Close Encounters

 Close Encounters

By Sean McVeigh

The other day I was on one of my aforementioned walks with my dog. As I was sauntering along Rockaway Beach Blvd., a man zipped by me on what I would describe as a one wheeled standup motorcycle. This is not the first time I have seen one and I would assume most of you have seen them too. They have no handles, and it appears this unicycle looking thingamajig is fully controlled with the driver’s feet (I think?). It looks like something out of “Back to the Future.” I have never been on one and as this man zoomed by, I was struck with a thought: I don’t even know what they are called.

I am a believer that intelligent life is out there. (“Hey, didn’t this guy just write a column making fun of kooks?”) There are just too many planets and stars and galaxies out there for it not to be the case. The odds are too good. I would take that bet every day of the week and twice on Sundays. So what if one of those otherworldly scouting parties decided now was the time and Rockaway Beach Blvd. was the place? They land right in front of me, my pup and this one-wheeling fellow traveler of ours. They step out from their ship, approach us, and begin their extraterrestrial interrogation — sans probing, of course.

After conferring amongst themselves, they start with the smallest of us — my dog. Several minutes of face licking and tail wagging ensue and they are convinced that Earth is an amazing place, but the life is not as intelligent as previous scouting reports had led them to believe. Eventually, I get the courage to pipe up and tell who I assume are my new overlords that maybe I can provide a little more information. What would they like to know?

Through their fancy intergalactic translators à la “Star Trek,” they begin with some softballs: “What is this place?” “Who are you?” “What is this thing licking our feet?”

I enlighten them, “This is the lovely Rockaway Beach. You might have heard of it in the Ramones’ so— wait, er, no, no that doesn’t make sense. Let me start over. This is Rockaway! It’s in New York which is in the United States which is on Earth! I am Sean. I write for a local newspaper and if you let me live, this week’s column is going to write itself. And that is my dog, he is a good boy who likes to lick feet.”

They look at me with all six eyes more confused than when they landed.

“What is that?” they say, pointing with one tentacle to my human compatriot’s one-wheeled thingamajig.

“Well, I don’t actually know,” I inform them.

“You don’t know what this amazing piece of technology is? You have these incredible advancements and don’t even bother to know what it’s called? Can you really be that unappreciative of a species?”

In disgust, they turn to leave — giving my dog a few pets on the head and butt scratches on their way. “Pluto’s freezing but at least it’s not full of ungrateful jerks,” one E.T. says to the other. They board their ship and disappear.

O tempora, o mores! This is a Latin phrase that translates to “Oh, what times! Oh, what customs!” It is said to have first been used by the Roman statesman Cicero. We have so much new and amazing technology coming out every day that we don’t even know the names of things that were once only dreamt of or seen in sci-fi movies. I am not trying to say that this is a bad thing, and I am definitely not saying this is a good thing. It is just an amazing thing. All we hear is about how chaotic and terrible our world is these days. Bad news sells. Well, I think we live in a pretty amazing moment — failures and vices and all. Oh, what times! Oh, what customs! Indeed, Cicero.

And for the record, according to my research, it is just called an electric unicycle. How boring is that?

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