24 March 2013

Restoring Mr. Squish’s status quo.

One freak wormhole later and Leonard Squish has Quantum Leap-ed into the body of Leonard “Ding-a-Ling” Walston, pathetic hack movie reviewer for Channel 32, all so he can set right what had once been wrong… no wait, that’s the other guy. Um… Here to basically have some more self-centered semi-anarchistic fun, now with a brand new credit rating.

Yeah, pretty much all it takes to be Mr. Squish is pointy blond hair and shades.

Mr. Squish, CSUS Hornet, February 1991.

Originally I was gonna have Leonard—who didn’t even know who The Doors were—stammer incoherently through a review of the Oliver Stone movie The Doors, and wind up saying absolutely nothing. Sounds like a funny premise, right? But it wouldn’t work. Five panels of babbling bulls--- kept coming across as if I, the guy who draws the strip, didn’t know what I was saying. So I gave up on that.

When people ask me what I think of a movie, sometimes I have an opinion. Sometimes I don’t. No, really: I don’t. ’Cause I really don’t care enough about the movie to have an opinion about it. That’s not a negative review; that’s an apathetic review. I’ve seen lots of movies where my only response was, “Meh.” Not bad, but not great; not buying the DVD. So when people want my honest opinion about such movies, my response is along the lines of, “If you like this kind of stuff, then you’ll like it, but if you don’t then you won’t.” Which is precisely what the hairstylist said. Meaning, in the end, don’t ask me. My taste in movies isn’t yours.

Back to Leonard. So he’s just finished presenting that really useless review, and now he’s taking advantage of the staff hairstylist so he can get his ’do back. That, and a pair of sunglasses, and we have our old Leonard back. Plus, as he discovers in the last panel, he’s now over 21. (From his boss’s comment about a “mid-life crisis,” maybe a bit over 21. I never said.)

But this whole bit about Leonard leaping into someone else’s body? After this strip, I dropped it.

Yeah, at some future point, I could’ve picked it up and played with it a little bit. I just never got round to it. Leonard kept his Channel 32 job, but he went right back to his Sac State classes as if nothing had happened. And, after a brief startled reaction from Randall (which I’ll post next week), he was pretty much accepted as is.

I should point out how, back then, it was just that easy to steal someone’s identity. Till the early 2000s, schools still used your social security number on your student ID. I kid you not. When I was at Bethany, we used our SSN for everything: For classroom attendance, for chapel attendance, to sign in to the cafeteria, and so forth. Professors would post their grade sheets with your SSN standing in for your name—and if you had a good memory for numbers, it didn’t take you long to figure out who was whom, and so much for that method.

But seriously. Anonymous bank transactions and Internet finances were still in the future. Heck, grocery stores were still asking “Cash or check?” instead of “Debit or credit?” Nobody realized all these SSNs flying around would even be a problem. So we were spreading them all over the place. Show your student ID and you’ll get student discounts. Merchants would write down which ID number we used—and on a student ID, that was an SSN—and stash it in their files someplace. Us Sac State students were spreading our SSNs all over the Sacramento municipal area.

Well, not me. You see, I’d accidentally stolen someone else’s identity. When Sac State issued me my student ID card, they got one of the digits of my SSN wrong. I actually didn’t notice this till halfway through the semester. But whoever owns that number can relax: I didn’t knowingly do anything to trash their credit, and the statute of limitations is way over by now.

Still. In the early ’90s, it’d be ridiculously easy for someone to start using another person’s SSN and step right into their life. Nobody even thought of identity theft back then. It’s not altogether implausible for Leonard Walston to suddenly take on Leonard Squish’s identity. Of course, you’d think someone might ask, “So… you got shot. Shot dead. We had a funeral. And now you’re 20 years older, slightly taller, and of English descent instead of Dutch. What’s the deal?” But if everybody played along—or, which is more likely, nobody really cared—it’s just that easy to reset the strip to status quo ante. No more Leonard-got-shot jokes.

Well, till the end of the semester.