As I entered the WordPress locker room at the end of another long day of blogging, something seemed . . . amiss to me. And not the kind of miss that turns into a Mrs. when she gets married.
No, instead of the usual banter and horseplay there was a low murmur and then, when I crossed underneath the lintel over which hung the inspirational sign that said “Dare to be great today–or at least stupid”–there was only silence.
I nodded at my fellow bloggers and looked into their eyes to see if I could discern what, exactly, was up. And then it hit me–an ice cold bucket of Gatorade poured over my head from behind by two guys who are known to me only by their screen names–“Wasted in Worcester” and “Ratso123.”
“Congratulations, you mook!” Ratso shouted.
“What–what’s this all about?” I said, blinking back the orange re-hydrating liquid from my eyes.
“You just hit 4,000 followers!” Wasted said.
At this point I could try to snow you with “aw shucks” false modesty but the truth is, I knew I’d been creeping up on this important milestone for purveyors of on-line bullshit for a long time. I’d just been distracted by the inconveniences and irritations of a cross-country flight and had forgotten to check my “stats” when I got home at 1:30 in the morning. I’d been stuck on 3,999 for quite a while, and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever hit four grand, a watershed that divided the merely good from the greats. I knew I still had a long way to go to qualify for one of those blogging “awards” that you click on and infect your computer with a Russian virus, but I allowed myself a teeny-tiny nanosecond of satisfaction.
When I started blogging in 2006, my wife had expressed her concerns. “Are you sure someone won’t try to steal your identity?” she asked, her forehead creased with wrinkles of concern.
“You’re the one who’s always telling me I have no personality–why would anyone try to steal my identity?”
A friend named Tom–who is not a lawyer–raised a legal concern. “You better watch it,” he said, shaking his head. “You libel somebody you’re going to be in trouble.”
“Not to worry,” I replied. “Everything I write will be either the truth–which is a defense–or fiction. What could possibly go wrong when I treat both categories with scrupulous fairness?”
I’d proved those naysayers wrong; fifteen years later–$0 paid out in claims, and only one vaguely threatening comment from a guy in Milan when I cracked an old joke of the “What’s the difference between [_______] and an elephant?” variety. With “an Italian grandmother” in the blank space.
I’ve acquired quite a number of impressive followers, both individual and corporate (thank you, Metrowest Flooring and Carpet!), in the last decade and a half. There was “Donut Lady,” a woman who likes to festoon herself America’s with favorite breakfast snack. There are residents of third-world countries who thank me for the insights I’ve given them about American culture and mores, just in case they ever decide to come here illegally and don’t want to be arrested by overzealous immigration officers. And there are the many, many women with disproportionately large mammary glands whose profile pictures are selfies taken while looking in their bathroom mirrors–what could be more arousing?
Of course, there will be gifts for Ms. 4,000 (I can’t disclose her name until she signs the legal release) of the sort that are given to consolation prize winners on TV game shows: a home version of “Gerbil News Network,” a year’s supply of Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, 100 pounds of modeling clay, a package of Roseland lard, etc. Sorry if you missed out, at my current pace the next round of giveaways will be sometime in 2024-25 when I hit follower number 5,000. I don’t mean hit hit, probably just Tase the guy or gal.
While the satisfaction of reaching this milestone is more than enough compensation, I think it is fair for me to expect the sort of coals-to-Newcastle ceremony typically held for a baseball player who wins his 300th game, or strokes his 3,000th hit. Fer Christ sake, everyone went nuts when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130th consecutive games played–and I’ve got Ripken beat by 1,368! Typical gifts given by working-stiff fans to millionaire athletes who reach an end-of-career landmark like mine are: (a) new car, (b) rocking chair, and (c) high-powered motorboat. FYI–I already own a rocking chair.
As a writer, the 4,000 follower credential is one that I am told is important to literary agents, who spend their days saying they’re unavailable when I call. Now I can dial up Miriam Drykesworth of Drykesworth Literary or Clive Barker of The Barker Agency and, before their assistants put me on hold, rattle off my “quals,” which is short for “qualifications,” not “Quaaludes,” the synthetic, barbiturate-like central nervous system depressant and popular recreational drug.
“Is he/she expecting your call?” is the gag they’ve always pulled on me in the past, but I’m not going to take that for an answer any more.
“Young man/lady,” I’m going to say from now on, “I have four thousand followers.”
“Wow, that’s impressive,” the tyro will reply. “Jim Jones only talked a thousand people into drinking Kool-Aid.”