I Should Have Been a Firefighter, Just a Day in My Life

Walkin' The Line (or something)

This actually happened last Friday. Our department decided that we wanted to have a group costume theme, but we couldn’t decide on anything. For two weeks we pondered, and finally settled on “Arnold’s Transition Team” because we couldn’t think of anything better. The plan was to have someone dressed up like Arnie, then have the rest of us dress up in costumes and then come up with titles to match our costumes. Our department manager was dressed up as a biker chick, and she was “The New Chief of the DMV, Harley Sue Davidson”, and she promised to “give the roads back to their rightful owners — THE BIKES!” My boss was dressed up like a farmer, with knee high rubber boots and carrying a shovel; he was the “Minister of shoveling BS”.

I was supposed to be a Goth. Well, originally I was supposed to be a pirate, but between being sick and the busy schedule I live by, I never got a chance to run to Evangeline in Sacramento to pick up a costume. So I threw together all of my black clothes, including my black boots and my black trench coat and my black leather vest, and said I was going to be a Goth.

Of course, that didn’t work. Instead of anyone telling me, “Great costume!” everyone said, “Wow, Richard, you look really good in that outfit.” Bastards. When I got to work I was told the same thing. I was supposed to be “Morpheus, lord of the despairing undead and State Minister of Happiness”, but instead I was just too good looking. I really hate it when that happens.

So we quickly scrapped the plan for what I was going to be doing. I told the two co-workers who were coming up with the script to come up with something new for me while I went back upstairs to work on a project.

A few minutes later I heard my name being called from the downstairs office. “Richard!”


“We’ve decided on a new title for you!”

“What is it?”

“You’re going to be Johnny Cash, Minister of Walkin’ the Line!”

“I am?”

“Yeah! It’s the leather vest that really makes it work.”

That satisfied me. Johnny Cash I would be. The Man in Black himself. I smiled and went back to my project (have I mentioned in this forum yet that I really hate Oracle — all software, really, any particularly anything that runs on a computer?).

At noon we headed into Davis for our department Halloween party. We had printed out a photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face and glued it to a piece of cardboard, then cut out the mouth; when we got to Davis we gave this cardboard head to the dean, who agreed to play Arnie for us.

While we were having lunch, J-, who was dressed as Adam Sandler from The Wedding Singer (and who would be Arnold’s new Public Relations minister) asked me what my line was going to be.

“Line? What do you mean?”

“Well, we’re each going to say a line when we get up front,” J- replied. “You haven’t thought of anything?”

My mind drew a blank. I couldn’t think of anything. I don’t know a whole lot about Johnny Cash, and I can only name one of his songs. So I said, “Uh…”

“Well, how about…” J- said, and between the two of us we came up with one of the best lines I’ve heard.

Our turn for the group costume contest came up. We got up front, Arnie made his speech from the front and introduced each of the members of his “transition team.”

“Here’s Joe the Farmer, minister of scooping up the BS! Here’s my new DMV Chief, Harley Sue Davidson! Here’s our purveyor of culture and intelligence, Britney Spears! And here’s Johnny Cash, minister of Walkin’ the Line.”

I stepped forward.

“Well, Johnny, how are you today?” The dean had an impressive-sounding fake Viennese accent. He didn’t sound exactly like Arnie, but enough to be really funny.

“To tell you the truth,” I said, in as deep and gravelly a voice as I could muster, “I’m not feeling all that good. I had a bunch of jalapeño peppers for lunch, and now I’m sitting on a real burning ring of fire.”

The entire department laughed at that. And, of course, “Ring of Fire” is the only song by Johnny Cash that I could name, which made the whole thing hilarious. Well, in my own mind, at least. I don’t know how funny it might be for you.

At any rate, the department party went on after that. There was a costume parade, there was an auction for cleverly carved jack o’ lanterns (one of them brought in $45 — it was a pretty impressive one). There was food and music and photographs.

It was the first time I’ve worked in a place that actually encouraged Halloween events like that. Most places I’ve worked at have discouraged Halloween (or any fun at all, really). Based on a conversation I had with my boss, I have a good chance of going permanent with this job. Naturally, I hope it goes through.

In the end, we got second place for our group costume. The audience laughed more for us, but I guess the judges liked the “Joe Tech” (based loosely on “Joe Millionaire”) skit better. We were robbed.