in a passing car stopped and waved to me. "Hey!"
she said, "Here I am!"
We stared at each other for about two seconds. Suddenly a kid who
worked at the garden center called out, "Ma'am! Ma'am! Over here!" He was
standing about 20 feet away in the customer loading zone. The woman had
bought her own load of planting compost, saw me pushing my cart, and assumed
I was the bag delivery specialist. I possess that kind of aura.
Even better was the incident several years ago when a neighbor from two
doors down approached me nervously while I was talking a night-time stroll
and shined his flashlight in my face. "Sorry, just checking," he said. "My
wife saw you out the kitchen window and thought a prowler was snooping
around out here." I'm not making this up.
But it's not a problem. Gliding along indistinctly through the everyday
world is something I've learned to do well. A friend once said, "You're
the kind of person who spends a lot of time below the radar."
I disagree. The radar can't touch me. I'm below the sonar.