DJ Mansker lives in southeast Arizona. By day, DJ puts her twenty plus years of experience in the trenches of social work to use in the protective services. By night, she is a closet novelist and wait staff to her cat Trinidad. As a member of several local and national writers organizations she continues to hone her writing skills as she works to complete her first novel.
Whoa, Buddy! Where’s the fire?
Oh, uh, sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was in here.
It’s all right. Come on in.
No, that’s okay. I’ll wait’ll you’re done.
Listen, pal, I’m telling you, it’s empty. Just pull the curtain back and see for yourself. C’mon in, all the way into the booth and talk to me. It’s only a buck and you’ll feel much better. It’s a steal of a deal.
What is this, a talking confessional?
You guessed’er, Chester. Make yourself comfortable. Put your feet up. Hey! Is that one of those tabloid newspapers?
Yeah, so? I just want a quiet place to sit and read it.
Go ahead. Pretend I’m not here . . . Ha! That is a rag, isn’t it?
If this is your idea of not bothering me, you stink at it. If I put a buck in the plate, will you shut up and let me read?
Sure, whatever you want. . . . So, which space alien is having Brad’s baby this week?
Hey! Quit reading over my shoulder. Jeez, I thought I could have some privacy, you know, peace and quiet.
My apologies. Go ahead. Hmm-hmm . . . wait! Don’t turn that, I wasn’t finished . . .
Look pal, I’d like to get this read and get rid of it—the sooner the better.
Can’t disagree with you there. Whattaya doin’ with that rag anyway?
Ookaay, clearly you’re not going to leave me alone until we have this out. So, I’m in the check-out line minding my own business . . . you know, milk, bread, paper towels . . . and there it is, bold print, color photos, taking control of me like some sort of tractor beam. I try to look away, but I’m locked in. I turn away, but my eyeballs spin independently in the sockets, like Linda Blair’s head.
Yeah, really. I scuttle and duck, avoid eye contact, like it’s forbidden fruit.
Hmm. A little guilty pleasure, eh?
I’d hardly call it pleasure. It’s more of a curse. I’m an educated man. I quoted Chomsky in my master’s thesis, for crying out loud.
Really? You old Name dropper you. Ahem, I mean, what about it gets to you? The bold print, the pictures . . .?
All of it. I’m hooked on it all. The bait dangles, I surface, snap, and they just reel me in.
Ah, hooked like a sturgeon.
More like a stoogeon.
Go ahead, read it, get it over with, and get on with your day.
Finally. Thank you.
Hmm . . . hmm . . . does that baby have gills?
You’re doing it again—reading over my shoulder!
I’m not. Really. I’m just trying to get a sense of the scope of your problem, so I can help you.
Sure you are.
Let’s talk about this tractor beam business. Tell me more.
Grrrr. It’s so ridiculous I have to look. It’s like something from Star Trek, a magnetic force that pulls my eyes to the paper. It’s unnatural, I tell you. It pulls me in then drags me off
someplace I don’t want to be. By the time I realize what’s happening, it’s too late. The deed is done. I wad the paper up, stuff it into my pocket, and slither off.
Hmm. Something of an isolated phenomenon?
You mean you have this problem with other stuff?
Hello! Like you’ve never seen the Greek or Roman classics at the Louvre—all the nude statues.
Uuh . . . no. I’m a booth. I don’t get around much. Tell me more about how those papers hook you. What actually grabs you first?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to identify one thing that hooks me. The phony photos, the celebrity names, the sensational headlines, the absurdity, it all gets to me. I think the worst part is I secretly hope there’s some truth in it. Why would I want that?
Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s break this down. First, the tabloids are written by professionals and they’re good at what they do. They understand our psyches and know how to sell to it. Second, what is the real issue? Is it that you’re reading this stuff, or that it’s reading you?
Whaddaya mean, it’s reading me?
I mean sensationalized journalism fill a niche in our psyches that we don’t like to admit may be there. It can be any number of things we unconsciously crave. You mentioned something similar a minute ago—how you can’t stop yourself from looking at nudes. We just have to remind ourselves to use some control. Moderation is crucial in all things, good and bad. It helps round us out as well-adjusted adults.
Really? Good and bad? I must be approaching perfection by now.
Again, moderation. Let yourself take what’s good from whatever you read. Try looking a little deeper; maybe something is in that tabloid you can rework into a useful life lesson. Embrace the diversity, as they say.
With all due respect, I m not hugging a space alien, but I think I know where you’re going with this.
Right. Accept this tabloid stuff for what it is: a suspension of reality. You’re not as bad off as you think.
Hey! You may be on to something there. It is a suspension of reality. We all need that from time to time, right?
Of course. Just see what you can do to broaden the scope of what you use to suspend reality. Try picking up something a little more legit. How about something political, historical, or even foreign? Stretch your boundaries, try a viewpoint from another culture.
I’ll give it a whirl. Thanks for the time and the tips—well worth the buck.
Hey! Where are you off to so fast?
I wanna hit the library before they close. Gotta run . . .
Wait! Wait! So that was the Greek and Roman section, right? The Louvre, how do you spell that? I just want to follow up . . .