Skull Stomping @ American Apparel
by Mike Sauve
PITCH: A man creates a fake Facebook persona named Tarheel Slim to “avenge the offenses against good taste” he witnesses on the newsfeed. The stated goal: “the denigration of rubes.” But the man has a hard time being impolite to said rubes, until, in the real world of all places, Tarheel is unleashed in all his awesome horror.
The personal style of my alter-ego Tarheel Slim had not yet fully developed. Tarheel’s purpose was to avenge the offenses against good taste I witnessed on the Facebook newsfeed. I had been repressing a lot of anger over the personal content posted by my peers. My therapist suggested a fake profile to mock the whole vast, soul-flattening, digital organism. It seemed like a good idea. Under interests Tarheel listed “the denigration of rubes.” I tried to denigrate some rubes, but I didn’t know who to mock. To mock a stranger seemed exceptionally rude, to mock a friend or acquaintance even less healthy. Still, that’s what I set out to do. The purpose of Tarheel Slim was to implode my Facebook ego before deleting both the account in my real name and the Tarheel variation.
The person I wanted to challenge most was among my direct competition as an ersatz Facebook humorist. From my point of view, he was well beneath me in this regard. He was, however, one of the few who commented positively on my efforts, his latest post had me fuming:
Booby Ericsson: despite recent findings, advice and pleas, I’ve decided to carry on doing exactly what I feel like for every single second of every single day. the following people/things/ideologies can go fuck themselves: Bono, morality, the PO-lease, speed limits, anything said un-sartcastically, any action done un-ironically, Travis Tritt, Karma, unsincerity, sincerity, the internet, the rye, my give-a-damn [sic]
I could manage to ignore this abominable effort on its own, but not the 17 fawning comments like: “You are one of the funniest people I know,” “This is your greatest status, you’ve reached your peak,” and worst, “This is the most awesome thing I’ve ever read.”
I wanted to point out that not one element of this list could be considered an ideology, that the word was insincere, and that the entire composition was sophomoric and hackneyed. This was the purpose of the Tarheel Slim profile after all, yet poor Tarheel could only lament this injustice in ruminative paralysis.
Tarheel’s competing post—On choosing to spend a day at the beach over “Sex and the City 2”: That film is a paean to consumerism, materialism and middle-aged shrewery, or among younger viewers—imminent middle age shrewery. The beach on the other hand—it’s like an all-ages bra and underwear party—received not one comment. I did not sleep well that night. I considered deleting the Tarheel Slim account.
The next day Tarheel found his voice while shopping with a friend. I did not expect Tarheel to emerge so dramatically, certainly not in the real world anyway. A sweat-shirt listed at $68 was on sale for $39 at American Apparel. The cashier charged me $68. I didn’t notice until after my credit card had been processed. I alerted the employee to the mistake.
“Sorry, no refunds.”
“It’s not a refund. You charged me the wrong price.”
“Well you paid that price. I can’t help if the item is on sale now.”
“But this actual item, in my bag, has been marked down.”
“Nobody knows when that was written, you could have written that right now.”
“Are you crazy? What kind of two-bit operation are you running here?”
It seemed like a crucial moment of conflict in the clerk’s confused, unhappy life. He would not back down. He perhaps had some kind of deep-rooted spiritual sickness. This opposing ugliness—the ugliness of retail—released the true, terrible Tarheel in all his awesome horror.
The clerk stood on an elevated three foot stoop. He wore a robust Hulk Hogan-style moustache for ironic effect. Tarheel reached up and grabbed both ends of it with his thumbs, forefingers and middle fingers then tried to lift himself up. The clerk screamed in a high tone, “What the hell are you doing?”
“What the hell are you doing?” Tarheel wanted to know. My friend looked horrified. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the whole Tarheel Slim experiment in the first place. Tarheel grabbed the clerk by his long blonde hair and slammed his head into the counter, then started grinding his fist into the clerk’s orbital bone. Tarheel punched his skull ten times to the rhythmic chant of an imagined 1984 wrestling crowd.
Tarheel opened the cash register and heroically grabbed the $30 he was owed, playing entirely to this imagined crowd. With a wild gleam in his eye he grabbed all the bills and threw them in the air, “Make it rain!” he cried in jubilation. He kicked the clerk in the kidneys. The clerk tried to crawl away and Tarheel stomped his skull against the rich, honeyed veneer of the parquet floor.
Tarheel’s friend, as usual, did not know how to engage in the situation, so she did what she always did, and recorded the carnage on her cell phone.
A high-strung manager appeared with a taser, hell-bent on tasing anyone he could. Tarheel got hold of the taser without much difficulty and tased the living daylights out of the manager.
“Anyone else want to get tased?” Tarheel screamed.
A hipster girl who’d been shopping for tights said, “No way, don’t tase me, please.” Tarheel gave her a hard look, but in the end showed mercy.
I went home and logged into Tarheel’s Facebook account. The video titled “Guy loses it at American Apparel” was already posted and had received many comments. Also on the newsfeed, a bleached bimbo from my isolated and television-informed hometown lamented the end of her four-year relationship. Her most popular post had more comments than my many piquant insights from the past month combined: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow,” it said. It was everything Tarheel stood firm against, some functional illiterate’s cheap attempt at Chicken Soup profundity that was blindly—yet genuinely, enthusiastically—supported by a culture of “like”-clicking cave-dwellers.
It would have been real vicious if Tarheel “liked” this given his stated habitus. It would be confounding, annoying, patronizing—the equivalent of an unexpected tasing. Fortunately, I, the real Tarheel now fully personified, didn’t need to resort to online tasing. Thanks to that viral video everyone would know and fear me. Tarheel would no longer remain passive. He would not be overlooked. He would command the volume of comments his ever-expanding ego required, not by the olive branch, but by the sword.