The Invisible Man

I didn’t exist in 1983. For an entire year I was virtually invisible. While this may sound tantalizingly mysterious and magically adventurous like something out of “Harry Potter,” at the time it was a hard fact to reconcile with. You try being invisible for a year and see how you like it.

It all started when my two college roommates and I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in West L.A. to begin our senior year at UCLA. It was a very nice apartment, in a very nice large contemporary complex with a fully loaded rec room, two pools, two hot tubs and everything. In fact, the complex was so nice that we almost didn’t get an apartment. It was the last one. We were lucky.

Sometimes luck is relative.

Sometimes luck is relative.

Back then there was an L.A. building code that said you couldn’t have more than two people living in a one-bedroom apartment. It probably still exists. The point is, we were three people. Mathematically, this doesn’t work out.

But here’s the thing: You can manipulate mathematics so that you get the answer you want. Especially if you’re desperate. It’s easy to get desperate if you’re searching for an apartment in L.A. a week before school starts.

My roommates and I talked about it, and I volunteered to become anonymous. My two roommates signed the lease. We split the rent equally three ways. It was a great, relatively cheap arrangement.

As Einstein often cautioned, you should never cheat at math.

Living at the apartment wasn’t a problem. The complex was so big that nobody was the wiser. We made copies of the keys. One of my roommates volunteered to sleep on the sofa (actually, he always just ended up falling asleep there anyway so it became his de facto bed).

The problem came in my existing.

to be or not to be

To be or not to be?

In order to officially exist (I soon discovered), you must have a local living address. It’s an easy fact to overlook. It’s one of those things you take for granted, like hot water and working toilets and refrigerators. Never take a local living address for granted or you’ll live to regret it.

The first thing I had to do was work out an arrangement with friends and family so they could write to me. This wasn’t too much of a problem. All they had to do was address their letters to one of my roommates. I’d recognize the return address and know that the letter was actually for me. I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that one. I thought I had it all worked out.

The thing is, on a day-to-day basis, you don’t realize how often your address is requested, demanded, or inquired about by people other than friends and family. It’s about the most popular thing you have.

I made this discovery while registering for classes. I had to stop at the Address Correction card. It’s hard to change a local address if you supposedly don’t have one. I ended up putting my permanent address as my local address. Consequently, all my school related material went home to Northern California.

If something was mailed on a Tuesday, it usually took about two weeks to arrive. That was okay for the most part. But if it was something important, like if you don’t pay $50 in back fees in the next three days you’ll be kicked out of school, then it really causes complications.

You can’t subscribe to magazines. You can’t personalize your checks. Every time you buy groceries, you have to explain to the checker why you don’t have a local address. Checkers don’t like people who don’t have local addresses, I discovered.

When you’re applying for a job, you have to put a line through the space where it asks for a local address. It’s been my experience that employers don’t hire people who openly claim that they don’t exist.

invisible visible ghost

Plus, I’m so cute I couldn’t even scare people.

The real complications come when you get mixed up with the law. I got mixed up with the law a lot that year, probably more than all the times in my past combined.

First, I got a ticket for not having my moped registered. I tried to explain to the officer that it was a simple oversight and that I was a law-abiding citizen. But when the officer got to the part about wanting my local address, I could see my argument was in trouble.

Then my moped was stolen. Try explaining to a detective how a moped was stolen out of a building where neither you nor your moped has any business being. Not existing can really punch holes in your credibility.

I even got a telephone call offering me free prizes. I’d never gotten anything for free before in my entire life. I had to turn the offer down. I explained to the lady that I couldn’t accept the free prizes because I didn’t exist. She must have thought I was crazy. To tell you the truth, I sort of thought I was too. Imagine turning down a free T.V. because you’re invisible.

It was a tough year. There was a time when I might have thought being invisible would be a fantastic thing. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s really a migraine-sized inconvenience.

My visibility returned after graduation. I was ecstatic. Not so much for my film degree so much as for my return to visibility.

I've heard today's kids have it much worse.

I’ve heard today’s kids have it much worse.

If you can help it, always try to exist. It makes life a lot easier.

Author Don Holley is the writer and couch potato for Couch Potato Productions since June, 1984. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area where he composes pearls of wit and wisdom. Specializing in tight, lean, spare dialogue and humor with emphasis on lampoon and satire, he has the unique ability to write double-sided manuscripts on MacBook Pro. Unremarkably, he possesses the psychic power to look into people’s glove compartments, can speak 36 different amphibian languages, coined the expression “Cray-Cray” and can fly without flapping arms. All praise to you Don Holley. Read more of his work here:

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Published with the permission of the author.

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