I DON'T HAVE TO tell you the aliens have landed. First you saw the commercial, then you saw the movie. Many of you are going to see it again, too.
"Independence Day" the movie is doing box office like Independence Day the holiday does fireworks. (Look for the sequel "Labor Day," in which the earth is menaced by alien Teamsters.)
"Independence Day" passed the $100 million mark in a record-shattering six days, faster than any Schwarzenegger movie, faster than any "Die-Hard" movie, faster even than "Jurassic Park," which was about come-to-life dinosaurs chasing around little kids. How can a hacked-off T-Rex compare to visiting aliens in cool spaceships blowing up the White House?
The runaway success of the movie inevitably leads to some questions about ourselves and our place in the universe.
What is it about squid-like aliens with a nasty trigger-finger problem that so intrigues us?
Was Pat Buchanan the technical adviser on the cream-the-Statue-of-Liberty scene?
Why do people eat Raisinets only in movie theaters?
But USA Today, the nation's newspaper for those with short attention spans, came up with another question that I hadn't considered: What should you do if an alien actually does land in your front yard, threatening your family, not to mention ruining
your lawn? (Hey, if you buy the premise, you buy the bit).
USA Today called some Air Force general in charge of keeping our borders safe. He harrumphed a bit -- if you're like me, you love few things more than a good harrumph -- and finally said the federal government had absolutely no plans for an alien attack.
He had plans for nuclear attack and plans for chemical warfare and plans for getting the president to and from the Marriott. But nothing for alien landings. Like, what do we pay these guys for, if not to protect us from invaders with bad skin and maybe four sets of eyes?
(While we're on the topic, why are aliens invariably ugly? Can't you be good-looking and from out of town? Even E.T., our most lovable alien, was 4 a.m., alone-in-the-bar ugly. If you want something scary, make an alien who looks like Sean Connery and speaks with a British accent. If these guys invaded our planet, they wouldn't have to kidnap our women. No human male would ever get a date again. Talk about your horror stories. Note to Hollywood producers: If you like the idea, I'm in the book.)
Back to the general. He said that if, on the off chance you do spot some aliens who never seem to invade, say, Sri Lanka, don't bother calling him.
Call, he said, your local authorities. (Most Americans, of course, prefer to call either the National Enquirer or "America's Funniest Home Videos.")
The general really said that. In other words, in case of an alien attack, he suggests you try 911.
I'm trying to imagine that conversation.
Me: Operator, we got us a situation here.
911 operator: Your name, sir?
Me: My name? I said we got a situation. Aliens are attacking the city. They got a spaceship the size of Montana and they don't HTC look like they're here on a pleasure trip.
911 operator: Your address, sir?
Me: Address? I don't have a freakin' address. My house just got vaporized. It's a good thing I've got a cell phone
911 operator: Would you please describe the perpetrators.
Me: They got, what, four arms, no five arms, and maybe 12 eyes. I don't know. If you see these guys, you'll recognize them. I'll tell you one thing, you're never going to confuse them with Sean Connery.
Thinking about it some more, I actually call the local police. What could they be doing that's so important?
I reach Sgt. Kevin Novak, a spokesman for the Baltimore County police department, and ask him about department policy on alien sightings.
"Believe it or not," Sgt. Novak says, "we do get calls like that from time to time."
Sure I believe it. I've watched "The X-Files." I've heard of Area 51. I know that paranoia strikes deep.
He said the typical 911 operator might, however, be slightly skeptical.
"If aliens were landing, we'd expect to get more than one call," he explains. "We may have to take the first call under advisement."
And if there's only one caller, and he's not determined to be a Hollywood producer?
"If we determine the caller is any danger to himself or others, an officer would go out and comfort him."
I know. Maybe take him to catch a flick.
Pub Date: 7/10/96