All the world’s a terrifying stage |

All the world’s a terrifying stage

Barry Smith

Sure, I like to act all tough, but here’s the truth about me that may come as a surprise – I’ve never punched someone in the face repeatedly until I was pulled away by bystanders and, eventually, by the police.This is because, as far as I know, no one has set me up on one of those TV prank shows.Wait, let me back up …A few years ago – on my birthday – I noticed my wife was cooking a huge pot of chili. I mean huge, like enough for a prison ward. Being inquisitive and generally interested in all aspects of life, I asked, “What are you cooking all that chili for?”She answered, without looking up from stirring: “I just like having food around.””Oh,” I said. I didn’t give it another thought, but instead walked out into the yard and stared blankly at a tree.That evening we went to a friend’s house – just a little dinner party for three. I was even carrying this humongous pot of chili! I thought nothing of this. In fact, I remember my exact thought as I walked up to the door. It was this: “Dum de dum.” I like to think of it as a state of Zen.”Surprise!” the room full of people yelled when I opened the door. I didn’t fully understand. Sure, it was my birthday, but still. My eyes went from person to person quickly and I saw that there were people I knew from different parts of my life, together for the first time. Weird.”Surprise!” someone yelled again, sensing the awkwardness.I walked in and set the chili pot down (always lift with your legs) and people began hugging me.”It’s a surprise party,” I said to each one of them, “that’s why she made all the food.”They each held me tight, patted my back and whispered, “It’s OK … everything’s OK now.”Only then did I start to piece it all together – the hushed phone calls, chili for 30, the random first-time dinner at someone’s house. How could I have been so clueless? There could have been a meth lab in my living room and I’d just step around it and say, “What’s with all the allergy medicine packets and friends stopping by at 2 a.m.?” And my wife would have replied, “I’m just gregarious,” leaving me to wander through the house thinking, “… need to look up ‘gregarious.'”It was the first time I came face to face with my cluelessness. And it scared me.This is why, each time I turn on the TV and see some new Candid Camera rip-off, I’m terrified. Every person at that party saw how terrified and confused I was at the admission of “surprise.” Plenty of mental notes were made that night, and now there’s probably good money involved for getting your clueless friends to act stupid on TV.I can’t help but feel that everyone is out to punk me.I no longer sing in my car. I take a shower with my clothes on. I remain unaffected no matter what potentially phony situation is happening around me – carjacking, woman giving birth, oxygen mask dropping from the ceiling, zombie invasion – you can’t fool me. I’m constantly making it clear that I know what you all are up to, and I want no part of it.ME: I do not give permission for the audio or video taping of my likeness, or the subsequent broadcasting thereof.WAITER: Fair enough. Can I start you off with a drink? We have Thorazine margaritas.Despite this I know that at any moment someone is going to say, “You see that hidden camera right over there? You’re on the new TV show:”You’re Adopted!””You’re Canadian!””You’re Infected!””You Have No Real Friends!””This Isn’t Your Stuff!””You’re A Woman!”But I will not be pleasantly relieved and start hugging the host and high-fiving the friend who set me up, laughing heartily at the good-natured fun of it all.No, I’ll begin punching until the authorities arrive.Which will certainly make for great TV.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at