A couple of years ago, I surrendered my parking spot at work — a "privilege" for which I paid $20 per month — in exchange for free street parking. The spots I found on the street were about the same distance away from my building, it was usually pretty easy to find an open place, and it saved a little bit of money, so why not?
Except during the winter months, those places tend to fill up, as the winter months coincide with the Legislative Session. There are some other freebie spots further away, though. When I started this whole Fitbit thing, those became my new default. But when this story took place, they were kind of a last resort measure — especially when the temperature was a balmy -3°, like on the day when this story occurred. Walking outside any distance when it's that cold is just dangerous.
The good news about this freebie parking area is it's on the shuttle bus line over to the Capitol. Naturally, that's something to take advantage of when it's that frigid outside. The bonus: during Session, there are lots of interesting characters milling about the Capitol grounds, and security concerns aside, it can sometimes be entertaining. These people love riding that shuttle bus for some reason. So with all that background in place, we now come to the story — as one of those interesting characters got on the bus on a particular late January day two years ago.
I could tell he was a character by the style of his suit. Either he shopped exclusively at thrift stores or he'd had this suit in mothballs in his closet since Nixon was president, maybe Johnson. I understand that shabby chic has been kind of a thing of late, but this dude was in at least his late 60s if not older, a pretty far cry from Macklemore. He took his seat next to the young lady who'd been at the bus stop with him. She scrunched herself up against the window to put as much distance between them as she could.
He was a big man — not fat, just large and stocky, like an animal, or some mythical creature like a yeti. He had a deep voice of authority, and everyone on the bus could hear him trying to seduce this young lady who was easily 40 years younger than him. He said, "I was in the 1968 Olympics," (Here we go, I thought) "and they used computers to measure how we performed. Except they didn't call them computers back then. They called it microwave equipment."
Well that explains a lot.
"Then after the Olympics I joined the Navy," he continued, "and I had a top secret clearance. You could tell because I had a red badge. Everybody with a top secret clearance had a red badge."
Because that's not a dead giveaway at all, is it?
"My job was to guard the missile silos. If anything got near the missile silos, no matter what it was, my orders were to shoot it." With that he looked up for a bit, perhaps checking to see if anyone else was eavesdropping on this very private conversation about his top secret United States Navy mission. "Especially coyotes."
He continued. "They could tell when a coyote came near the missile silo because they could feel the electrics."
Ok, stop. I don't know what that phrase means, and I actually do have a background in electrical engineering. Further, I don't know who he was referring to with the word "they" — the coyotes, or someone else guarding this secure site with him, maybe those who had their fingers on the big red button which would launch the missiles. Last, I don't know what a coyote would be doing near a missile silo, or for that matter, what a Navy man with a top secret clearance (indicated with his prominent red badge) would be doing guarding said silo, presumably in the middle of the desert where the coyotes live. Though to be fair, they also thrive in the woods of West Virginia, and are considered enough of a pest that it's ok to shoot them year-round, missile silos or not.
The only thing I knew for sure was I'd picked up a new catchphrase, one which to my mind meant, "This story is so full of holes it's an obvious fiction, but I'm going to tell it like it's real, and with great conviction and authority, because that's how I roll." I used it for a few months there, just randomly, when real life would get crazy.
The Olympiad and top secret Navy man saw that he'd failed to impress the young lady, so he started a more general approach, I guess trying to make conversation with anyone listening. "Yeah, it may be cold today, but it's only 53 days until summer! Can you believe that?" Mind you, that late January day was a good bit more than 53 days from the beginning of summer, but no matter — he spoke with the same authority he'd used with her, and I think he believed every word of everything he said.
Nice guy, but nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake — and apparently, keeping our country safe from coyotes since 1968. Feel the electrics.