As I'm sure you know, since it's the most devastating news since Trapper John left M*A*S*H* (young people: trust me, it was bad), 24 has been canceled. Its final episode will air this May 24th. (For a terrific article about the cancellation, see The Los Angeles Times' The following takes place between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.: '24' shuts down.) 24 may have bigger fans than my wife and me, but it seems as unlikely as Jack spontaneously cracking up at a fart joke. We've been avidly watching the show since day one.
Lately I haven't been able to stop myself from reflecting upon the many wonderful life lessons I've learned from watching 24. Here are but ten of them:
1. Food and sleep are for the unmotivated. I used to think I needed food and water/soda/coffee/Red Bull to operate at maximum capacity. Because of 24 I'm now embarrassed to think I'd ever let the need for even minimal sustenance stand between me and punching a terrorist in the chest so hard he starts giving me information I don't even want. Food and water are for losers. I've never seen Jack so much as pop a Tic Tac. (For more on another reason that might be, see reason #2 below.) Now, when I'm hungry, I just grit my teeth, press the accelerator, keep my hands on the wheel, and wait until I get home to dig into that pizza.
2. Love equals death. If there's one thing 24 has taught me, it's that 9 out of the 10 people I love most in the world will be killed, and 10 out of 10 of them will be tortured. Bummer for them. I'll do what I can to protect them, of course. But I'm only one man, and I've got to sleep 364 nights out of the year. The best thing I can do to ensure the safety of as many people as possible is, I know, to first break off those deep personal attachments that, in my foolishness, I've already let develop, and to then form new attachments to as few people as humanly possible. To that end I have already filed for a divorce from my wife. If she gets out now, she stands a reasonable chance of only getting kidnapped, being sprayed with nerve gas, turning into a terrorist, or going permanently insane. I'm pretty sure she can handle any of those. Beyond that, I've already initiated my new plan to cease any and all grooming of myself, until I become so gross flies wouldn't want to get involved with me. If saving lives means having breath that could drop a bird in mid-flight, then so be it. Besides, breath that could deflect bullets will be a real asset for me. And talk about your excellent, ever-ready instrument of torture.
3. No one can ever be trusted. I must have in my life right now twenty people to whom (for now) I'm close. Not one of them, I know, would ever cruelly betray me, or do everything in their power to destroy the United States of America. Wrong! Each of them is right now plotting to do one or both of those things. I don't know how it will happen, or when -- but sooner or later my own father, for instance, is sure to pull a remote bomb detonator out of his over-sized Bermuda shorts. True, unless he got a good night's sleep the night before he's unlikely to recall the exact purpose or location of the bomb -- but it'll come to him. And when it does, there'll be hell to pay. And as the destruction he's unleashed commences, he'll only smile the wry smile of the purely evil, before his stupid upper denture falls out. Maybe it's not my dad -- yet. Perhaps my wife is a clandestine key player in an international ring of power mongers who, even as I type this, are plotting to kidnap the president of the United States and/or let all the air out of my car tires. You never know. Danger's everywhere.
4. Anything can be an instrument of torture. When Jack wants to torture someone, does he wait around for one of those creepy guys with the case of dental tools to show up? Maybe, if he's at CTU. But out in the field, Jack knows that virtually anything can be used to do something horrible to some part of the human anatomy. A stapler, a toothbrush, an ice cream scoop: if Jack can pick it up, he can use it to make you wonder, in the few quiet moments coming to you, why you, an evil genius, never thought to operate from the Midwest. But you didn't. And now Jack's got that look in his eyes -- and he just picked up his torture weapon of choice: an everyday writing pen. Or maybe he's simply eyeballing one of your fingers. Unless you're the Tin Man, or Gumby, you'd better start talking.
5. The government has inexhaustible cell phone batteries. 24 has proven beyond a doubt that the government is in possession of cell phone batteries that could no sooner run out of power than Jack could lay down and take a nap on the one day a year that he works. Jack's more likely to say, "If you tell me where the bomb is, I'll give you a foot massage," than he is, "Damn it! My cell battery ran out. My cell battery ran out!" This is great news for the rest of us, because top-notch products developed and used by the government very often end up in consumer-friendly versions then used by the rest of us. That's how we got (to name just a few) black Ray-Ban sunglasses, the dribble glass, Spandex, the M-16 assault rifle, canned cat food, Hummers, and pens that write in space. (I, for one, rest peacefully knowing that if it comes down to it, Jack, with just that pen, has everything he needs to torture a terrorist in space.)
6. Getting horribly tortured isn't that big a deal. I used to think that if major electrical volts were applied to different part of my strung-up body over the course of ten hours, or if my face was smashed with the edge of a shovel right before someone shot a huge bullet hole through the palm of my hand, or if the GNP of China dropped twenty-two points due to the amount of money the Chinese government had spent on torturing me for two years, I might be inclined to take the rest of the day off -- or to at least be so weak that I couldn't secretly chew through my handcuffs before suddenly jumping up, grabbing a pen, and killing everyone in the room. But now I know that, if you're on the side of right, then, within a half-hour of being mercilessly tortured, the only visible signs that ever happened to you at all will be a gauze bandage and/or a sexy little cut right by your bottom lip.
7. Man purses are sexy. I used to carry so much stuff in my pockets it looked like I was trying to smuggle produce. And yet, man-purses were, at best, suspiciously dainty. Well, those days are gone like yesterday's torture bruises. Thanks to Jack, man-bags are now so masculine that my new one actually develops a five o'clock shadow. I have two such sacks: one in Jack Black, for taking care of the kind of business it's best you know nothing about, and one in Bauer Flower Power, for business of mine it's also best you know nothing about, but for totally different reasons.
8. Always demand full immunity. While driving the other day a policeman pulled me over. "Do you have any idea how fast you were going through that school zone?" he authoritatively asked me. I answered with fervent urgency, "I'll tell you what you want to know. But I demand full immunity!" The cop's response was less rewarding than I'd anticipated. "You know, from 24," I giggled nervously. "How the people are always asking for full immunity." "Oh, yeah, yeah -- that's a great show," he softly chuckled, slowly moving his hand up to the gun at his waist. So my first attempt at demanding full immunity didn't actually work out for me. But eventually I paid my bail, and that's all almost behind me now. Apparently, when demanding immunity, delivery counts for more than I'd reckoned. But once I get that quiver out of my voice, I'll be on my way. Not that I ever really expect to do anything so dastardly that full immunity will be a reasonable request. But, as we've seen, Jack's taught me that I can't trust anyone. Not even me. So I need to be prepared, just in case I, like so many before me, inexplicably turn like a flapjack.
9. Rapid eye blinking maintains your cover. Whenever Jack has to take an emotional hit, yet fully maintain his cover and/or cool, he blinks a few times, really fast. I've tried this; it works. Last month I was at the DMV. I had to take the written driver's test, which I haven't taken since Ford Pintos were randomly exploding all over the road. Amazingly, the DMV had no means of separating individuals who were taking the written test. I had earlier seen the woman whom I ended up standing beside, when she had pulled into and parked in the DMV's lot. She hadn't crashed her car into anything -- so I figured she knew what she was doing. So I cheated off her test. When the lady behind the DMV counter who was correcting my test leveled her gaze at me, and said, "How odd. You missed the exact same five questions missed by the woman whom you were standing beside while taking the test," I went into eye spasms like Barney Fife on coke. As it ended up, I didn't have to retake the test; five was the limit you could miss. I was, however, constrained to continue pretending to have eye problems, to the point that now, even though I have 20-20 vision, I have to wear eyeglasses while driving. So I'm probably going to end up in a terrible car accident. But at least I successfully got away with cheating on my driver's test! Thanks, Jack "Blinky" Bauer!
10. Our next president will be Joe Lieberman, and after that probably Hillary Clinton. In the first three seasons of 24, the president of the United States was a black man, whose primary legislative agenda was the passing of a bill overhauling American's health care system. Our current president is a (half--but still) black man, whose primary legislative agenda is the passing of bill overhauling America's health care system. In the fourth and fifth season of 24, the president of the United States was a squirmy, indecisive, opportunistic, shifty-eyed, double-crossing weasel, being this guy:
So I think it's obvious that our next president will be:
The final 24 president of the United States was this woman:
And you know who this is:
So you tell me.