Yes, cherished text imbiber, once again it’s time for the passively interactive column, “Did this conversation actually take place?” It’s a reading experience so pleasurably addictive that several state legislatures want to tax it by the syllable.

Yes, cherished text imbiber, once again it’s time for the passively interactive column, “Did this conversation actually take place?” It’s a reading experience so pleasurably addictive that several state legislatures want to tax it by the syllable.


The rules are simple enough for an editor to explain with clarity. Did the conversation detailed below actually take place verbatim, was it partially contrived, or is it wholly the product of an unfettered imagination that should have stayed fettered?


As always, there’s no reward for arriving at the correct answer, save the sense of satisfaction that comes with excelling in an exercise that has no point.


The scene: a cubicle-strewn office somewhere within the continental United States. Various workers carry on with various tasks in various parts of the office when a man enters and removes his winter coat by lifting it over his head rather than unzipping it. The man looks about him to gauge any reaction, and the following conversation takes place.


Or does it?


Coat man:You didn’t even notice it that time, did you?


Rebecca:I noticed it. I was trying to be polite.


Coat man:It’s broken. The zipper won’t work. That’s all there is to it. There’s nothing that can be done.


Rebecca:(Resignedly, as if she’d had this conversation many times before.) There has to be something that can be done. It’s got to be something that can be fixed.


Coat man:It’s a double zipper, and the bottom one’s stuck. That’s it. You’d need a team of mechanical engineers to fix this thing working around the clock.


Alice:Is he still lifting his coat over his head like he’s in kindergarten? You can’t fix that?


Coat man: There was this little village in a remote part of Southeast Asia, Alice …


Rebecca: This is what he tells me, about the village in Southeast Asia.


Coat man: … And in this village, all the people after a certain age had this pronounced stoop. An outsider asked them about it and they said that’s just what happens when people get older. They stoop. But the outsider pointed out that all the villagers used brooms with handles that were only two feet long, forcing them to stoop all their lives and leaving them in a prematurely permanent stoop.


Alice:Just fix it. (She reaches for the coat, but coat man pulls it back and puts it back on, over his head, knocking his glasses off his face. He picks up the glasses.)


Coat man:It simply can’t be fixed. If you try to fix it, it will break and then I won’t be able to zipper it at all. It’s because of these stupid double zippers. I don’t need a double zipper. No one needs a double zipper. I had a double-zipper coat do the same thing a couple years ago.


Stu: I had a coat do the same thing when I was 5.


Coat man:(Expletive deleted.)


Well, that’s it for this latest installment of, “Did this conversation actually take place?” Send your epiphanies to the address below.


Coat man is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Raynham office in Massachusetts, and can be reached at fmulliga@cnc.com.