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A heartwarming tale of misanthropy and self-loathing

I feel compelled to offer an explanation for my absence for the past two weeks. Disappointingly for you - on the off chance that you actually care why I was absent for the past two weeks - I never do anything I feel compelled to.

Why? Because I believe that my compulsions are controlled by a group of secret government operatives via a microchip that a group of secret government surgeons implanted in my brain eight years ago, during a procedure billed as a "routine dental cleaning."

Anyway, what with the holiday season upon us and all, today I thought I'd share a heartwarming tale of misanthropy and self-loathing in which I inexplicably refer to myself in the third person.

Our story begins a few weeks ago - the day before Thanksgiving, in fact - onboard a cramped airplane. A dashing, exceedingly intelligent young man was catching an early-morning flight home to Saranac Lake from the gloomy, malodorous Midwestern city where he attended graduate school.

Our hero had a window seat, and this pleased him. He wanted to keep an eye on the wing in order to spot any furry beasts that might be up to mischief out there - ripping off panels and tearing up wires, for instance, or cavorting around like drunken go-go dancers.

The young man had never spotted such furry beasts on prior flights, but he knew from the nonfiction documentary television series "The Twilight Zone" that they existed, and that no less a luminary than the great William Shatner had seen one in 1963.

What didn't please our hero was the middle-aged woman sitting next to him. She'd seemed nice enough at first (in that she hadn't tried to make excruciating small talk), but she quickly proved to be almost as self-absorbed as our hero knew himself to be - and nothing irritated him more than people who reminded him of himself. A few minutes after sitting down, the woman whipped out her cell phone and began speaking to her baby.

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