Mike uses this new calm to chat up an old friend. And since the calm never comes before anything else, he’s totally in the clear. Sidenote: can you imagine being the guy who has to monitor Mike’s calls?
WOE.BEGONE EPISODE 32: GLACIER / I CAN’T TELL HOW SCARED TO BE.
Mike celebrates the calm by calling up an old friend. Of course, the calm never comes before anything else, so he’s basically in the clear.
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Hey, it’s Mikey. Oh yeah, I bet it feels odd hearing me call myself Mikey. No one ever called me that back in the day. I don’t know that I love it, but it’s what a lot of people call me now and I decided to roll with it instead of making a big deal out of it. It’s cliché, but I think that I finally figured out that when people are well-composed, they are usually actually rolling with it instead of needing to express every concern that comes to them as they come. I mean, I have always known that. Every family film from my childhood has that idea as part of its moral. But I haven’t ever internalized it like I have now. It personally applies to me and I can use it as a tool. I think that it will make me happier in the long run. [Pause.] No, you can’t call me Mikey, too. Did you hear yourself just now? Didn’t it sound wrong?
I’ve been working at this place. I don’t think that I should tell you all that much about it. Kind of salacious, right? We’re talking murky top secret government technology stuff. Not Area 51. Area 51 is so basic. I’m a little bit of a crate digger if I might say so myself. I’m only into boutique top-secret facilities. I found this one in the back room that the owner only allows those with the best taste to look at. I could tell you the name of the place, but then I’d have to kill you. I’m kidding. I could tell you the name of the place, but then you’d probably just find some idiotic conspiracy theories online that aren’t even close to the truth. There is nothing fruitful to gain from learning more. I’m not anyone special there, though. Just a guard. I don’t even get to see any of the juicy stuff. My job is to make sure that nobody else gets to see the juicy stuff.
…No, I’m not a cop! [Playfully] How dare you suggest that to me of all people? I would never. There’s a big difference. We don’t ever even see anything out there, anyway. It’s hours of walking around and seeing the same nothings day in and day out. I’ve never had to kick someone out. I got in a fight with a bear, but that’s a story I’ll tell you some other time if you want. Everyone else in my life is tired of hearing about it already, so it would be nice to tell it to someone who has never heard the story. But no, I’m not a cop. If I were a cop, I would simply choose to just quit being one. Well, I mean I’m kinda in the middle of choosing to quit being a security guard, too, but that’s not the point.
…Well, what I mean by “in the middle of choosing” is that I’m on leave right now and I am weighing whether or not that leave might be permanent. They’re generous with vacation time, so I’m taking some to decide what I want to do. They have never pestered me for taking the time that I need when I need it. That’s definitely a perk.
So, about a week ago, I told them that I needed two weeks off and they said okay. I think they are tired of losing people that they have trained and so they have started to let employees take time so as not to get burned out. Turnover was apparently high before I showed up and it appears to have slowed down a lot. Most of the people I know there have been there for months now. The result is that we are extremely knowledgeable about whether something is happening on our patrol routes. I know if a single blade of grass has been moved in my area, so if I quit it would take the guy who replaced me months to get to the level that I am at now. That would cost more than letting me take some time to figure some things out. Not to brag, but I am a highly trained professional grass-noticer.
But, I was feeling burnt out. Very, very burnt out. I feel like I’m burying an enormous lede here, talking about burnout when I’m building up to something else, but bear with me. It’s been too long; there’s too much to say. I took some time after getting in the fight with the bear, but ended up going back earlier than I should have for reasons that are complicated. Top-secret facility complicated. I ended up getting burnt out all over again as soon as I got back. Drama is different when the backdrop is mysterious technology hidden by the U.S. government. Things can get a little hairy.
Huh? Yeah, I know I just said that I hadn’t seen anything out there. That was on my patrol route. Uhh… it’s just… interpersonal stuff? I can’t really talk about what you want me to talk about. It’s classified. They would send top men to come and deal with me if I spilled the beans to anyone. Yeah.
Don’t you want to hear what I’m burying the lede about? I… got myself… a boyfriend. First time since John that I’ve been in a relationship that lasted longer than one date. That’s been… God, has it been 3 years at this point? That can’t be right. That’s so long ago now. We were so young, so full of energy. And that means it was even longer ago that—nevermind. A lot of things are older than that.
But yeah, I have a new boyfriend. His name is Edgar. Did you hear how my voice changed when I started talking about him? Ha! We met at work. You’d be shocked, honestly. He’s not what you would normally call my type. What was it that you called my type that one time? [Pause, then laugh.] That’s right. “Two lumberjacks at once.” That’s my ideal boyfriend, for sure. But Edgar isn’t even one lumberjack at once. Maybe a third of a single lumberjack on a good day. He’d kind of like… Oh, I guess I can just send you a pic, duh. [Fiddling with phone.] Uhh, ignore how terrible I look in this one. I look like that all the time now. It really has been awhile. I started shaving my head because it’s easier that way; so don’t be surprised, okay? Okay, it’s sent.
Hey! You don’t get to say that about me. Only I get to say that about me. I will not allow the straights to start doing reads. It’s a slippery slope. It starts with a comment about my nose and ends up with you snatching wigs and calling guys “Mary.” I will not abide it. I should have just cropped myself out but then you couldn’t be sure I hadn’t just stolen some pic from Scruff [laughs]. But, yeah, Edgar’s a little bit of a twink actually. Shorter than me, skinnier than me, younger than me, smarter than me. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are younger than us recently. That really shouldn’t be allowed. Edgar reminds me how much more energy I had at 27 and then I remember when I was 27 that I didn’t feel like I had any energy at all at the time.
This is the first time that we have been together somewhere that wasn’t work or right outside of work. We got an AirBnB right outside Glacier National Park for all two weeks of our vacation. It’s so beautiful. I can see the mountains out my window. I will never get tired of mountains. It’s been years since we came here on that big group trip we did and Edgar’s never been here at all, so I get to show him all of the cool stuff that I remember and sound like a tour guide. You know how much I like to sound smart. It’s basically my favorite thing and I don’t get to pretend to be smart around Edgar unless it’s something that he doesn’t know anything about. Plus, it’s just me and Edgar out here in this house that we definitely could never afford to live in, with all the privacy we need. It’s nice to not have to wonder if we are being secretly surveilled . I mean, we might still be secretly surveilled, but whoever is watching us is quickly going to get bored. We’re not up to no good out here.
Speaking of having energy or pretending to have energy in order to impress my new boyfriend, we hiked Lake McDonald today. Remember that place? It looks like one of those desktop wallpapers that you always assume is fake and the colors are messed with, except it’s real life. It really looks like that. The camera can’t even adequately capture how breathtaking it is, not with how I use a camera. We hiked an incredibly long distance, I got some incredible pictures and I’m incredibly tired. If I didn’t have all of this experience walking around all day, I don’t know that I would have been able to keep up with Edgar. He powered through it better than I could, even though he sits at a desk all day.
So, here I am, spent for the day, just got out of a cold shower, laid up, calling up an old friend to chat and reminisce. Meanwhile, he’s gone out to get some Moose Drool and popcorn for tonight. Remember Moose Drool? We could never find it anywhere near us back home. I don’t even remember if it’s good or not, it’s just the beer I remember us drinking the last time we were up here. It’s probably good, right? I’m pretty sure that IPAs were so huge when we were in our twenties because it is difficult to mess them up so every brewery had one.
He and I watch a movie before bed a few times a week. I think we might be the only couple that actually watch the movies we put on for our movie date nights. We take turns picking them. I mostly pick ones that I love and want to show him and he mostly picks ones he hasn’t seen yet but look interesting. He picked the 1997 cult classic The Sticky Fingers of Time for tonight. Not his normal fare but he saw the description and thought that I might like it. I say “cult classic” but I really mean that I think the two of us might be the first people to ever watch this movie. I did some digging on it and barely anyone has reviewed this movie at all. I don’t know where he found out about it unless he was looking through lists of time travel movies or lists of indie films that strangely have James Urbaniak in them. I’m thinking of starting a Letterboxd account to keep track of all of the movies we watch and what we thought of them. Is that too cute?
It’s all a bit too precious, right? A little off-brand? Like I’m trying to live happily ever after like I’m in a Taylor Swift song but not the snarky ones about how bad of a girlfriend she is. 25 year old me would roll his eyes at present day me. Hell, I even had a “once upon a time” moment go horrifically wrong not too long ago and I still am getting all soft. That’s a story for… never. Put that in the pile of stories never to be told again. We have a few of those between the two of us.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses. I don’t even like roses, way overrated plant. So maybe it actually is some roses but roses are bad in this metaphor now. Sunshine is pretty overrated too, if you think about it. We are out here in the mountains not too terribly far from an enormous wildfire that is the result of the hottest summer on record. It doesn’t look like it is going to affect the park, but it still sucks. So sunshine can go fuck itself, too. Things are all sunshine and roses.
Anyway, I might be all about settling down and starting the world’s gayest homestead, but Edgar actually likes his job and isn’t super interested in dropping everything and moving out to the middle of nowhere with a guy he’s been dating for a couple months, no matter how much he loves me. He also has friends and family that he cares about seeing for some reason? Weird. He already works in the middle of nowhere and only sees said friends and family on home visits, but that is neither here nor there and you can’t own someone with logic and reason into running away with you. Regardless, I couldn’t convince him to run away with me for more than 2 weeks, hence the vacation. So, I guess I’m going back to the real world in a couple of weeks. Begrudingly.
I’m glad that I took the leap and chose a destination to have a vacation at. I was tempted to go home and staycation for 2 weeks, but I don’t think that Edgar would want to come back to my apartment. It’s a mess. I was living like trash last time I was there and I don’t want him to see that. I’m tired more often than I am most other things, but it was a good decision to get out and do something for once. Something fun. I was living my life passively for awhile. Glacier is one of the last places that I took a big, ridiculous trip out to visit and that was… what summer was that? [Pause] Yep, it had to have been 2014, because I remember that it was the year after we graduated. And 2014 was 8 years ago. Talk about the “sticky fingers of time,” right? Eight years is too long to go without doing something like that. I’ve done some stuff in my life since then, of course, but most of it is stuff that I would rather put in the past. You know what I’m talking about and there’s more stuff that you don’t know about that I would like to keep that way.
But, about that… I… uh… God, I’m so conflict-avoidant. It’s like: why ruin such a pleasant conversation between old pals with the stuff that happened over the course of that friendship that is more rocky than it might appear? We could keep talking about how beautiful Glacier National Park is for the rest of time. We’re going to Two Medicine tomorrow. What a gorgeous place. But I think there should be some serious talk as well…
I forgive you. Great, now it sounds more dramatic than if I hadn’t just said all of that about being conflict-avoidant. I’ve known actual murderers and I made it sound like anything that happened between us was at least life-or-death bad. Forget that I said that. But… I forgive you. No, that one sounded sarcastic. I really do forgive you. Okay, now it sounds more sarcastic. I’m caught in a feedback loop. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. Did any of those work?
But we never talked about any of those things back when we saw each other more. And we don’t have to talk about them now. I wanted to let you know that I have ruminated on a lot of things from my past and found that it isn’t possible to hold onto them anymore. It actually turns out that life is very long compared to the lifetime of moments. And conversely, I hope that you can forgive me for all of the stupid shit I did when we were young. Is “conversely” the right word there? The point is, this is my mea cupla. Am I using that term right, either? I think sometimes when I get nervous I say things just to
[Phone buzz] say them… Scared the crap out of me. Sorry, it was just a text message. People have been sending me messages at the most inappropriate times recently. I’ll [phone buzz] get to it [phone buzz] later. Uhh [phone buzz] I’ll get to it now, I guess. Someone really wants to get ahold of me. What could possibly be so important? Maybe it’s Edgar trying to ask me which bottles of Moose Drool I wanted him to get? But he would just call.
Oh… no. It is not that. It is not that. I… um… hold on. Does this place have…? Uh, let’s see. Yep, this place still has cable, like it’s truly 1997. Umm… well, shit. That’s not good news. It is news, though. If you turn on the TV, you’ll see it too. This is national news. [Pause.] Well, then go to any news website. It’s not going to only be on cable news This is breaking news. It will be the top story anywhere you look right now.
Uh huh, that’s the one. I assume that there is a picture at the top of the article. See that place that the smoke is rising out of? That’s where I work. Well, not there exactly. I work on the outskirts of that place. It’s the same place but it is so large and so secretive that I have never been anywhere near the place that is on fire. You can sort of see how big it is from the drone shot they’re doing on the channel I’m watching, I’m sure you can find it. That’s the middle of the facility. It’s called O.V.E.R. Oldbrush Valley Energy and Resources. “Energy” and “Resources” are basically euphemisms for the type of technological shenanigans going on inside there. We’re talking about the most advanced technology that the United States of America has control over, possibly the most advanced technology on Earth. I was being cagey about it because nothing good ever comes out of knowing about that place or any of the things going on inside of it, but the cat is out of the bag. And something is out of O.V.E.R. in dramatic fashion by the looks of it.
So, uh, holy shit. Holy shit. Have you found a video feed yet? Long story short is that I work in Tier 1 and the actual good stuff is in Tier 3. That building with an enormous crater in it is in Tier 3. Whatever caused that explosion had to make it through a ring of shlubby security guards like me, then a whole bunch of armed and dangerous security guards like Hunter who you don’t know who that is, then a bunch of what I assume are secret service-esque guys at the center of the whole thing, I’ve never actually seen any of them. And they have a highly strategic way of ensuring that this kind of thing never happens. And if it does happen, then no it didn’t. We sure as shit shouldn’t be able to see something like this on our television screens right now.
[Pause.] No, nothing that they are saying makes any sense. They’re just news anchors, they’re not even journalists who have spent any amount of time thinking about these sorts of high infosec areas. It would be like me trying to commentate a poker match. The only true thing that any of them are going to be able to say is that a building in the center of Oldbrush Valley was destroyed by an apparent explosion, the cause of which is unknown. They are going to keep playing this drone shot of the aftermath because that’s the only footage they have. They are going to speculate wildly, which I respect because I love to do that, but they are not going to get anywhere near the truth.
[Pause.] I don’t know how bad this is, I mean for you and me. For O.V.E.R. it’s a catastrophe. It means that someone out there is immensely powerful, is working against them, and has overwhelmingly succeeded. On a scale that is difficult to understand. In fact, it should be paradoxical for this kind of thing to happen in most circumstances. What it would necessitate is specific and largely impossible. If none of that makes sense, good.
Of all of the times for this to happen, it was while I was on vacation? While I am relieved that I’m not there while it’s still happening, I don’t know what to do. Am I supposed to go back and do what I can do to help? What even is that? It’s not like I’m a firefighter. Am I supposed to keep my distance and let the head honchos right the ship? Should I enjoy my vacation because I’m a lowly guard and what happens that far up the chain is none of my concern or business?
[Buzz.] More texts from Tier 1 people, Marissa and Shadow. Everyone in Tier 1 is safe and accounted for, it appears. Tier 3 is not somewhere that anyone I know can accidentally be at the wrong time. [Pause.] No, his real name isn’t Shadow. I call him that because that’s one of the dogs in Homeward Bound. [Pause.] Because his name was Ryan and I already had a Ryan in my life so I call him Shadow in my head to keep them straight. [Pause.] Yes, there’s a Chance. What do I look like, a monster? [Pause.] No, there isn’t a Sassy. You can’t nickname a woman Sassy in 2021. I don’t even know if it’s a good idea to nickname a cat that anymore.
But it looks like this event was confined to one building deep inside an enormous facility. I don’t even know anybody from that area of the valley. Unless I do. There’s one person who might be able to get in that far, but even then I find it hard to feel concerned about him. He’s sort of a huge dick and not in the fun way. He’s part of the reason that my “nose is more crooked than it used to be,” to put it how you put it earlier. A fundamentally unsavory character, all said. It’s a shame. He used to be such a nice guy but O.V.E.R. changed him. The methods through which they contain what they have in there are duplicitous and violent and it makes the people who are most involved with it duplicitous and violent as well. But he could have been inside of that building. No one I have contact with would be able to confirm or deny that.
[Buizz] Now, Marissa is swearing revenge on whoever did this and made all of us security guards look bad. I think you’d like her. She’s a lot. If anyone could get revenge on whoever did this, it would be her. Hunter isn’t responding. Sometimes he doesn’t, though. I know that you don’t know who any of those people are, but I’m trying to keep you aware of my thought process. That’s all we can do right now. Listen to the people who have the firsthand information and wait for the news to drop whenever that will be. I hate waiting for bad news so much.
[Scoff.] They’ve got a guy on there now talking about aliens. It’s not aliens. Imagine thinking that aliens are intelligent enough to build a spaceship that would allow them to travel to Earth. If they were that much more intelligent than we were, why would they even want to come to earth? And if they were so smart, how could they possibly be contained and concealed by the United States government? None of that makes any sense as soon as you start picking at it. I promise you that humans are weird enough that we are more than capable of making whatever strange thing they think is so strange that it must have been done by aliens. Having this idiot on the news make this all seem like a joke. Maybe that’s the plan, to get everyone to think this isn’t serious. I don’t think it would be of much benefit to O.V.E.R. for the average person to think that something serious is going on there. Not that I’m saying this guy is an operative or something, but if I were in charge of managing this crisis I would want someone like him to run cover, unwittingly or not.
It’s starting to set in, how serious this is. Thinking about what it means for this to have happened. Does this mean that they never catch who did it? [Pause.] No, all I mean is how are they going to be able to catch someone if the system they have in place wasn’t sufficient to stop them in the first place? It’s one thing to get a person inside of Tier 3. I don’t think that’s impossible. But how do you get a bomb into Tier 3? One big enough to do that? Granted, I don’t know how large that would have to be, but surely it would be large enough that they would get spotted toting it around. There is no such thing as free, unsupervised movement inside of there. At least that’s my understanding. They keep perfectly tight-lipped about everything about that place. The area directly about O.V.E.R. is a no-fly zone, like Area 51, so there isn’t any way that someone could get so much as a kite into that airspace, let alone something capable of deploying a bomb. That’s why the drone footage in that video is from so far away. They got as close as they could manage without being in danger of getting shot down.
I’m sorry that this got in the way of our conversation. We were doing such a good job of building bridges back. I guess it did get me to open up about my job, so that’s a silver lining. But I’ll have to call you back in a week or two when things start to die down and let you know how I’m holding up and what the state of things are. I hope that things are dying down in the next week or two. If things get any more hectic than this, it will be a disaster. If things are more hectic than this, I might make a run for it. Wherever is farthest from the epicenter of this shit hitting the fan.
[Pause.] Really? Wow, that would be great, I agree. I wasn’t expecting you to offer me a place to stay. That’s so kind of you. I’ll keep it in mind, but I don’t think I will ever take you up on it. It would have been nice to visit while I was on vacation, but I didn’t want to invite myself back into your life. And of course now it looks like my vacation might have abruptly come to an end. C’est la vie, I suppose. Maybe next time, though, if I end up heading out that way. You could always come visit me, except that O.V.E.R. isn’t looking like an ideal getaway destination right now. And I’m about to walk right back into it, again, while it’s burning. [Sigh.] Because of course I am.
Thanks for staying on the phone with me. What a wild coincidence that this happened right when I called you. I’m glad I had someone to talk to. Without you, I would have been stuck here alone, trying to piece together all of the bad news. I’ve gone through that before and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Edgar should be home soon and I can talk it out with him, then. I can’t tell how scared to be. But I should let you go. It was nice hearing from you. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard your voice, but that’s mostly my fault. I’m sorry. I’ll try harder to keep in touch. [Pause.] Right. [Pause] You, too. It was really great hearing from you today, Matt. [Pause.] Yep, talk to you later. Bye.
[End theme plays.]