The Complete Fake History of a Bunch of People Who Don’t Actually Exist
I’d like to think of it as the first entry in a series of books entitled “Hey, so I heard you’ve got a stalker – the Michaelpanda Stalker Prevention Series”.
What am I going on about? Allow me to explain. You see, while it may be hard to believe that someone as perfect as me (cough cough…) might actually have a character flaw or two, the truth is, there are a few things about myself that I don’t like. One is that I occasionally write blog entries – like this one – where the pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. (it drives Kittah crazy)
Another – and the topic of today’s entry – is that I have a very hard time saying “no” or being mean to people to their face. While I like to think of this as “just wanting to make everyone happy and have everyone get along”, this little quirk occasionally gets me into unpleasant situations I don’t want to be in, simply because I can’t refuse people to their face.
Now when I say “situations I don’t want to be in”, I don’t mean just like “hey I got roped into going shopping for bridesmaid dresses on Sunday instead of watching football” (though that has happened before) (full disclosure: I actually found dress shopping more interesting than football… :/ ). I also mean, unpleasant situations like “oh hey, I’ve got a stalker…!”
I wish I could say I got stalked because of my Adonis-like good looks, but we all know that isn’t the case. The sad truth is, my inability to be brutally honest with people who are emotionally needy can occasionally lead to misunderstandings which quickly spiral out of control. And yet, despite this, even when it’s clear something has to be done, I still can’t bring myself to be mean to people and tell them to just leave me alone to their face. So instead, I make up stories about fake people who never exist and use that as a crutch to extract myself from these situations whilst deflecting any hostility away from me. And because these stories tend to be rather elaborate – and have to hold up to pointed interrogation from the people I’m trying to escape from, I have to write them down in a book, so I can keep my web of (white) lies straight.
This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just put it up as eye candy. Sorry.
Now I realise that this all makes me sound a little bit crazy and perhaps even a little mentally unstable myself, but really, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Perhaps a little story will illustrate what I mean. A little story about my first stalker ever….
Lindsay, the Telemarketer-Stalker (telestalker?)
So here’s how the scene unfolds. It’s mid-morning on a beautiful autumnal Wednesday in the middle of fall. The sun is shining through windows filtering the earthy spectrum of oak leaves dancing moiré dapple patterns on the freshly washed bed linens. Outside, the songs of small birds twinkle in from the distance, carried on the lilting waves of a crisp cool breeze drifting over the nearby lake. The yellowed sandstone walls and hardwood floors of the dorm are unusually silent, leaving nothing but the quiet repose of nature to spread as a serene blanket throughout the halls.
I’m early for class – way early – and for once, I have finished all my homework well in advance. It has not always been this way – fresh into my sophomore year of university, on more than one occasion I have found the cool lush weather more inviting than a dull concrete classroom, and only 6 weeks into Japanese 203 – that bane of my existence – I have already received a stern warning that I can only miss 3 more classes before I am kicked out.
And so after a few minutes of lazy sunbathing, I get up, gather my belongings, and push open the door to step outside. Just as I do though, the phone rings.
I hate to leave a ringing phone unanswered and while that – much like my propensity for wandering into dark creepy spaces without a second thought – will likely one day lead to my downfall (did anyone else see Phonebooth?), in this case the lure of the ringer proves to be too much to resist and so I let the door slam shut as I duck back inside to pick it up. Hey, who knows? It could be that Publisher’s Clearinghouse call telling me I won a million dollars! (Did I just date myself with that PC reference? Haha!)
“Besides” I silently tell myself as I glance at the clock – “I have plenty of time left. How long could a simple phone call take?”
Ahhh. Famous last words panda. Famous last words.
I pick up the receiver.
“Hello!!!” – a bright, cheery voice comes from the other end of the line. “May I speak to Mistar Michael Panda please?”
“This is he.” I reply, my pitch rising to equally cheer intensity. What a beautiful morning indeed, I muse to myself as I stare idly out the window. Perhaps I’ll grab a bagel or similarly delicious pastry on my way to class!
“Hello Mistar Panda! This is Lindsay Meyers calling on behalf of Mastercard. How are you today?”
“Fine thank you for asking. And how are you, Miss Meyers?”
Suddenly the cheerful voice is not so cheerful anymore.
“….actually…” – and the silence is punctuated by what I swear might have been a proto-sob – “… not that good….“
And this, gentle readers, is where it starts to get weird.
“…uhhh….. sorry, but ummm, who did you say this was again?”
“…umm, Lindsay” – was that a hiccup sob?! – “Meyers, calling on behalf of Mastercard…”
Another sob punctuates the thick silence. My mind starts racing. What the hell is going on here? Is this girl having a breakdown on the phone?! Is this some new trick my credit card company is trying to make me buy some credit monitoring service? What should I do? Hang up the phone? Stay and keep talking to this person who is obviously a little messed up?
Again, absolutely nothing to do with topic at hand…
I glance at the clock. I still have a good 20 minutes before I have to be at class. Maybe she is crazy… but then again, maybe she is just really having a bad day and needs a little compassion from a fellow human being…
I swallow deeply, and make a fateful decision.
“…umm, I’m sorry, to uhh, hear you’re having a bad day Lindsay. What, is uhh, wrong?”
And then, as if a levy had finally given way, an emotional tidal wave suddenly breaks loose.
“oh it’s so horrible Michael! my best friend just died in a car accident last night, and then my boyfriend dumped me for some other girl and my father is in the hospital dying from lung cancer and I feel so sick and horrible and ill and I’m so depressed and I just can’t take it anymore…!!!”
(sobs from the other end of the receiver)
“…. ummm….. wow. errm, well, uhh, Lindsay, that sounds really… terrible, like, a lot. Are you sure you should, uh, be working today?”
“I don’t have a choice Michael! I’m so poor and plus I’m 4 months pregnant and since my stupid boyfriend dumped me I don’t have any other way to pay for the baby or rent or food or anything… I just… just can’t take it anymore… I just need a friend right now…”
With that sentence-final declaration, she breaks down into full scale sobbing.
I glance at the clock. I have to make a choice – there is no way this phone call is going to be done in time for me to make to class. I can only miss a couple more classes – I really should just hang up on her now so I won’t get kicked out of school. But then her final words echo in my mind – “…. I just… need… a friend right now…“. Awww man, why’d she have to go and say that? I feel bad for this girl, who is obviously having a pretty shitty time. Plus I’m kind of scared that if I hang up on her, she might go and kill herself or something.
So I stay on the phone.
And true to my prediction, the call does not end in time for me to make it to class. It actually lasts almost an hour. AN HOUR, PEOPLE! I hear Lindsay’s entire life story. I hear every last bloody detail of her failed relationship and how her father smokes 3 packs a day even in the hospital and how tight her and her best friend were and how much in shock she still is over the accident. And all the while, man, I kept thinking to myself – my god, doesn’t anyone monitor the phone calls people make from this company…!?
But despite all this, I bravely soldier on and listen patiently, offering advice whenever appropriate and just generally try to be as compassionate and understanding as possible. Finally she finishes, and after politely declining the pro-offered “credit shield credit monitoring service” that was apparently the whole reason for this call in the first place, I manage to get off the phone – exhausted, in trouble for missing class, but at least feeling like I was a good and decent human being for once.
Satisfied with myself, I go off to class and the rest of my day. That night, I get home around 6pm – exhausted, but still basking in the glow of my “being a good human being”-ness from earlier in the morning. I get in, change my clothes, and boil a pot of water for my ramen noodles. Then I sit down, flip open my books, and start studying whilst slurping my 13 cent dinner of champions.
Then the phone rings.
Mmm… neon green trees.
Still fully engrossed in the intricacies of the Krebs cycle, I absently mindedly pick up the receiver.
A pause, then the hissing metallic sounds of an automated voice program.
"HELLO. THIS IS MCI WORLDCOM. WILL YOU ACCEPT A COLLECT CALL FROM...."
– a pause, then a small voice comes on –
“Lindsay the Telemarketer“
".... TO ACCEPT, PLEASE PRESS 1."
(I swear she actually introduced herself “Lindsay the Telemarketer”)
Against my better judgment…
“….hi… Michael…?” She sounds like she’s a million miles away.
“…uhh hey Lindsay. Umm… what’s up?”
“…um where are you?”
Suddenly I have a vision that she tried to kill herself.
“…are you okay? What happened?”
“Nothing. I’m just visiting my dad and got really lonely so I thought I’d call you.”
We talk for a few more minutes until I’m convinced she’s not going to kill herself. Then I make up a polite excuse and hang up the phone, silently wondering to myself how much this call has just cost me.
As the phone settles back on the receiver I have a sudden thought – how on earth did she get my number?
Then I realise – she must have gotten it from her computer screen at work when she called me….!!
I feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The next day comes and with it another call – thankfully not a collect call – from Lindsay. And the next day another, and then another and another. This goes on for a week and a half and while at first I humour her, by day 7 it is becoming clear this is getting out of hand.
The next Saturday I have to work all day and when I finally make it home, I am greeted by the sight of my frizzy haired roommate.
“Uhh, hey dude. What’s up?”
“Your friend called…” he replies, each word dripping and laden passive-aggressiveness – “twenty-three times…!“
He shoves a piece of paper with the messages scrawled on them into my hand.
“Um, thanks dude.” I reply,
No sooner do I start to get changed than that phone starts ringing. I pick up the receiver.
“OMIGOD WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU ALL DAY? AND WHO IS ALICIA!!!??“
(Alicia was the name of the girl I was dating at the time)
“Lindsay… what the…. wait… how do you know … I mean.. no, wait! What business is this of yours!?”
It turns out that my dear roommate, in his not-so-infinite wisdom, had decided to basically tell my entire life’s story – truthfully – to Lindsay during one of their 23 phone conversations. For obvious reasons, I did not tell the mentally unstable telemarketer stalker girl anything about my life that was remotely truthful since it was frightening enough that she had some information on me from her telemarketing screen at Mastercard or whatever. Oh and did I mention she is a crazy telemarketer stalker!?
“WERE YOU HANGING OUT WITH ALICIA ALL DAY!? HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN GOING OUT!!??” Lindsay is screaming into the phone.
“Listen, Lindsay, umm, I’m not really comfortable talking about this and…”
“OMIGOD ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME!!!???”"
“…cheating on you…!!?? What. The. Frick…!!?? ” This crosses the final line. I hang up the phone.
It starts ringing three seconds later.
Yeah, the sky is kind of messed up. But I’m too lazy to fix it.
“OMIGOD HOW DARE YOU HANG UP ON ME!!! HOW DARE YOU!!??” She is pissed…!
“How dare I!!??? Lindsay, you’re… you’re… you’re my telemarketer…!!!” I sputter into the phone, then slam down the receiver and switch it off.
That night, I can’t sleep, silently imagining this crazy telemarketer girl who obviously has lost all grasp on reality and knows – thanks to my idiotic roommate – waaaay more about me than I care for any stalker to know coming to murder me in my bed, or worse. Clearly I have to get rid of her – but how!? Here’s where my inability to be mean to people to their face comes into play – I can’t just tell her straight up that she’s crazy and a stalker and I never want her to call again. I … just can’t be that mean to someone…! But what can I do?
So finally I decide there really is only one thing I can do, and that thing (naturally), is to make up a completely fake older brother named Gabriel who lives with me and is very protective and controlling of me and has told me that he doesn’t want me to talk to Lindsay anymore. Since he pays the rent, I don’t have any choice but to listen to him. Why is he so controlling, she might ask? Oh, well that would be because when we were younger once we were playing out by a hill near our house and he was distracted for a little while and I rolled down into the river at the bottom in my red wagon and almost drowned and he never ever forgave himself for that, and from that day forward he has made it his mission to look out for me, his younger brother, no matter what.
Yeah. And that’s just the exposition…! Now you begin to understand why I need the book pictured at the outset of this entry. Things like this have a way of spiraling out of control with me because the whole point of making up elaborate stories is to not hurt the person’s feelings and thus I have to make sure to have a plan for every question they might ask me so as to keep up the masquerade and prevent them from finding out I’m lying.
Anyway, so I make up this story, and scribble it all in a notebook, down to Gabriel’s birth date, nickname, favourite ice cream, etc. Finally, I’m ready to get rid of Lindsay once and for all whilst shifting the blame to my imaginary older brother. I take a deep breath, glance at the clock (4:50 am) – and turn back on the phone.
About 5 minutes later it rings.
“Oh Michael, baby, oh baby, I’m so sorry!! I’m so sorry….”
“I mean, last night, please, forgive me, it’s okay, I don’t know, I just lost it… I mean…”
I cut her off.
“…Listen, um, Lindsay, there’s something I have to tell you?”
“It’s about my older brother… Gabriel.” And with this, I launch into the whole prescripted story about how he doesn’t want – nay, how he has forbidden me from ever speaking to her again because he is very protective.
I rattle on for about 5 minutes. Finally, I finish, and wait for her reply. There is a 3 second pause, and all of a sudden…..
“OHHHHHHH!!! WHY DOES EVERYONE HATE ME!!??? WHY DOESN’T ANYONE LOVE ME!!???”
…and with that, she breaks down into the most piteous, heart-wrenching sobbing I have ever heard.
I spend the next 30 minutes trying to console her, telling her, it’s not that I don’t care about her, or don’t want to talk to her, it’s not you, it’s Gabriel and she is a wonderful, beautiful, lovely human being, a veritable blossom of humanity and womanhood, if you will.
Finally, I manage to calm her down.
“…so…. can we still talk on the phone sometimes?” she sniffs piteously into the receiver.
“Of course! I mean, we just… uhh, need to give it a little time. You know, umm, don’t call me, I’ll ummm… call you. yeah. I’ll call you in a few weeks.”
Near the Sumo stadium…
“Really? Oh my god, great!! By the way, what are you doing this weekend?”
“… Cuz I have nothing to do and I was thinking of driving over to Wisconsin from Cedar Rapids* and you know, if you’re free, like maybe I could stop by! Where did you say again? 1111 Monroe Avenue…!?? (MY REAL ADDRESS AT THE TIME..!!!!)
*Located in Iowa, less than 2 hours away from the city I lived in at the time…!! O_O!!!)
I flip the freak out.
“OMIGOD LINDSAY YOU ARE A STALKER NEVER CALL ME OR COME ANYWHERE NEAR HERE AGAIN OR I’LL CALL THE COPS…!!!!!!!” I scream into the phone, and slam it shut.
She never did call back that I know of, but we did get lots of hang up calls after that for the rest of the year. And while the next 8 months were a nerve wracking period of never knowing if some crazy telemarketer chick from Iowa was going to jump out of the bushes and stab me to death every time I stepped outside, in the end, nothing ever came of it, and I managed to make it through the year alive. But wow. It was a close one.
Now I wish I could say that was the last near-death stalker experience I have ever had, but alas, that is not the case – there are several more entries in my “Anti-Stalker Book”. But these stories, I suppose, shall have to wait for another day….
Now listening to: “Bloc Party – This Modern Love”
You told me you wanted to eat up my sadness
Well jump on, enjoy, you can gorge away
You told me you wanted to eat up my sadness
Jump right on
Baby, you’ve got to be more discerning
I’ve known never known what’s good for me
Baby, you’ve got to be more demanding
I will be yours
What are you holding out for?
What’s always in the way?
Why so damn absent-minded?
Why so scared of romance?
This modern love breaks me
This modern love wastes me
Do you wanna come over and kill some time?
Tell me facts, tell me facts, tell me facts
Tell me facts
Throw your arms around me…