Looking back over a year’s worth of posts, I find that many of them can be a bit – if not somber – at least serious in tone. So for my second to last post from simulated Mars, I decided to keep it a bit on the lighter side. After all, if you can’t land laughing, well, what the heck kind of journey did you have?
Here’s the funny place at which my train of thought dropped me off during my last Sunday on simulated Mars: as we picked up and packed away, made lists that will be checked twice and then thrice over the next six days, I began to get the sense that I should also be getting ready to apologize. “Apologize for what?” you might ask. Well, to put it very simply, for being an honest-to-God space cadet: clueless about facts and figures; under versed in news and politics; and utterly-out-to-lunch in terms of memes. In the last 24 hours, I’ve even contemplated having a business card made up that reads:
Recently returned from Mars.
Please speak slowly.
My sincerest apologies for knowing nothing about that song/movie/candidate for high political office/
celebrity’s latest spouse/kid/dog/tattoo/”wardrobe malfunction.”
For best results, avoid cultural references and make no sudden moves.
Kindly do not ask me about the latest iPhone, OS, environmental disaster, or deafeningly inappropriate statement made in public by someone who ought to know better. I am ignorant of all these things and much, much more.
I wholly expect my return to Earth to resemble my return to United States after a month of medical service in Canada – magnified by several million, sprinkled with nuts, and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. One month away from your home country can result in a surprising amount of alienation. In that case, I wasn’t even very far away. I was in the country-next-door, an English-speaking nation that shares much in common with my homeland. The hospital in which I worked in Halifax was the largest in the province, and my colleagues were very savvy people. This was September 2012. The Republican national convention had just wrapped up in Florida. Every few days, I would walk in on my coworkers huddled around a laptop computer, watching the Clint Eastwood chair-talking episode on repeat, and giggling. They would turn, see me standing there, and try for a moment or so to seem very, very serious. Then they would go right back to laughing. “We are sorry,” they would say, cheerfully but sincerely as only Canadians can be, “so sorry. Eh.”
Those of you who read my post about time traveling know how this story ends: I ended up hugging the walls and praying for deliverance because, after less than a month away from America, I had completely missed Gangnam Style. No doubt, like Mr. Eastwood’s rendezvous with the furniture, it would’ve caught up with me eventually. This time, however, I haven’t just momentarily stepped away from my country. I haven’t taken a break from playing the game: I’ve been knocked out of the ballpark that holds the sum of human society. I know I promised that I wouldn’t get serious, but I’m seriously considering some kind of preprinted apology for those moments when I have absolutely, positively no idea what you or anyone else is talking about/laughing about/crying about/why you are riding an invisible horse. The only explanation I have to offer in return is that I have, quite literally, just fallen from the sky.
Less than a week from now, please forgive this poor alien for not laughing with you, for not crying with you, and for not jumping up and down in time to a tune I’ve never heard before in my life. After all, I’m only Martian. And this Martian, truth be told, is doing more than just packing. She’s dropping the sails, stowing the rigging, and wrapping every available limb around the tiller.
Prepare to hug the walls, fellow space travelers! For Here Comes Earth.