THE TERROR OF OLD STUFF


A lot of people say they love Halloween because it’s fun to be scared. And to me that is bullshit.

I don’t need a special time of the year to be scared. Here’s a list of non-Halloween times where I am scared:

Any day when I read the news.
When my DVR doesn’t record Supergirl.
When someone wants to describe something funny they did in an improv scene in great detail.
When someone says “How are you?” and I get nervous and respond “You too.”
Every month that is not October
and also the month of October.

The point is being scared is not rare. I love Halloween because I think it’s an opportunity to reflect on why we’re scared. Why do certain things fill our souls with dread?

I had a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the nature of terror earlier this month when I went to Target and browsed their Halloween section.

They have lots of legitimately spooky stuff. They’ve got skeletons and spider webs and a Kylo Ren costume made for children. Father should be very concerned if your child wants to dress up as Kylo Ren for Halloween. Nothing like a little patricide to bring a family together.

That said, I do like the idea of a little kid dressed as Kylo Ren going door to door on Halloween night and instead of saying “Trick or Treat” he just holds out his bag and yells “MORE! MORE!”

Anyway, lots of legitimately spooky stuff at Target but what scared me the most is this. Amidst all their spooky props of tombstones and zombie hands bursting from the earth, Target has a collection of terrifying items that can only be described as ANALOG TECHNOLOGY.

They have an oldie-time microphone. Like old crooners would use. Like Ella Fitzgerald might have used when she sang with Chick Webb in the 1930s. Spooky big band vocals!

They have an oldie-time movie camera that uses actual film. You know like the kind of camera used to film such bone-chilling classics as 1987’s Harry and The Hendersons. The terror, the terror!

And perhaps the scariest of all, a rotary phone. Yes, that’s right. A phone so old it does not even have buttons to press. You have to stick your finger in little holes and rotate them multiple times to place a call to someone WHO MIGHT NOT EVEN BE HOME.

TERRIFYING. What other slightly outdated technology will be frightening us next?

There’s that old horror movie tagline “When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” That will now be changed to the much more frightening “When there is no more room in the landfill, the AOL discs will walk the earth.”

In the very near future, people will attempt to terrify trick or treaters by covering their lawns in Keurig coffeemakers. The pods, the pods! So wasteful!

Anyway, this visit to Target really drove home the point that one of the major things that scares us is just OLD SHIT. And I get it. The older something is the more likely that it has history. That it has baggage.

It’s easy to look at a rotary phone, this creaky broken down mechanical old thing, and wonder—who used this? What trauma were they going through? Could the tormented spirit of someone who had a slightly sore finger from all that manually dialing still be here? Could this old rotary phone be haunted by their very soul?

I get it. It’s easy to imagine a spirit lurking in a rotary phone because it’s old. And yet that’s kind of hypocritical bullshit. Because there is literally a lady who talks to me in my iPhone.

I never ask to talk to her but if say any combination of syllables that sounds vaguely like SIRI, she’s all like “Yes, Joseph, what do you need, Joseph? Would you like to know what time it is in Albania? Should I google the War of 1812? Where is Emily’s house? Who is near me?”

Those are all ACTUAL questions Siri has asked me to ask her. I don’t even know any contacts named Emily.

I get that we’re scared of old things because they intrinsically remind us of our own mortality. I understand that when you hear the scream of a fax machine there’s a part of your brain that just says, “Oh yeah. I am going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it. Thanks for the reminder, FAX MACHINE.”

I get it. But I feel like we’re being too hard on old stuff. I feel like if I was ever going to be attacked by a phone, I would absolutely be murdered by SIRI. Then she’d buy an old rotary phone, wrap the cord around my neck, and when the cops show up, she’d just be like—“THE OLD PHONE DID IT.”

And the dumb cops would be like, “Yep. That checks out.”

I think that we, as a culture, should tell more horror stories about modern things.

I love haunted castles and old abandoned amusement parks as much as the next person, but where are all the haunted Blockbuster Video stories?

Tell me the terrifying tale of Toby, the assistant manager, whose spirit cannot rest until that double disc DVD of Titanic is finally returned.

Tell me the chilling tale of the Borders Bookstore that got shut down in 2010, killed by Amazon, and now its corpse is being reanimated as an Amazon bookstore. I mean that is some cold shit to kill you and then take over your corpse.

I like old cathode ray tube televisions that are possessed by someone who died in a well in 1928. That’s fun. But give me a PS4 that’s haunted by the ghost of someone who didn’t go outside very often. And the PS4 just keeps turning itself off and moaning, “FOR FUCK SAKE, GET A LIFE.” That’s scary as hell.

There are great modern horror stories happening all around us right this very moment. Just a few months go Toys R Us—one of the happiest places on Earth—died. They had to close all their stores because they went bankrupt.

But as it turns out, they didn’t die. They were murdered by the greedy idiots who dumped a bunch of their own corporate debt on the company. Seriously, Toys R Us was murdered by a bunch of assholes in beige business suits.

But that’s not the end of the story. To paraphrase H.P. Lovecraft’s poem about the great God Cthulhu:

That which is dead can eternal lie
And with strange aeons
Even Geoffery may RISE.

That’s right. The owners of Toys R Us want to keep the brand alive so they have resurrected Geoffrey the Giraffe.

This is their big move to regain the trust of children everywhere—A ZOMBIE GIRAFFE.

Undead Geoffrey made his first appearance at a Dallas Toy Show wearing a bright red cape, not unlike Dracula. His cape had this haunting phrase scrawled on it: BACK FROM VACTION.

Vacation? You fuckers murdered him.

Still, I’m happy that Geoffrey is back from the dead. I want every Toys R Us store back. And I want them to lean-in to Zombie Geoffrey.

I want to see that Giraffe shambling through the store, arms outstretched, saying, “TRAINS! TRAINS! Video Games! Biggest toy store there is! Want to be Toys R Us Kid!”

Yes, it would be a little scary, but also pretty awesome. It is a Zombie Giraffe whose relentless desire is not death. Geoffrey’s relentless desire is to share JOY.

Because it’s not Geoffrey’s fault he was sent “on vacation from life.” It’s not the rotary phone’s fault it’s out of date. It’s not the movie camera’s fault that everything is digital now.

We have a choice about what scares us. And for me it’s not old dead things. It’s the living breathing terror in our midst. It’s shambling greedy assholes in beige business suits.

And also when my DVR doesn’t record Supergirl.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween and that not one of you is murdered by a rotary phone.

If you enjoyed this post, you can check out my comedy albums on bandcamp here!

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