January 27th, 2006


Right Down the Hole Again

I'm tellin' ya, some days I miss workin' at the muse factory. Oh, yeah, the place was never the same after the angels hit it. And I know, I know, I hated clean up and hose duty, and I complained about it all the time while I was there so I shouldn't complain about being gone.

But with muses, at least you knew where you stood from one day to the next. This whole Emotional Tour guide gig is a freakin' roller coaster ride. And not one of your smooth-as-silk metal ones that goes vip-vip-vip at 90 mph through a couple of loop-de-loops and is done a minute and a half later. No, this job is one of those old woodeen roller coasters that shakes and rattles at every turn and pauses at the top of the curves to convince you it's finally died and is about to drop you on your head onto the tracks 60 feet below. Then, when by some miracle you survive to reach the end of the line after half an eternity, boom, it goes into reverse and it's even worse, until you think its going to jar every vertabrae in your spine loose. At last it comes to a close, and you stagger off to make an appointment with your chiropractor, vowing all the while, "Screw it, I don't care if my friends think I'm a wuss, I'm never getting on that deathtrap again."

Except I obviously keep forgetting my vow each morning 'cause I keep comin' back. Euughh. Soooo ... drained.

I dunno. Ya wanna hear about my day?

Down, Down, Down

[deep breath]

Okay, my day. Man, where do I start?

Last couple of weeks, I've been giving tours of our top seller for this time of year, the Happy Happy Joy Joy Special. Yeah, yeah, marketing calls it "The Celebration of the Spirit", but all the guides just use HHJJ. It's a good package, treats you to a half-dozen of the nicest emotions around: joy, ecstacy, accomplishment, satisfaction, excitement, etc., you get the idea. In a week or so, the Honeymoon Package will be outselling it, naturally, and the Schwarznegger Special gets a lot of buyers year-round. But a lot of people got the HHJJ for Christmas so we're still processing a ton of 'em.

Anyway, I got no problem with the HHJJ run. Some of the guides get burnt out on it, and I can see why, 'cause it does get repetitive to do day in and day out, and all of 'em start to blend together pretty quick. But I've only been doing this job eight months so I don't mind. Ask me again in eight years and you may get a different answer. Assuming I ain't given up and gone back to the muse factory. Oy.

But naturally, when folks're buying something as expensive as an Emotional Tour, some of them just need to get something "special" or "unique". For which you should read, "So bloody awful no one else wants it". Today we finally got enough takers together to run an Angst Express.

There was one guy, Kurt, who actually liked running the Angst Express, so normally he'd've taken them. Unfortunately, he was arrested a couple of days ago for on charges of cruelty to animals and can't make bond. Well, it's unfortunate for Kurt but just as well for any strays in the city, I'm sure.

And unfortunate for me because it meant I had to take his frickin' tour group instead. Why me? "'Cause you did so well at it in training, Ro." Ohyeah, so I can tell melancholia from depression and I managed to save the test dummy from the Furies, so now I'm stuck with it just because Kurt got caught with his hand in the .... whatever it was. Almost enough to make me miss him. Okay, no, not really, I hope they lock the little creep up life.

So who wants more angst in their lives? Lemme tell you about this lot.

-- Lolita: Creepy teenage Goth chick. Don't get me wrong, I like Goths, nothing wrong with black eyeliner, but this one was trying way too hard, or maybe not hard enough because 'creepy' seemed to come naturally to her. Thin, pale, black clothes and fishnet and a smile like Wednesday Addams. She looked like she should've been Kurt's girlfriend. You'd think she'd get enough angst hanging out with her friends or torturing kittens or whatever, but no, she had to come to Emotion Tours and get more.
-- Harriet: Plump, middle-aged, with her hair dyed blond and a quiet demeanor. I kinda felt sorry for her; she said her son had tried to kill himself and she wanted the tour so she could understand him better. I wanted to say that with a suicidal son I was pretty sure she had enough angst in her life but I didn't.
-- The Method Author: Now this one I didn't feel sorry for, she was just plain askin' for it. Young, tall, hair braided like a Valkyrie, geeky glasses, and painfully, painfully earnest. "I'm working on my novel and I've realized don't understand the depths of the human soul the way I need to. I really need this insight. My life simply doesn't have the kind of darkness that a great writer requires." Well, I guess an Emotion Tour is cheaper than spending years of your life as a dissipated hulk. Or something.
-- Thing One and Thing Two: A couple of clean-cut young male sadists. Who were those brothers that killed their parents so they could inherit their fortune? I think TO and TT took notes from that case. They looked perfectly normal as long as you didn't talk to them for more than five minutes. Brrr.

We start out with usual Angst Tour spiel, which is half a warning about the quality of the experience -- "Because of the nature of negative emotions and the difficulties involved in tapping them, you may find your experience less vivid than with our more conventional tours" -- and half a not-for-the-faint-of-heart caution. Harriet was the only one who looked worried by the spiel. By the time I finished the caution, the rest of the group was all excited. "Oh yes! Suffering! Bring it on!" Must be people like these that ensure a market for films like Legends of the Fall.

First thing in the question period, Lolita brings up the City of Despair. "Can we go there?"

No, you can't frickin' make a plan to go to the City of Despair. This isn't like HHJJ where you can get hand-tailored experiences for whichever emotion you like best. The angst mines are a goblin's labyrinth of shifting walls and paths. We go down, we get whatever we get for four hours, and then we all come out again in one piece if we're lucky. Yeah, the City of Despair is down there somewhere, but even Kurt only finds it one time in ten, and usually when he does it's to avoid the damn pit.

Naturally, now that Lolita's brought it up, everyone wants to go (except Harriet, bless her soul). Sigh. How does Kurt manage to convince these newbies it's a bad idea? I dunno. I couldn't talk 'em out of it, so all I did was tell 'em we probably wouldn't find it but we could go in if we did.

Everybody warned and ready, we dove in.

Did I ever tell you what the angst tour was like when I was in training? Lemme check ... nope. Oh yes. That's cause I didn't want to remember it. Oh man. In four hours, we got melancholia, misery, terror, dread, depression, more depression, yet more depression (we encountered most of the emotions more than once, but depression was way overrepresented this time), and grief. Grief ... man, grief was the worst. At least for me. How can I describe this? Imagine you're in a dark tunnel with five other people, and you hear this soft, gut-wrenching sobbing. Then you notice that your feet are wet. And then you realize that the water level is rising. Before you even have time to panic, your tunnel is full of nothing but salty grey water. The people you were with? Gone. You're alone, all alone in this drowning tide of grey that goes on forever, no beginning, no end. The water washes straight through you, there's no part of you it doesn't touch, and it washes all the you away. Until all that's left of you is the grey salty water, the sound of sobbing, the knowledge that you've lost everything, absolutely everything and everyone. All you have is grief.

Frak, I don't want to remember this crap this time, either.

We all got out in one piece, eventually. But Lolita and the Things were in tears, and the Method Author tore her notebook in half. I handed all of them off to the counselors when we were back. All except Harriet; she didn't want to see them. She sat, dry-eyed, in the lobby with me for a while though, holding my hand. We didn't say a word.

We never found the City of Despair.

Thank the Lord for small mercies.