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Resolve to leave my mug alone

December 27, 2001

Resolve to leave my mug alone



Since this will be my last regularly scheduled column until the new year, it's time to talk about resolutions.

Not mine, yours.

Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to lose weight, stop smoking, eat vegetables, work for world peace, be a more patient driver or love your fellow man.

But I sorely wish from the bottom of my heart that you would resolve to stop talking about my new mug shot.

Please, stop the madness. I haven't come across this much "compare and contrast" since seventh-grade English class. Really, if you people cared half as much about what I write as how poorly I photograph, I'd win the Pulitzer Prize.

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I can't help it, OK? Holding the two pictures side by side, my colleague Julie Greene summed up most of your thoughts. "They're both," she pronounced, "rather spooky."

People have said my old shot looked like I'd been surprised by a wild goose, goosed by a big dog with a cold nose or that I look like Monty Burns from "The Simpsons."

Which reminded me of the episode where Mr. Burns is running for governor and he peers at his photo on a campaign poster and asks "Why are my teeth showing like that?" Told that it's "because you're smiling, sir," he replies "Excellent, that's just the kind of radical thinking we need to win this election."

So, while I admit that the grin in the new photo is about as natural-looking as feathers on a carp, I knew a radical change was in order.

People do seem to agree on two points:

1.) The new picture looks more like me.

2.) This is not necessarily a good thing.

A woman came up to me at the mall last week and said "You blew it; now everyone will know who you are."

And she's right. I had a bad experience at Wal-Mart (redundant, I know) this weekend. I absent-mindedly took a parking space someone else had her eye on and she (I'm lucky this is all she did) shot me a tart "Hey, Merry Christmas."

Oblivious to a fault, I said "Oh, thanks, Merry Christmas to you, too," until it became clear that merry was the last thing on her mind. But since it occurred to me that because of a new, more recognizable photo, I might be positively ID'd, I'd just like to go ahead and make a public apology and confession: Andrea made me take the parking space.

As it turned out, we didn't even use it. We got 30 feet inside the mayhem of the store before looking at each other and simultaneously saying "Let's get out of here" and sprinting back to the relative safety of the lot.

The parking episode gave us a good idea, though, and for the next half-hour we cruised the parking lot waiting for people to back out of their spaces, then swooping in just ahead of other drivers.

I love the sound of profanity in the morning.

But good, clean fun like this becomes more dangerous when your identification is so much in evidence. It's like driving through a speed trap at 80 mph with a vanity plate that says 2FAST4U.

The old photo provided a "plausible deniability" that the new one doesn't afford. So given all the new troubles that have sprouted from the latest mug, I think the decent thing for you to do is reduce the amount of insults, wisecracks and abuse.

Not that I'm expecting much in this area. But it would be something you could resolve without an appreciable change in diet or lifestyle. And in the meantime, I've resolved to grow a beard.

-Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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