This article in Men’s Health encouraging people to go for long, aimless, “stress-busting” drives alone was published on April 18, 2015. Written by two men in the first person, the author impulsively decided to take a 170 mile drive to a state park, and rhapsodized about the exhilarating restorative quality of releasing 0.14 metric tons of CO2e into the atmosphere (340 miles round-trip in an Audi S7). The year 2015 shattered temperature records. According to the Men’s Health Media Pack 2015/2016, “the editorial ethos is founded upon empowering readers to achieve success in every facet of their lives. We call this service journalism.” Men’s Health readers, the media pack boasted, spent 1.4 billion pounds on cars in 2015. This article was accessed online in July of 2019.
People seek to confirm memories from a time before the Internet was commonplace by checking online. Did this really happen? Do other people have memories of this weird thing too?
In the case of Officer Dan, fake RCMP policeman and the foe of Leaside High School’s pot smokers, the answer is yes. Yes, you and your friends really were standing in a crescent formation, trying not to notice how many tokes everyone took on their turn, when you were approached by a man who identified himself as “Officer Dan,” an undercover member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Officer Dan at first threatened to arrest you and telephone your parents to let them know exactly what you’d been up to. Then–like the Samaritan ministering to the man travelling from Jericho who had been set upon by thieves–Officer Dan announced that he was going to let you off, but not before he confiscated your weed.
These happenings became a semi-regular occurrence, a bit of a drag. “We got busted again by Officer Dan.” It’s difficult to pinpoint how or when the news spread among the members of Leaside’s unofficial but most enthusiastically attended club that Officer Dan wasn’t really a cop. Maybe someone realized the RCMP doesn’t provide municipal or provincial policing in Ontario, or perhaps it just slowly dawned on even the most addled of minds that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
My thoughts have often returned to the case. Was Leaside the only neighbourhood he hit, or was he scamming all of Metro Toronto? Was it his own dreadful secret, or something he laughed about–“You should have seen their faces, it was like taking candy from a baby, I even made them give me the roach!“– with his friends? Was it a spur of the moment decision, a pie left cooling on a windowsill, or an ingenious plan contrived because all of a sudden, he was a middle age man who was finding it increasingly difficult to score?
He was tall and white, with short brown hair. Clean-shaven. “I think he wore a striped shirt once,” offered LHS alumnus “Hazel Bite” (not her real name). Memories of his face have been lost to the mists of time.
He’s a mystery for the ages. Thanks for the memories, Officer Dan. Weed is still only legal in Canada for people over the age of 18. It would be nice to think he’s still plying his (fake) trade to this day, teaching kids they need to be a bit more discreet, and after that, teaching them to be a bit more savvy, his own special Officer Dan way of reminding teenagers that Santa Claus isn’t real.
The actor Tom Hanks has a charming Instagram presence. Of his 184 posts, over sixty are pictures of lost or discarded objects; a lone white glove on a rocky patch of land resembling the surface of the moon, a dirty jelly shoe held up against the backdrop of turquoise sky. “Found. At bottom of the sea.” he wrote, “1 girls (?) shoe. To claim call 1-NEptune.” He occasionally appears as a shadow in these shots, which he signs “Hanx.” They indicate a man who is present and alert in the spaces he catalogs for the digital world. It’s easy to imagine his glee when he spots a new object. Each photo poses endless questions, and every object is imbued with meaning beyond its original purpose. Who did this shoe belong to? How far has it been carried by the currents of the oceans? What the hell have we done to this planet? “Are all of these your gloves ? Or someone else’s?” asked Kaleb Rich Harris. “Is this just one huge ploy concerning how this whole life experience might be interactions with just other versions of ourselves or with completely different versions [of] everyone else and not at all ourselves?”
It’s a nice account. He promotes his wife’s music and supports veterans and Aston Villa Football Club–there are no pictures of an infinity pool or the bow of a yacht shot between his feet. But a subset of Instagram users see only the Devil. They believe Tom Hanks is taunting the world with pictures of trophies from the victims of the Illuminati’s blood-drenched sacrifices. “Pedofilo de mierda!” Jacquelin Sanchez Photographer exclaimed under a a bubble gum pink running shoe. “Is that what’s left of your illuminati parties?” wondered Sir Trashman. Many women express dismay that the Hanks they believed him to be (a mixture of Alan Bauer in Splash, Jim Lowell in Apollo 13, and Forrest Gump) was a cover. “Such a phony, you play this sweet and innocent giving and caring actor, meanwhile you’re hiding skeletons and gloves in your closet,” Ollie Mommy 87 posted under a picture of a discarded couch. They tell Hanks that he is a sick man and that everyone is on to him. That his time will soon be up and that hell awaits him. In their pathology they resemble the people who think they’re the victims of gang-stalking. Every time Tom Hanks comes across a discarded glove, he re-confirms their delusion. It’s like a mutant cyberspace strain of De Clérambault’s Syndrome. “I know the elite sacrifice for wealth and position and it’s not a fake it’s real people,” said Linda 14346 Northern Ireland. “We all know HANX,” wrote JuliAnn ScMurphy. “Also noticed you’ve been deleting comments with credible info, yet keep the ones that make us sound like we’re lunatics. TICK TOC.”
“I think all of the great stories in literature deal with loneliness,” Hanks told the writer Danny Leigh. “Sometimes it’s by way of heartbreak, sometimes it’s by way of injustice, sometimes it’s by way of fate. There’s an infinite number of ways to examine it. If there’s a reason it always seems to be there with me, it’s because it’s so palpable to all of us. You can turn everything into an aspect of that battle against quiet despair, because we all fight it at some point in order to feel we’re part of humanity.”
Hanks talked about loneliness when he was promoting Cast Away in 2001, three years before Facebook was founded. His quote encapsulates both the loneliness of the Hanx images and the paranoid hallucinations people who post under them. Truncated and superimposed over a mountainscape, it has become popular on Instagram.