I was in the line at the office downtown to file the copyright forms for "Tradical," which is a really cool combination of "traditional" and "radical," signifying my opposition to the status quo but also my commitment to restoring the virtues that made things really great. So anyway, there I was, this seventeen page application thing in my hand, and I bump into this squishy pink glittery spandex thing, and it's this chick's fat ass, and she's in line in front of me. We got to talking, and I noticed that under her elbow by her white rhinestone purse, she had a packet of paper like mine, and lo and behold, she was about to copyright "Tradical" for her organization, except, for her, she meant it to be a cool combination of "transsexual" and "radical," which signified her opposition to the status quo but also her commitment to a new status quo of no status quos, which is to say, a transquotient-quotient, in which one transcends everything while also re-establishing it except reestablishing it as something which cannot itself be transcended, except when it can, and with everyone respecting the transquotient but not (in theory) the trans-transquotient, but without being intolerant of either the latter or the former. I realized that she was in the line in front of me, and therefore her application would be processed first, so the clerk at the counter would be forced to check the system and refuse me my copyright since someone had already taken the name! She was one of those very large apple-shaped Tradicals (oh how I loathe thinking of her using the term that should have been mine!) where I couldn't tell what she was resisting or what she was supporting, since she could've been a bulky lesbian trans-ally who used to kick ass at rugby and was driven by concern for her teammates to ensure that they could choose to be the dainty feminine woman she'd never shown interest in being, or a pudgy man who used to kick ass at programming and was driven by concern for being a dainty feminine woman and so wore a sparkly pink dress.
I knew you weren't supposed to think it, but I was thinking it, studying it, puzzling over it, driven no less by intellectual curiosity than by my own personal ire at her being one position ahead of me in line on the day I had finally come up with the perfect name for my new resistance organization. What the hell was she? Who the hell did she think she was, anyway? Her skin was leathery and dry like a week at the beach. Bleached blonde curls wafted waves of perfume into the lobby; her roots were dark brown bordering on gray, but that applies to plenty of born-women too, and her hands were very small and dainty. She hadn't put on makeup, had no discernible Adam's apple, looked like hell, and had no visible stubble, so I was starting to lean toward the "not trans herself" conclusion when she asked if I would hold her place in line since she hadta go to the potty. Yes, she said "potty," and I excitedly told her I'd be happy to, since then she'd be out of the way and, if my number came first, I could seize "Tradical" by the reins before she got there! Of secondary importance was figuring out what she was, and lo and behold, she chose the men's bathroom, apologizing to me on her way that while our County technically had some questionable protections on the book for self-identification, she loved children and still felt it was more appropriate that she choose based on surgical identification.
Now I was lost. They called the number of the dude three places ahead of me and I didn't even remember to shuffle forward for a couple minutes. Did that mean the nomenclatural interloper who'd been ahead of me was a man, a woman, or both? Was she in the men's bathroom because he loved children and didn't want to scare the ones in the ladies room when she pulled out a third lower appendage, or was she in the men's bathroom, because she birth-identified as a man who--no, wait, that would be the inverse of the first ponderable--rather, was she in the men's bathroom because her surgeon had identified her as one, and then she'd changed back out of regret, but felt it was unfair to keep using the ladies room after such an adjustment? And if she was going to wear the dress and carry the purse, why bother converting for bathroom purposes only? Put her in a polo shirt and spats, cut her hair, throw on some loafers and a chain bracelet, and she'd look like a retired mobster, with no need to explain to anyone no matter what she pulled out at the urinal.
To hell with this, I told myself. Wherever she was, I hope she got stuck in the sink, the toilet, wherever, so long as it kept her busy while I filed my form. This city was going to get a dose of the Tradical tradition, a radical change with a traditional edge--a tradicalition? What would I tell the reporters, when they came calling? What would I put on the website? My mission statement should include an adjective that spelled out our agenda--something brand new and time-tested, unique and easily explicable, that I could get trending without too many misspellings redirecting people. If you can "radicalize" someone, surely you can "tradicalize" them. If an Imam can enable the radicalization of youth, surely I could enable the tradicalization of youth.
But all of those left cottonballs in my mouth, since they were really only the original word with a "t" in front. And I could see all too well how that conniving he-she in the bathroom right now could take any one of my new terms and convert it into her-his evil version of the same thing! Like, instead of traditionally radicalizing people--no, wait, that would be actually radicalizing them...well, the point is, whatever tradicalizing I did, her organization could claim was "trans-radicalizing," so all the fliers I handed out at the office (and secretly snuck into the above-urinal space in restaurant bathrooms in a fiendish example of guerrilla marketing) would be re-purposed by her-him without so much as a sideways fart of effort, merely by spreading awareness of his-her version of "Tradical."
An hour and thirty-five minutes in line, and I could already see how she was going to completely and utterly destroy everything I'd thought of. If I copyrighted first, she'd use the community awareness I had built in order to springboard her own organization to the top of the charts by portraying herself as the underdog. I could see the headlines now: "City licensing office denies 'Tradical' group; cites earlier commitment." Springsteen's roadies would plaster my name all over the internet, my in-laws wouldn't let me use their high-capacity laser printer to do up my guerrilla fliers, and suddenly I'd be portrayed as the establishment.
Bullshit! I hung back, resolving that I would not file first. I'd let the he-she file, get denied myself, then go to the press, the underdog victim with a Tradical dream destroyed by a Tradical dream. Only one problem--the creature in the pink dress hadn't emerged from the men's room, yet, and her number was the next to be called. When she didn't respond, they'd call the next number, mine, and I'd be forced to approach the window and file. She'd become the underdog, I'd be the establishment, and then there'd be nothing radical about me, nothing at all; I'd be a mere traditionalist, a generic zooarchaeological tidbit who served only to make her rise to prominence the more interesting. And if I threw away the number, I'd have to go to the little red thing and take a new number, start the whole process over, and there went my afternoon. Even worse, all of the people behind me in line would see me throwing away the number, and they'd wonder why I'd done it, and they'd see me go to the back, and who the hell waits in line for a long time and then throws away his card when his number is called? They'd think I was a terrorist casing the place, and I'd have to go downtown to answer some questions. Since I already was downtown, I was doubly screwed; then they'd have double the time for questions, and I was liable to let something spill, who knows what, they have something on everybody, my phone was filled with pictures that could be construed as incriminating by any impassioned DA.
Where the hell was the he-she? Get out of the bathroom already, you giant kumquat freak! Get out here and register your name so that I can be rejected for Tradical and report to the newspaper that there's just no place in this land anymore for tradition and be made thereby a radical because the system had denied my request for peaceable change! What are you doing in there, for god's sake, it's been another twenty minutes and you're still in the men's bathroom, are you standing by the mirror reevaluating your life and wondering if maybe you should've used the other one? And what the hell is a "surgical identification"? Is it what they call the one you choose after your first reassignment surgery, or am I behind on the times, and it's actually what they call a "birth identification" if your mother had a Caesarean instead of a stirrups?
No dice. They called my number. So I did what any self-respecting person would do: I tried to renew my nonexistent hunting license, acted furious when the lady couldn't find it in the system, and stormed out of the place in disgust, giving the security guards a look like, "Yeah, I know you all set this up to protect the ducks, but I'm going to go hunting this summer anyway." I felt pretty good with myself after that, like I really did have a prefabricated shed out back filled with rifles and duck calls, and like I might well hop in my truck and go blast an entire pond full of ducks in defiance of the system. It got me thinking, so after a while of driving around grumbling about "Tradical" and trying to sound out alternative names, I went into a gun store, and there she was: the hefty apple, the potential trans-lady in the sparkly pink dress, no, but actually a rather pretty young thing who said she was supposed to buy a "Sieg Heiler" for her boyfriend, who couldn't come in today because he was working. I put on a shrewd expression and went to the wall to study a display case of rifles mounted like fishing trophies while a wheelchair comes out of the back and its operator begins showing the pretty girl some Sig Sow-ers. I was pretty deep into a fantasy about passing some freezing, stormswept night with that girl in a zero-G pressure tent (they had camping stuff also, replete with pictures of brawny men using it in a completely hetero way), when the guy in the wheelchair told the pretty girl that her boyfriend would really have to come in himself if he wanted to get something lined up today.
She gets on her phone, and not a minute later, in walks this giant tattooed Mexican, torn sleeves, aggressively short beard, at least three chain wallets dangling from his jeans. Great, now she'll never go camping with me, I think. Instead, the Mexican ignores everyone, walks to this vending machine in the corner, and pays $8 for a small bag of M&Ms. I'm in shock, wondering, "How the hell is that even here?" but no one else seems to think it out of the ordinary, and then the Mexican is leaving and in comes a weird dumpy guy with thick glasses and a faded West Point t-shirt. His neck freckles compete with his blushing grin as he overconfidently tells the man in the wheelchair about the minor ways in which his other several handguns have irritated him, mentioning a lot of technical details that the wheelchair dude is kind enough to respond to respectfully. Six minutes in, they're best friends. They're talking about 1930s Polish tanks, and when a delivery truck arrives with two cartons of orange "hunting tape," which is apparently a real product, the customer signs for them and the owner in the wheelchair doesn't even mind.
The delivery guy pushes the outer door open. A gas truck sweeps by in a rush of hot exhaust, ready to refill the station at the corner. Inside the gun shop, owner and customer begin filling out paperwork. The pretty girl wanders over to look at the vending machine, notices the prices, and wrinkles her nose in disgust. I turn to the hunting ads on the wall. Three men are standing in treed marshland, satisfied with the position of their tent, the position of their fire, and with the snakes of steam bubbling up from their three NeoVac 9 Beef Stroganoff single-serving preserve packs. Their dog, a beautiful drooping long-ribbed creature of brown and black, is pictured in mid-stride across a patch of meshy olive ground, paws extended fore and aft like the happiest moment of his life.
I turn away from the image in despair. Like a lost soul, I stagger toward the counter. They call him Duckbane the Slayer. There was nothing higher. I find my resolve and turn toward the pretty girl. "Hey," I say, pointing. "You want to get out of here? I'll take you to a new world." Just saying it opened a window in my mind. A new reality beckoned.
Her lip twisted. "Umm, excuse me?" For the first time, I saw her terrifying ugliness. I saw her in a treed marshland of recirculated smog, sitting on a folding canvas seat, reading a magazine about the past with pictures of government buildings and gun stores, where I was every person waiting in line and every person looking for a parking space outside.