I used to work in the Flatiron District, in a building that had a winding labyrinth of fire escapes hidden away from the street. We called one section of that fire escape the “smoking lounge.”
There were but a few smokers in the three-floor office building, and we would often run into each other at the “lounge.” There was really one room for one or two, or maybe three, people at a time. But that was fine with me, because I usually preferred to be alone on that fire escape anyway, just to get a break from the all-day small talk at work.
Dave, however, liked to talk. Dave was a heavyset middle-aged man who worked on the third floor, for a company that makes time clocks — punch in, punch out, you know the drill. Above his grey mustache and thick gray hair, he wore his magnifying goggles on his head all day, even though I’m not exactly sure what he did with them.
Dave also loved to talk about sci-fi and conspiracy theories. If I happened to step outside and find him there, smoking his cigarette, he’d ask me how’s it going and say:
“You know how Saturn has all those moons? Turns out one of them isn’t a moon. They just got pictures back from one of those Hubble telescopes. It looks like a normal moon on one side, but then on the other side, the one that we can’t see from Earth, it’s something different. It has sharp angles, a bunch of little squares or triangles or something like a geometric design — not natural like a planet — and we can only see it now because it looks like it’s oxidized. You know what means?”
He gives me a look as if to say, This is significant. Pay attention.
“That means it’s made of carbon. Or metal. Like it’s man-made. Whatever dust and dirt was covering it is eroding away, so what’s left is what’s underneath.”
Where did you hear about this?
“A website called Enterprise Mission dot com. You should check it out. It’s got all the stuff they don’t want you to know.”
Enterprise Mission? Enterprise, like the spaceship in Star Trek? Sure, sounds legit.
“Yeah, yeah, exactly.”
The conversation would always end when our cigarettes were smoked down to the filters, but would resume the next time we were both on the fire escape. Whether it was hours, days, or weeks in between sessions, we would always pick up right where things left off. (That is, except for a month-long stretch in which I didn’t see Dave at all. He had to have double bypass heart surgery — which only resulted in cutting down a pack-a-day habit to about half a pack, so he was right back on that fire escape in no time.)
The story about Enterprise Mission and Death Star-type manufactured moons would lead to a conspiracy theory about aliens, which would become a story about secret mid-20th century innovations in time travel and teleportation, which would turn into one series of “Did you know?” questions after another.
I don’t know how many of Dave’s stories are true; I was never able to verify any of them. It could just be the cynic in me, but most of his “proof” could easily be disregarded as an optical illusion or a good Photoshop trick. That doesn’t mean he didn’t believe each and every one of them to be fact, though, and that almost made me believe too.