Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Falling Beam


Lately, I've been thinking about what makes us who we are. When people are asked, "Who are you?", as we're being asked with this week's blogstalk assignment, they'll usually answer with things like their age, their marital status, their professions, and their hobbies. I haven't answered the question yet because, in my usual way, I've overthought it.

See, I'm a frequent watcher of 'America's Most Wanted'. I used to say, "Now, hold on. If they're saying that the guy has a blond mohawk and drinks Lone Star beer with a fish sauce chaser while dancing the hornpipe, usually in the bar of an Applebee's, how can you expect to find him? Surely, the fugitive will dye his hair, start hanging out at Chili's and switch to Budweiser." Five shows later, they're hauling the guy out of an Applebee's with fish sauce on his shirt. There are things, core things, that people can't change about themselves. It's Hammett's falling beam.

I've been thinking about this with regard to my own identity. I can say that I'm a programmer, that I'm a wife, that I'm thirty-seven years old, that I like pumpkin spice lattes, that I've lived in California for my whole life, that I love animals, that I knit. But if I went on the run for some reason, tried to change everything about myself, what would give me away? What is so intrinsic to me that I can't shake it off?


Would I become a waitress in a small town in the middle of Kentucky, living in obscurity for a decade, only to be found out because I flew into a howling rage after a long day of listening to Celine Dion and late-era Sting over the restaurant's sound system? It'd end up in the 'Oddly Enough' section of Yahoo! News, and I'd be done for. "We knew it was her," several people in Moraga, California would say. "She once quit a reception job because she couldn't stand listening to KOIT's "light rock, less talk" that we piped into the lobby."

What would be my tell? Would it be my hair, which has, for very brief periods over the last decade, been styled differently, but always ends up becoming the patented Execu-Bob Shoulder Length Blunt? Would it be my tidy, unpainted fingernails? I try to change, to be more girly, to remember to paint my nails, buy new handbags, pay attention to whether or not I'm wearing lipstick. These campaigns usually last about a week, and then I'm back to, well, being me. "We knew it was her. She always wore pants, and her lips always looked dry."

Would it be something about my personality, like my inability to keep my mouth shut in a checkout line? Unless I'm absolutely exhausted, I'm likely to catch the eye of someone in the queue around me and strike up a conversation. I'm chatty with strangers. Could I stop doing that? "I knew it was her. She complimented me on my choice of Hostess fruit pies. I didn't know her from Eve, and here she was talking about cherry versus apple! So I called AMW immediately..."

No, it wouldn't be any of those things. There's no point in changing them. You know what would get me caught? "We knew immediately that it was her," said Trooper Jones. "When we saw the gym socks shoved into the window frame in place of weatherstripping, we said to each other, 'That's Suzanne. Any normal person would've stopped and bought a roll of duct tape.'" There's something that I can't change about myself. No matter how much money I have, I'm always going to be the kind of woman who thinks, "Why buy tape, when I have a suitcase full of weatherstripping right here?"

(By the by, if you haven't read 'The Maltese Falcon', I must insist that you go out and buy a copy of it right now and read it. It's an excellent novel. No, the movie is not a substitute for it. The movie is, dare I say, vastly inferior to the novel. I can't believe it's never been remade.)

11 comments:

olpp said...

This was a super cool post, and it made me laugh and laugh and feel even more guilty about avoiding my homework.....

sillyrabbit said...

I love this post. You are hilarious!

purple_niko said...

that's a great way to show us a bit about who you are!
you're making me think about what my "tells" would be...

Scherzando said...

This was a wonderful post! I love it :)

Sue, aka seiding said...

*puts a re-read of Maltese Falcon on the mental list*

I have a pet theory that you can say all you need to say about a person if you can just find the right anecdote. For you, it's the gym socks stuffed in the window. Great post!

Holly said...

What a wonderful post! Now we can all track you down with no problem. Beware the blogstalkers coming to get you when you're on the lam from the law...

DomesticOverlord said...

Your post makes me feel better about mine. Mine was a little off pace with everyone else's too. Yours is better though, you're funny!

Oh, and hey that time I was on AMW, I was acquitted for that...

kemtee said...

Most movies -- with rare exceptions -- do suck compared to the book.

So this cherry vs. apple pie thing… have we no votes for lemon?

Lauren said...

What an interesting way to tell us!

I would advise against small town KY though. ;)

steph_knits said...

I agree with Kemtee. It's hard to find a movie that lives up to it's given name.

DH loves cherry pie; I can get him to do most anything if I promise I'll make a cherry pie.

ZantiMissKnit said...

I am so glad you are doing blogstalking again. Your posts are hilarious. Just don't burn off your eyebrows again, mmkay?