For most of the middle years of the eighties, I lived in Madison. Now Madison isn’t really as not-Wisconsin as some people (many of them Madisonians) like to believe, but there were some distinctly not-Wisconsin touches here and there…sometimes, directly abutting quintessentially Wisconsin characteristics.
For example, your basic midwestern family-style restaurant. (“Family-style” restaurants are, presumably, those that do not feature naked waitstaff, nor do they require all customers to be single.) This is the kind of place that has paper placemats, and one side has some four-color drawings of cows and wheat and the like (or worse: badly reproduced photos of menu items), while the reverse has some sort of kid-oriented backdrop, usually featuring the sort of deadly dull games guaranteed to bore kids instantly. The mats are useful, though, to be scrawled on by kids, should crayons be available.
Anyway, one of these kid placemats (of course, as dull as they were for kids, they were more interesting to a handful of drunken college students haunting the family-style place that was open until 3 in the morning, for all those restless children who couldn’t sleep) had a puzzle of some sorts, one of whose clues featured a phrase that’s haunted me throughout the years since. I have no idea what the answer was supposed to have been – typically, of course, they’re printed upside down in 7-point type – but perhaps that portion of the placemat succumbed to fried grease or something, because I don’t think I ever knew it either. The phrase meant to clue us in, though, was rather odd:
I’M ONLY AS LARGE AS AN ANT AND I’M HIDING IN YOUR CAR
I actually Googled this – no luck. Anyway, pretty clearly there are many places in a car for something ant-sized to hide – and I don’t think it’s a pun (like the way “Tom” is hiding in your “auTOMobile,” say), since “car” has only three letters.
Still, there’s something vaguely menacing about this one. I mean, how likely is it we can find this very small being – a very small being who somehow has managed to make his existence known via a sentence in all caps on a family-style placemat? Can we guess at its intentions? Does it plan on sabotaging some aspect of the car, turning our ride back from the restaurant into a deadly game of
cat-and-mouse chance? Or maybe this small creature is hiding…from some other, even more frightening creature.
Uh, I think I’ll take a bus home instead, thanks.