Five days a week, I show my identification badge to Achmed, our building's lead security guard. He always peers at it for a very long time. Achmed takes his job quite seriously. He knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he's our last line of defense against terrorist bombers. When I walk down the hall to my bank of elevators, I can feel Achmed's mistrustful eyes following me.
Then--DING!--I step inside the first door that opens, and tap my knuckle against 41.
Achmed is a short, strutting man who originally came from Pakistan. He used to wear a toupee. Some toupees look reasonably okay, but not Achmed's.
I usually walk past Achmed a couple of times each day, because I need to escape from my workplace. That 41st-floor bullpen can become quite the pressure cooker. Plus, our building's plaza contains a lovely garden, with flowers, waterfalls, trees, fountains, and a stabile by Alexander Calder. You can see this sculpture in Pretty Woman, right outside Jason Alexander's office building. It looks like a giant orange spider.
Achmed observes my daily comings and goings with great suspicion.
The lobby of our building contains a rack, offering free newspapers. These publications are composed mainly of advertisements, and nobody ever reads them.
About a year ago, one of these newspapers decided to do a piece on my wildly unsuccessful attempts to moonlight as an author. They dispatched a photographer, who took many pictures of me in front of the orange spider.
Achmed's skeptical nose was pressed up against the glass, looking out from inside his lobby. Terrorists have been known to hide bombs in camera-like contraptions.
After months of nervous waiting, the article and photo were finally published. I collected thirteen copies of the newspaper, in a pathetically misguided effort to impress friends, family and co-workers.
Achmed collected one copy. He was supposedly in the middle of writing a book, and wanted to better understand the promotional process.
When that article appeared, Achmed stopped wearing his toupee and became my best friend.
Achmed now enjoys discussing story arcs and character development, but I've never believed his book actually existed. Yesterday, however, he proudly showed me a brand new three-ring binder, containing four hundred pages of single-spaced typing. His first page recounted, in mind-numbing prose, the hopeless boredom of a typical security guard's day.
The narrative went downhill from there.
I never thought I would be able to say something like this, but Achmed's book is even worse than mine.
And now he wants me to convince the newspaper to take HIS photo.
The in-your-face pose shown here was suggested by the newspaper's photographer, local legend Gary Leonard. I said, "Your editor will never use this one." He shot back, "You'd be surprised."
Alan C. Baird recently coauthored the print\web\wap project entitled 9TimeZones.com--a dismal commercial failure and resounding critical flop. He lives just a stone's throw from Hollywood... which is fine and dandy, until the stones are thrown back.