Wednesday, November 28, 2018

COLUMN: Alien Hunting

As I type this, it's 9:30 at night. I'm sitting alone in my car, just me and my laptop, in the parking lot at Schwiebert Park in downtown Rock Island.

Why I am writing a column in such a peculiar locale and not in the usual position of lying sideways on my couch with a cat precariously balanced on my shoulder? Simple. I'm on a stakeout for UFOs. Duh.

Scoff all you want, people, but it's happening. A couple days ago someone uploaded a video to Youtube showing a creepy white light hovering unnaturally in the sky before it appears to ascend vertically into the clouds. The video was purportedly shot by a truck driver, and it was supposedly filmed somewhere just south of the Quad Cities.

Last night, a friend of mine captured grainy cell phone footage of two green lights he saw travel across the horizon, hop the Missisippi, and disappear somewhere over the Rock Island horizon. It appears the Quad Cities is rife this summer with unidentified flying objects. This is entirely unacceptable.

My whole life I've wanted to see something cool like a UFO in the sky. I've been on countless roadtrips, umpteen aimless drives, and more wasted hours than I care to admit staring wistfully at the night sky, and I've yet to catch even the tiniest glimpse of any wayward alien tourists. Now people in the Quad Cities are spotting genuine unexplained lights in the sky, and none of these people are ME. This is super unfair.

I am a firm believer that we are not alone in the universe. The odds are just too stacked against it. We're standing on merely one of eight (sorry, Pluto) planets that orbit our sun. Our sun is but one of 250 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is but one of 100 billion galaxies that we've been able to identify with the Hubble telescope. On the big map of the universe, we are less than a pinpoint. We are less than a molecule dancing on the head of that pinpoint. You simply can't tell me that out of the infinite abyss of the endless universe, we're the only ones with enough common sense to grow legs and stroll out of the ether.

Maybe there's life on one of Jupiter's mysterious moons. Maybe the nearest life is a kajillion light years away. Maybe that version of "life" is little more than a lump of moss chilling on some space rock somewhere. Or maybe that "life" is a race of sentient space wolves who've mastered interstellar travel. We literally have no idea.

The internet is awash in UFO videos, and I'm enough of a dreamer and/or idiot to watch them all. Most are fake, silly, and easily explained -- but a few of them are genuinely creepy and maybe, just maybe, the real deal. Perhaps it's the military testing new technology, maybe it's E.T. waving hello, or maybe it's those space wolves looking for an appetizer. Who knows? The only thing I'm sure about is that I'm not letting a UFO go unseen by me tonight. I'm here for the long haul, eyes skyward.

9:45 p.m. Nothing yet, but I feel all kinds of Fox Mulder cool. Truth be told, if I DID see a UFO, I'd probably just freeze and pee my pants, but for now, I feel like a cool FBI alien hunter.

9:55 p.m. It's a good thing I'm NOT with the FBI, because the kids in the car over there are passing around what does NOT look like a normal cigarette.

10:05 p.m. OMIGOD I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! LET ME GET MY CAM -- no, wait, that's just an airplane.

10:10 p.m. I will never not love the way the downtown WHBF aerial tower looks at night. It's my Eiffel.

10:15 p.m. NO. FREAKING. WAY. I TOTALLY SEE A -- oh, that's just Jupiter.

10:25 p.m. I'm starting to think I look less like a cool FBI alien hunter and more like a weird middle-aged creeper hanging out by himself at a park after dark. If a cop asks me what I'm doing, I'd better have an answer that isn't "looking for aliens."

10:35 p.m. Okay, so the "long haul" I was in for turned out to be roughly 45 minutes. I'm now back home, safely sideways on my couch with a cat on my shoulder. It turns out my desire to see a UFO is tempered only by my desire to NOT be seen as a park creeper. Plus I'm pretty sure I saw ANOTHER park creeper there, and I'm pretty sure he had dibs.

So if you see an eerie light in the sky, don't tell me about it. I'll be mad jealous. Just put it on Youtube and I'm sure I'll see it soon enough.

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