Dressing up as a robot was not my idea. Personally, I am more partial to less cumbersome outfits. I am usually the type of person who throws on a Hawaiian shirt, borrows a cowboy hat, or just puts on short shorts and headband. Actually going to Home Depot, buying boxes, silver paint, dryer venting hoses, and building a robot costume goes against the life of convenience to which I aspire. However, this Halloween was different.
My enthusiasm for conspicuous and volumetric consumption had shown its alluring head the night before and I did not much feel like dunking my head in the good times waterfall once again. I had all but decided to call it a night and hang up my headband for another year when my peers began to exert the pressure for which they are famous. Now, I am as stubborn and pig headed as the next privileged white male but for some reason, when it comes to hanging out, my spine turns to cookie dough. No matter how emphatic my hand gestures or how loudly I say no, if one of my friends even says, “yeah, but come on.” I crumble like the flaky crust of a toaster strudel and pony up to the libation station.
Having surrendered my free will I found myself preparing to go out once again at a friend’s house. I had just finished my annual soliloquy on how pointless, stressful, and tedious dressing up can be, when my friend unveiled one of the greatest costume constructions in the modern day era. I felt like I was playing Wheel of Fortune and Vanna White had just ceremoniously turned over a critical vowel. Suddenly, I knew the phrase, I knew the answer, and I knew the future. This was something I had to wear. Next thing I knew I was surveying the world through the eyeholes an elaborate robot costume.
The costume began with my feet snuggly secured inside two Kleenex boxes. Out of this sturdy base came dryer venting hoses, which encased the entire length of my legs before disappearing into the square belly of the Robot. The upper body was an elaborately ornamented square cardboard box complete with computer ports, a fake heart, and a feeding tube so I could consume alcohol while entombed inside the robot. My arms were also dryer tubes and my head was trapped inside a square box with drawn on eyes, eyebrows, ears and an ambiguous expression of anger and surprise. All of it was spray painted metallic silver, and although it was a considerable hindrance to my coordination and agility, it allowed me to walk relatively free, albeit, with extremely impaired peripheral vision.
For most of the night I was that guy, in an extremely crowded bar, wearing a costume with considerable spatial needs. Every movement resulted in some sort of collision. Drinks were spilled, short people were trampled, toes were stepped on. I was like Godzilla in Tokyo. Despite the destruction that laid in my wake, people seemed to love me. Girls bought me drinks, guys gave me high fives (or maybe slightly higher fives, I couldn’t get my arms above my head). This robot even proved to be quite a successful dancer.
Through the window of the robot costume, I became a relatively impartial observer of the social dance. With my movement limited and my appearance unknown, I was unfettered by our social mores. When I broke the ice with a girl (How much does a polar bear weigh?) I wasn’t me, but some oversized robot caricature. Everything I said or did was novel. All of sudden computer jokes killed. I now knew how Bill Gates felt after he made his first billion.
However, by the end of the night, despite my costume, I ended up on the sidewalk alone, trying to find a cab home just like everyone else. It was like when George Costanza lost the picture of “Man Hands” and therefore access to the Forbidden City. At that point, the bars were clearing out, my friends were gone and I was hammered. It’s one thing to feel alone after a long night of drinking while wearing your best polo shirt and designer jeans. It’s another to fend off the darkness with a box on your head and your limbs encased in dryer vents.
Finding a cab late night on Halloween is little like snagging a fly with a pair of chopsticks. Very little chance of success and very few opportunities. This Halloween was no exception. After about an hour and half, I had nearly worn through the Kleenex boxes on my feet. You have never seen a more pathetic sight in your life than a grown man, wearing silver boxes and venting hoses shuffling along the sidewalk looking like someone had just taken on a dump on his motherboard.
A little after 3 AM, a cab finally responded to my pathetic robot signals and stopped in front of me. Rather than offer me immediate entry into his vehicle he leaned out the window with a crazed look in his eye, held up his hand, and stopped me before I got to the door.
“Sorry bro, only picking up hot chicks tonight.”
More upsetting words have never been spoken. I had lumbered around the streets in a damn robot costume for hours and when a cab stops, when I finally stumble across an oasis in the desert, the cab not only turns out to be a mirage, but a slime ball asshole of a mirage as well. I finally understood how the machines had felt when they “scorched the sky” in the Matrix. Fuck Keanu Reeves, if the humans wanted a war, this robot was going to give them a war.
As I stepped up to the front door to give this guy a full download of my thoughts on his hot girl policy three “strumpets” slipped behind me into the back seat along with large steak head guy who had been sucked in by their hot girl vortex. Not only were they stealing a cab I had waited hours to find, but the human to seatbelt ratio was way off, and this beef cake of a “bro” was violating the cabbies own slimy “hot chicks only” policy. Robots have a reputation for being coolheaded and dispassionate number crunchers with an eye for logic and a complete void of human emotions. I may have looked like a robot on the outside, but by god, this computer was starting to write code for some pretty volatile feelings.
I began to protest passionately to the cabbie, who only seemed to giggle at the predicament he had caused. And then, just when I thought my patience could not be tried any further, the steak head bro stepped out of the cab to insert himself into the conversation. Maybe he felt superior to me because I was dressed like a robot, maybe he felt emboldened and manly because he was in a cab with multiple females and I was alone with Kleenex boxes on my feet. Or maybe he had stuffed a particular meaty prime cut of steak into his already beefy cranium, whatever it may be, this guy actually gave me a shove and told me to get my pussy ass out of there and leave them alone.
As anyone who frequents bars can attest, there is a lot of posturing that goes on between two rival groups of males but very little real fighting. There are usually a lot of words, some shoving, maybe a half ass haymaker but most of it goes on with a safety net of spotters there to break it up if any real fighting may occur. Instead, the onlookers are the real losers. They have to endure endless jawing, claims that one guy will kill the other, or kick his ass, or so and so is a pussy. It’s like going to the movies and watching previews all night with no main attraction.
For some reason, when I addressed the slab of beef in front of me, my robot logic long gone, the first thing I thought of was how tired I was of this posturing. I thought about how long I had looked for a cab, how ridiculous I felt in the robot costume, how drunk I was, how late it was, how this fucking cabbie was really to blame, and I thought how tired I was of watching previews, it was time to watch a full feature film. This clown looked down on me with his chin pushed out, his chest puffed up, his finger pointing at the place where my heart would be (if robots had hearts) and the next thing I knew it had all changed in an instant, he was no longer standing before me, he no longer had his chin pushed out. I had popped him right in the face. A robot right cross… perfectly calculated… crisply delivered.
Before my knuckles even made contact with his nose, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. All that hard disk space and processing speed was finally being put to use. I rapidly came to realize a few sobering facts. One, I was alone; my friends had gone home long ago. Two, he was not alone, he is a young brutish male, they tend to travel in packs. And three, maybe the most disconcerting, was I was dressed like a mother fucking robot?!? Did you hear me? I was wearing dyer vents on my limbs and boxes on my feet and torso! A fucking robot I tell you!
The world seemed to skip a beat. People were frozen where they stood. Some were wondering if the prophesies were true. Is this the beginning of machines fighting back? Some had less existential thoughts and simply just couldn’t believe they just saw a guy dressed as a robot cold cock a guy over a cab. Whatever people were thinking, the world had decided to slow down, to drag along, allowing all participants to savor the moment like the finish of an expensive wine.
If that beat took a lifetime, the next beat could only be measured in the hundredths of seconds. I was grabbed from behind violently and twirled away from the cab, the memory of the thug I just dropped disappearing into the ether. As I spun away, I somehow gripped the shirt of one my attackers and completely ripped it from his body. Are robots as strong as they are smart? He stood there, his torso bare, I stood there in a box painted silver holding the tatters of what once was a t-shirt. The absurdity was not lost of either of us.
After that, I felt like I had been swept up in a tornado of fists, arms, legs, and computer parts. I have no idea how many men were attacking me, but it felt like we had all been stuffed inside a tractor tire and pushed down a hill. Up was down, down was up, sometimes my fists made contact with faces and shoulders, sometimes my face and shoulders made contact with fists. I wasn’t fighting but rather waiving about wildly like a man encased in a cloud of bees. Computer parts seemed to shed from my person as if they were made of crepe paper.
There was no way of scoring the fight but I could tell that I was losing. At one point, I had one guy in a headlock on the ground while one of his friends was raining down blows on the top of my head. Considering the madness of what was going on around me, I remember thinking that this was a relatively calm and strategic place to be. However, this comfort was fleeting as I realized there was a distinct possibility this wasn’t going to end well. Maybe I wasn’t going to get out of this in one piece. Just at that moment, someone yelled “COPS!” And just like that, people seemed to vanish. Who knew this was such a deterrent? I certainly possessed no instinct to flee at the sound of COPS but apparently my assailants did and were gone an instant.
The fight may have lasted minutes or hours, but in my head, it had taken less than a second. I stood there and surveyed the damage. I had gone through my own type of Metamorphosis. However, instead of waking up and realizing I had been transformed into a bug, I had awakened and realized that what was once was a machine, and now become a man. It was a little bit like the story of Pinocchio… sort of.
There was precisely zero evidence that a robot costume had ever existed on my person. My feet were no longer encased in Kleenex boxes. The only thing between my toes and the pavement was a thin pair of white socks. The dryer vents were gone along with the boxes that made up my torso and head. These items were strewn across the sidewalk in a million pieces. It looked like someone had spent the better part of the night smashing laptops with a sledgehammer.
Considering what just happened my wounds were relatively superficial and manageable. My thumb was dislocated, my nose was bleeding, and I had some road rash up along my back. Apparently, the results of a strong form tackle from one of my assailants.
While I surveyed the damage, I was shocked to find that I was completely and utterly void of all emotion. I wasn’t breathing hard, I wasn’t red in the face, and I didn’t feel anger, or resentment or frustration. I felt nothing. A group of people finally got up the guts to approach me and ask me what happened.
“Ha.” I said, “That really escalated fast didn’t it?” “That was crazy.”
They nodded in agreement somewhat perplexed by calm attitude. I was perplexed as well and began to realize that I felt great. I felt inspired, I felt free.
As Tyler Durden would say…
“I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.”
“Yes, that is blood dripping down my face, yes I used to be a robot, I am comfortable with that, I am enlightened.”
A bar tender came out with a rag full of ice and handed it to me for my bleeding nose. I thanked him and promptly applied pressure to my face.
“Man, that was crazy,” he said.
“Yea… yea it was.”
With that, I started to walk home silently in my socks carefully avoiding the graveyard of computer parts strewn across the sidewalk. In my new Zen state, I took note that hours before I was riddled with frustration and anger. This rage inside of me had literally driven me to get into a fight over a cab, and resulted in the destruction of the greatest Halloween costume I would ever wear. Now, it was 4am, I had a 50-minute walk home and no shoes. I felt content. I felt lucky. It was a beautiful night.