Magazine Preview: Can You Get Away With It?
Written by Bwog Staff
The November issue of The Blue and White will be here soon and we’ll be posting all the articles on Bwog. “At Two Swords’ Length” is a feature presenting opposing opinions on an issue. This month, Brian Donahoe and Sam Schube discuss whether you can get away with it.
I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not like it’s hard; who even notices? See, the problem is that people just get too paranoid about this kind of thing. People start thinking that they are being too conspicuous, start worrying about passers-by, start thinking that they are going to get caught, start ruining the vibe, and then no one has a good time. Sam Schube is people.
Whether it’s in the park, some little nook on campus, or, hey, even a secluded residential cross-town block, chances are that there really are not going to be that many people around and with a little planning, you can almost always fool the ones who do pass by. If someone should happen to walk by, just play it off like you were in a midst of an animated conversation, nothing more. It doesn’t have to be the most convincing act in the world. The key is to not make eye contact, and chances are they’ll buy it; most people aren’t looking that closely.
What Sam doesn’t realize is that most people fall into either one of two categories: those who are oblivious and those who are down. Those who are oblivious naïvely believe that this sort of thing doesn’t go down all that often, at least not in their neighborhood. They go about their lives without it even crossing their minds.
Sure, maybe they went for it one time that summer in Berlin, but that was the ’60s. One need hardly worry about these folks, and the best part of all is that even if the clueless do catch wind of what’s up, more likely than not, it will only make them walk by a bit faster.
See, Sam doesn’t get this. Sam is under the impression that the slightest clue will instantly alert passers-by to what’s going on. Enraged, those passers-by will take enough time out of their busy lives to 1) call the police and 2) file a police report. Visions of handcuffs, public humiliation, and ashamed parents presumably flash through his eyes. But Sam’s got it all wrong: the subtle risk that he finds nauseating, others find thrilling.
But the secret is: even if they realize what’s going on, a surprising number of people are down. And why not? It’s a good time. You’ll come to recognize these ones from the knowing nod of respect. You pick a nice spot, maybe with a pleasant view, or if you’re more skittish, somewhere a bit more private. You get organized, you take one last quick look around, and then you go for it. Don’t spend too much time trying to find the perfect hiding place—you’ll only end up psyching yourself out—or worse—attracting attention.
Now I’m not advocating reckless abandon. By all means keep an eye out or whatever and don’t linger, but there’s no need to rush through the whole thing constantly looking over your shoulder. You won’t enjoy that. Once it’s done, the risk of getting caught pretty much drops from slim to none. The evidence against you is minimal and, hey, you’re not sticking around. Then comes the opportunity to relish having gotten away with it. Imagine the sense of satisfaction, walking smugly down the street knowing full well that no one has a clue of what you just pulled over on them.
And as you’re walking back into your building, sitting on the subway, or getting seated at a restaurant, you’ll get an incomparable sense of satisfaction. You got away with it.
It’s said no good deed goes unpunished. I think that’s a load of crap, not to mention beside the point; no bad deed goes unpunished, either. That’s why I’ll respond with a firm “no” when someone like that Brian comes along trumpeting his churlish ways. He thinks he’s invincible. He’s never been caught and can’t imagine a world in which he’d ever fall prey to police, dorm security, or any hint of a moral code. So he’ll ask, and I’ll refuse, thank you very much.
Yes, I know it seems harmless. No one ever gets caught, and guys like Brian believe you’re only really living, man! when you’re displaying flagrant disregard for social convention. But in the same way the gazelle, having made a valiant effort at escape, just knows he’ll be consumed by the chasing lion, I know that I will not get away with it. I’ll be seen. I’ll be heard. And I’ll be caught.
The slightest wrong move, the merest peep! And I’ll be whisked away, locked up, shamed, or worse. It’s supposed to be relaxed, and I know it feels good. It makes no difference. I’m always looking over my shoulder. My head always remains on a swivel–while I’m watching my back, and keeping an eye out and an ear to the ground. And that’s not particularly relaxing. You start to see things. That streetlamp? Hidden camera, for sure. That old lady with the walker probably has a particularly gossipy e-mail relationship with your aunt. Big Brother lives, everyone is watching, and you will not get away with it.
Hell, even assured success, I’d be miserable. Here are the purely practical and pragmatic reasons that I would not even enjoy getting away with it if I could. Let’s see: it makes me paranoid. It’s too loud. Outside, at least, it smells funny, and it can be itchy–I greatly prefer the comfort, familiarity, and soft corners of a bedroom, say, or someone’s car.
I don’t like to do it when other people are watching. It’s too obvious. Also too noisy. And you need too many damn objects to enjoy yourself: the preparation alone is cause for knee-quaking anxiety. And on top of all that, it’s just gauche–for Brian, nothing is sacred.
There’s a whole constellation of psycho-social-moral hang-ups and neuroses that curb my optimism, too. Part of it’s genetic, I think: “Hope for the best, expect the worst” is the New York Jew’s categorical imperative. The sort of rosy, goyish hubris that tells me I can get away with it is the very same false friend that led Woody Allen to take a break from movies to marry his stepdaughter. There’s something to be said for knowing your roots and in this case, my roots are telling me–with all the subtlety of an elephant eating dynamite–that this just won’t work.
There’s an old bit of Jewish humor that says the world’s made up of two kinds of people: there’s the schlemiel who spills his soup, and the schlimazel, whose lap he spills it on. That proverbial borscht bowl always seems to wind up on my lap, and that’s fine. There’s a certain honor in being the schlimazel, dammit.
Illustrations by Nora Rodriguez