Recently, I finished watching two seasons of the HBO comedy series Bored To Death. The show is about a mildly successful writer in New York City who decides to spice up his life by placing an advertisement on craigslist that reads: Private Detective for Hire, specializing in missing persons and domestic issues. I’m not licensed, but maybe I’m someone who can help you. The main character gets some calls and finds himself in an assortment of adventures, reminiscent of a modern day version of old Hammett or Chandler detective novels. The show was created by novelist, reporter and essayist Jonathan Ames. I listened to an interview with Ames on the podcast WTF? with Marc Maron and thought he sounded like an interesting person. So, I picked up a few books by Ames and came across the story Bored To Death that the show was based on. This brought me to craigslist.
The website is a cornucopia of wants and desires. You could pretty much buy or sell anything, find an apartment, swap houses, get a new job, inquire about that attractive person you saw on the subway yesterday or find a new home for your pet. I scanned through some of the more interesting postings, and under the ‘services: skilled trade’ section, I found this advertisement:
NEMESIS REQUIRED: 6-MONTH PROJECT WITH POSSIBILITY TO EXTEND. I’ve been trying to think of ways to spice up my life. I’m 35 years old, happily married with two kids and I have a good job in accounting. But something’s missing. I need a challenge, something to get the adrenaline pumping again. In short, I need a nemesis. I’m willing to pay $350 up front for your services as an arch-enemy over the next six months. Just to keep me on my toes. You need to have an evil streak and be blessed with innate guile and cunning. You should also be adept at inconspicuous pursuit. Evil laugh preferred.
I was obviously intrigued by this but felt I wasn’t arch-enemy material. When watching movies or reading books, I always related more to the hero than the villain. I’ve always been considered a ‘nice guy’, an idiosyncratic disorder that really hasn’t gotten me anywhere. My evil streak was limited to standing in an elevator and when someone runs for the door, I press the close door button while pretending to be hitting the door open button. I have a loud laugh but I would call it more goofy than evil. I would come to realize, these traits, along with guile and cunning, could be developed.
A few days later, I kept thinking about this advertisement, caught myself in mirrors narrowing my eyes in an attempt at looking evil. So, I sent an email to the person who posted the advertisement. Within an hour, I received a response and instructions. He provided his home address, work address, phone numbers, a photograph and inquired about where to send the $350 cheque. I asked for the cheque to be left in an envelope behind a dumpster down the street from my house, just to be safe, and so he wouldn’t know my address. I added: “The cheque better be there by 5pm tomorrow or else…” I thought the … was a nice touch and a good way to start – both cunning and guily.
I decided to start small. After picking up the cheque and safely depositing it in my bank account, I called his home number. I planned on not saying anything, just breathing heavily into the phone. A little girl answered, “Hello?” I breathed and freaked her out so much she started screaming.
Not wanting to traumatize the guy’s children, I looked up the address of his office and discovered it was a computer software company. His photograph sat on my desk and I picked it up, studied it, memorized it. Even in the photograph, he looked boring. I got to the computer software building early in the morning and sat in a coffee shop across the street, the window providing a view of the entrance. I wore sunglasses and all black: Turtleneck, scarf, coat and boots. I scanned every person’s face that entered the building. The little chime that went off whenever someone walked into the coffee shop rung, I looked over and saw the man from the photograph. I acted like I didn’t know him. He ordered a coffee and sat down with the newspaper. After a moment, I picked up my coffee, walked across the shop, pretended I slipped, spilled my drink in his lap and was gone before he knew what happened.
At the end of the day, I followed him to the subway and got in line behind him at the ticket booth. We waited on the platform and before he stepped into the arriving train, I grabbed his elbow and whispered into his ear, “I’m watching you.” And disappeared into the crowd before he could turn around and get a glimpse of me.
I had to admit that this was all getting quite enjoyable.
The following week, I snuck into his work, telling the secretary that I was here to fix a computer problem. I located his office and loosened a few screws at the base of his chair, so when he sat down, he’d fall to the floor. I switched all the contents of his desk drawers so when he reached for a pen, he would find the stapler and so on. Confusion and frustration would set in. I glued the phone together, so when it rang, he couldn’t lift the receiver. Diabolical.
He sent me money for expenses and I bought some cheap surveillance equipment. I set up a video camera across the street from his house and left in his mailbox DVDs of him and his family coming and going.
I asked for a raise – this was all getting very time consuming.
One day, I was following him down the street after work. He ducked between two buildings. Around the corner, it was empty. I slowly crept down the garbage-strewn alleyway when out of nowhere, he smashed me in the face with his briefcase. I slumped down on to the slimy ground. He kicked me in the stomach and yelled, “Stop following me!” After one more kick, he ran down the alleyway. As I watched him recede into the distance, my eyes narrowed and I said quietly out loud in what you could say was an evil voice: “We’ll meet again!”
I asked a friend who was technologically talented to hack into his email accounts. This was easier than you may think. I spent three days going through his emails and expected to find some mildly incriminating information. Maybe just something weirdly personal that I could use to further my employment and perhaps blackmail him into giving me a bonus. I ended up discovering something that was actually incriminating and it put an end to the entire ordeal. He worked in accounts and I discovered he was skimming money from the company. I was conflicted as to what I should do. Or perhaps I was more confused – I was his arch-enemy after all, and this wasn’t the kind of thing the hero does in the story.
In the end, I printed out the documents and typed an anonymous letter to the company’s board of directors. I watched from across the street at the coffee shop as he was escorted from the office building by two policemen. My belief is he wanted to get caught.
Thus ended my career as an arch-nemesis. In this story, I actually ended up as the good guy.
In the wake of my transition from nemesis to good guy, my life went back to its tediousness. So, I placed my own ad on craigslist:
NEMESIS REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY WITH POSSIBILITY TO EXTEND. I’ve been trying to think of ways to spice up my life. I’m 32 years old and happy with my job and my life. But something’s missing. I need a challenge, something to get the adrenaline pumping again. In short, I need a nemesis. I’m willing to negotiate $$$$$ for your services as an arch-enemy over the next six months. Just keep me on my toes. You need to have an evil streak and be blessed with innate guile and cunning. You should also be adept at inconspicuous pursuit. Evil laugh preferred. Please apply to Jeffrey through email and with the following information:
1. State reasons for your desire to be a nemesis.
2. State your influences.
3. Please include any previous experience.
You can also include an MP3 of your evil laugh.
I will provide updates on any progress of finding my very own nemesis and you can apply to the ad HERE: