I need all humans to stop reading right now.
Are they gone? Good. This one is for the aliens. Yes, I know you guys are here. By now, the unidentified objects destroyed over Alaska and Canada will have no doubt been covered up as balloons or drones or something. But I know what's up. Or, rather, what's shot down. I don't have any first-hand military intelligence—or intelligence at all—but I have seen a lot of movies, and I know this is how most of them start. A mysterious object crashes in the frozen tundra and a team of experts goes to examine the debris. And what do they find? You guys, plus a whole bunch of death and destruction. I'm hoping maybe we can skip that second part.
Of course, we did shoot you down. Let me explain. There are some things you need to understand about us humans. As bad as having your aircraft blown up might seem, it could be worse. You could have been flying commercial. No matter how much we mistreat you, I promise you we will always treat our own much worse. The more alike we are, the meaner we are to each other. It's the slight differences that really drive us mad. Protestants versus Catholics. North versus South. Those who put the toilet paper roll on overhand versus actual monsters. The closer we are to one another, the more of a rivalry there is. Just ask two people who went to different colleges in the same state. But you guys aren’t like us in any way. There's no reason we can't be friends. You know, if we stop blowing you out of the sky.
Perhaps I should give you a rundown of humanity in general before there are any more misunderstandings. First of all, you can't go creeping around in our airspace—or creeping around in general. It's rude, and people don't like being observed. Scratch that. We love being observed. Pretty much all of our internet bandwidth is devoted to it. We document every second of our lives in pictures and videos and texts and post it all on the internet for everyone else to see. Only no one sees it because we're all too busy uploading stuff about ourselves to see what anybody else has to show us. And while we're all aggressively oversharing, corporations and governments are stealing our private information, which is the biggest joke of all because none of it was private in the first place. There's nothing we won't do for a few more views. When you sneak around in the clouds, though, you don't show up in our analytics, so it doesn't count. If you're going to observe us from the sky, throw a few likes and retweets our way first. And maybe become a Substack subscriber while you're at it.
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So as you can see, you didn't need to lurk in the clouds to learn about us. All you had to do was ask. If there's one thing we love to do, it's say too much and then immediately regret it. Poor impulse control is one of our trademarks. It's how all the most important stuff gets done. One minute, we're sitting around sharing a few beers with our buddies, and the next, we've built the pyramids. You probably knew that. There are more than a few conspiracy theorists who claim you guys are responsible for a whole bunch of ancient structures. But maybe you didn't build anything here. You just supplied the beer.
I'm kind of nervous now about how long you've been watching us. If you saw certain things, you might have gotten the wrong idea. I'm assuming you're technologically advanced if you could make it all the way to our humble planet and then keep tabs on us undetected for any length of time. At the very least, this proves you have a longer attention span than we do. If we were the ones watching, we would have changed the channel by now. Maybe that's why miracles are so hard to come by these days. If there is a higher power in the celestial observation booth, he (or she) long ago got distracted and started scrolling on their phone. I hear they have 7G in heaven. Full disclosure, I'm the absolute worst person to ask for information about human religions. I'd point you towards the pope, but he seems pretty busy these days. Keeping that pointy hat upright is a full-time job. If you really want to know about faith, check in with any kid at school who just found out about a test they didn't study for. Nobody's praying harder than them.
Do aliens have religion? I assume you do. Even believing in nothing is a belief of sorts. Imagine if your religion is the same as one of ours. That would pretty much prove it's the right one. What are the odds that intelligent beings on two different planets could be wrong in the same way at the same time? Please tell me you're not scientologists.
It's ironic that I'm asking you about your beliefs because, until a few days ago, most people didn't believe in you. Sure, we could accept the fact there was life out there somewhere. We just thought it wouldn't be smart enough to visit here. Scratch that. We thought it would be too smart to visit here. Any race with the technology to cross the cosmos would surely have somewhere better to be than the planet with printed warnings not to iron your clothes while you're wearing them. If you haven't heard of lawsuits, you should look into them. There's probably a big one coming your way regarding unauthorized surveillance.
What exactly did you expect to see from up there, anyway? From forty thousand feet, we probably look like a bunch of ants scurrying about to jobs we don't like and can't wait to leave. Although if you've been up there for a few years, you might have seen a while where we didn't drive much of anywhere. Instead, we got to hate the same jobs remotely. It was a golden age for unmotivated employees. I regret that we're once again more interesting to watch.
You might wonder why we do things we don't want to. There are some tasks that are so bad the only way to get anyone to do them is to coerce them with money. If you get enough of those tasks together, it's called an economy. It's what makes the world go round. Not literally. That's gravity or something. You probably know more about that than we do. What we do know a lot about is working very hard to make other people rich. And what do we get in return? The satisfaction of a job well done. Just kidding. We mostly get crippling debt and work-related migraines. Are you sure you visited the right planet?
Let's be honest: This probably isn't the first place you've done your peeping Tom routine. You're most likely professional interstellar voyeurs. I realize we're not special to you, but you are special to us. We don't blow just anyone out of the sky. Do you know how much those missiles cost? You should be honored. We could have built three hospitals for the cost of obliterating even one of your spacecraft. We have our priorities straight, and the top one will always be cool things that move fast and go boom. I'm sure your weapons are more advanced than ours, so thanks for not destroying us first. Then again, maybe you can only cross the stars because, while we dedicated ourselves to military research, you devoted yourselves to peaceful space travel. If that's the case, you made a huge mistake. Earth is essentially one giant battlefield. We don't have war and peace; we have war and reloads. You better learn to duck.
Not that we're all bad. The world is full of wonderful people. I've never met any, but statistically, they must be out there. For every one of me, there's got to be a saint or celebrity activist to balance the scales. I don't know why I'm trying to justify all this to you. It's probably all the bad science fiction I've seen and read. There are so many movies and books where the plot is that a more advanced alien race shows up to pass judgment on humanity. That's so cliché. If you flew all the way here solely to judge us, then I'm definitely judging you. I find you to be condescending jerks.
See how unfair that is? There's no equitable way to evaluate an entire species. You'd have to judge us individually, which would take forever. It would be much easier to throw up your hands and give us all a passing grade. That's how I got through high school.
What's education like back where you're from? I assume you found a better system than forcing kids to sit still and be miserable for eight hours a day. It's a bad way to learn, but it's a great way to get ready for the workforce. The only difference between grade school and a job in a cubicle is the paycheck. Personally, I'd give up the salary if they gave me back recess. I hope that, in your futuristic civilization, you found a way to upload knowledge directly into children's brains. There would be no reason to test anyone if everyone was running off the same data files. On the other hand, I don't know how you would separate individuals by merit. We reserve our most prestigious educational institutions for the best and brightest. Well, the second-tier of the best and brightest. The actual best and brightest marry rich and never work a day in their lives. I want a do-over.
It might sound like I'm being awfully hard on the human race, but that's my basic function. Don't take anything I say too seriously. I'm a comedy writer, which means I'm a professional complainer. You might have a perfect society where no one wants for anything, but if you let me visit, I would write a two thousand-word article about everything there that annoys me. Then you'd want for something after all: to get rid of me. Now I bet you really wish you developed those space lasers.
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Sadly, I'm most likely talking to no one. Even as I wrote this Saturday night, the first cracks in the alien narrative started to emerge. It wasn't a spacecraft at all, the experts began to say. It was a drone or a spy balloon or Santa's sleigh flying through some swamp gas. Instead of feeling petty and small because some vastly superior civilization crossed space and possibly time to watch us, I felt petty and small because some other nation devoted its best, most cutting-edge technologies to pursuing the same petty ends that human beings have been going after since the dawn of time. One scenario had us looking up, and the other had us looking back. For a while this weekend, it really did seem like there might be aliens among us. Then reality set in, or the cover story started up, depending on your point of view. And now, on Monday morning, we're back to the same unremarkable world we had before the weekend began. We're like a half-hour sitcom that resets each and every week. At least we always know what to expect. Nobody is breaking any new ground, but everybody feels comfortable, and a lucky few are getting rich from the syndication rights. That's the world I live in. Who knows if there's another world out there somewhere where another species lives in some other way. If there is, I strongly recommend they stay there, for their good and for ours. We have a lot more missiles ready to go.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now. Catch you next time.