Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Day the Aliens Arrived

It was an ordinary day when the aliens first arrived. But, then again, the arrival of aliens would make anything else about any day seem ordinary. So, maybe it wasn't. But it's hard to say.

Initially, they didn't send any messages or do anything that appeared threatening. In fact, it was announced some time later that they had actually orbited Mars for a few weeks before approaching Earth. They would occasionally begin moving towards Earth, but then reverse and stick around Mars for a few days.

Finally, the aliens sent their first communication. They wanted to know if we were doing anything this week. It was a puzzling question. It was not clear, initially, whether or not the aliens were being threatening or inviting. After some arguments at the United Nations regarding the proper response, it was decided that each individual country would deliver its own message. Most European nations explained that they were very sorry but this upcoming week was national laundry week in each of their countries. The aliens were curious how it could be that so many countries would be doing their laundry at the same time, and it was explained that it involved a complicated number of coincidences involving procrastination and the number of beverage spills or sauce stains per capita. As to why it would take an entire week for almost the entirety of Europe to do their laundry, they explained that it wasn't clear, but they would look into it and were very sorry that they would be unavailable.

The President of the United States addressed his nation to explain that he refused to follow the recent socialist trend of compulsory laundry days. We were then in the unfortunate position of having to come up with an excuse to avoid dealing with the aliens. Congress met, discussed many proposals, but nothing was decided. The President stalled for time and attended a number of town hall meetings, as did a number of other government officials, but still no decision could be reached. Finally, a speech was prepared and the President addressed the aliens.

“Alien visitors,” the speech began, “We're very happy to see you. Really. You seem like a nice civilization with a lot to offer, even though we don't know much about you. Due to the current economic climate, some of us have clear schedules for the entirety of next week. Unfortunately, also due to the economic climate, many of us cannot afford to take time off from work. And so, a small group of our unemployed and underemployed will be happy to join you for a week for whatever activities you may have planned.”

The aliens were pleased. They had recently acquired the entire first season of the situation comedy How I Met Your Mother and wanted to watch it for some reason. Also, they were wondering if they could borrow a copy of the movie You've Got Mail, as they were all enormous Tom Hanks fans.

And so, hundreds of unemployed Americans, including myself, were sent aboard the aliens' craft. While the outside of the ship was typical of the descriptions you find in abduction reports or in movies and television, the interior of the ship was not what any of us had expected. Shag carpeting, wood paneling, and a large number of porcelain animal sculptures of varying sizes. There were dogs, cats, roosters, ducks, and more.

The aliens themselves seemed to very closely resemble the “greys” of science fiction stories, but were dressed in chino pants and plaid shirts. Both wore brown pants, but the one named John wore a red shirt while Sam wore blue.

“Welcome, welcome!” John said, with a stilted, careful accent. “We're very glad you could make it! Barbara is grilling up some burgers in the kitchen. Let's move on to the rec room!”

As John led us down a hallway to their recreation room, Sam patted me on the back. Struggling to shift his lipless face in a clear effort to imitate a smile, he asked, “So, how about those Knicks?” I politely explained that I don't really follow sports.

“Oh,” Sam said, visibly disappointed that his friendly gesture had failed, “I'm very sorry.” After a short pause he asked, “What do you do?”

I explained that I didn't have a job at the moment but that I was a musician and played guitar.

“Oh!” Sam said, excited, “I love music from Earth! I'm especially fond of Chuck Berry.”

As Sam and I discussed music, we entered the rec room. The grey shag carpeting was now replaced by a thin green carpet. In the rec room was a fifty-two inch high-definition television and an assortment of games. Besides a pile of board games stacked carefully in one corner of the room, there was also a small bar, a bumper pool table, foosball, a dart board, and a jukebox.

“I'm going to check on Barbara and the food,” John explained with a broad smile on his face, “In the meantime, help yourself to any of the games. Sam, put the show on! When I get back, I want to play bumper pool.”

John exited the room, and Sam walked quickly over to the bar. He turned on the television and invited anyone who wanted a drink to join him. After a brief pause, during which myself and my fellow humans exchanged uncertain looks, a few walked over and requested beers and sodas. Sam was more than happy to oblige and bragged about the large selection of Earth beverages they had acquired in preparation for their guests.

John then returned with two more aliens, presumably female, who were outfitted to look like American housewives from the 1950s or 1960s. Both wore ill-fitting wigs awkwardly attached to their large upside-down-egg-shaped heads: one of curly blonde hair, the other of curly red. The blonde was Barbara, who John had explained was preparing hamburgers. The other, I learned, was named Marcia. Marcia was carrying the hamburgers into the room for us.

After a few awkward, quiet, and tense minutes, games of darts and bumper pool began while a very pleasant convivial atmosphere filled the room. Sam continued to serve beer at the bar, although it was explained that we should feel free to help ourselves. The hamburgers were very small, which I assumed made it easier for the aliens to eat with their small mouths. I took a couple of them and sat at the bar with Sam and Barbara. I thanked Sam for the wonderful time I was having, and asked if they had really come all this way just to have a little party.

“It's a lonely universe,” he said, “we're just thankful to have made some friends.”