If I recall correctly, the first time I encountered the phenomenon of adanism was in a Taco Bell off of Highway 98. Looking back on that day—about five years ago—I see how ironic it was that the weather was breezy and lit up with warm sunlight that shimmered all across the bay. What a contrast to the strange conversation I overheard!
“…what’s on after lunch?”
“McMannis’ place, on Section. New outlets, some track lighting…”
Two electricians, discussing their tasks that day over a light Mexican lunch. Harmless enough. Nothing out of the ordinary. I took another bite of my bean burrito and continued my casual eavesdropping.
“That’s over by that coffee place.”
“Doesn’t Dan Lord work there?”
I was casually amused to suddenly find myself a subject of a random conversation between two guys in a Taco Bell, neither of whom I had ever met. I did not turn around—I thought I might, eventually, but for the moment I chose to just listen.
The second electrician had paused, considering the question carefully with his drink straw between his lips. “Who?”
“Dan Lord. That guy—you know. He works at the coffee shop on Section.”
“Ohhhh…” The second electrician made a sound like a suppressed chortle. I realized all at once that, somehow, this man knew of me and—worse—had a negative opinion of me! I admit I felt a surge of outrage. He and I didn’t know each other; I had never met him before in my life. How could he have an opinion about me, negative or otherwise?
The first electrician laughed along good-naturedly. “What? You know who I’m talkin’ about, right?”
“Well, yeah, I know who you’re talkin’ about, but, I mean…”
“I mean, ‘Dan Lord’? You really think he works there?”
A slight tone of offense could be heard in the first electrician’s words now. “The last time I checked he was there.”
The dregs of the second electrician’s drink rattled up his straw, making a sound like a percolating coffee maker. “You saw him?”
“Man, I ain’t stupid. He was right there.”
“But what, &#!%!&?”
“You don’t have to get all agitated, dewd. I’m just sayin’…I mean, how do you know you saw him?”
“I got dadgum eyeballs, don’t I?”
The second electrician slapped the paper-wrapped butt of his burrito onto the table. “I got eyeballs, too. I been to that coffeeshop ten times, maybe, and I never saw no Dan Lord.”
At this point I was at last going to turn around and introduce myself. I still had no idea who these two characters were, but I thought I could at least help them regain harmonious relations by simply confirming that, yes, I do work in that coffee shop but, no, I’m not there every single day so there’s a good chance one might not have seen me there if one were looking for me, but who the heck is looking for me, anyway? These were the words that were on the tip of my tongue as I began to swivel in my seat. I froze in mid-motion, though, when I heard the second electrician speak again.
“I don’t believe you saw him, neither. I don’t believe in Dan Lord.”
That was a strange thing to hear! Not, “I don’t believe Dan Lord really works at that coffeeshop,” or “Dan Lord used to live here, but he doesn’t now because he moved to Texas.” No, the second electrician’s words were “I don’t believe in Dan Lord.”
Now there were two ways for me to interpret that statement.
One: Dan Lord is a man of low character and false integrity. I don’t believe in him. It is the kind of statement sometimes made in connection with political leaders, as in: “I used to think Mr. X would be a great governor for our state, but now I don’t believe in him.”
Two: An existential declaration. As in: “Dan Lord does not exist, whatever you might think.” And that, for the life of me, is exactly how the second electrician seems to have meant it.
My reaction was maybe not what you would have done. You might have simply turned and said, “You idiot! Here I am, right here! Now what do you think?” For some reason, though, I was overcome by a strange panic. There was something eerie and surreal about having my existence denied; it gave me the creeps. I stood abruptly, leaving my bean burrito, my Dr. Pepper, my used napkins, everything, and I walked out as fast as I could without drawing attention to myself.
That was the first time, five years ago. If that had been the only time, I probably would have forgotten about it quickly enough and gone on with life.
But it happened again, a week later. Worse, it happened at the very coffee shop where I worked part time!
Drip Drop Coffee and Books is a great little place in Fairhope. Fresh coffee, sandwiches, free wi-fi. As relaxing a second job as anyone could ask for. The guy who ran it was Wes Potter, an old navy vet with a beard like Santa Claus. I was just in the process of clocking out, and I could hear Mr. Potter in the back room talking with Katy, a young, college-age girl who had started there about two weeks before. Keep in mind that she and I had met already. I even worked part of a shift with her. We had spoken!
I heard Mr. Potter say, “Katy, were you able to find out if you can work Friday morning?”
“Oh, yeah. I tried, Mr. Potter, but I can’t. I’ve got class that morning and I just can’t skip it again…”
“No, no, that’s alright. Don’t miss class. I’ll find someone to fill in.”
Katy apologized again. “Who will you get?”
“I’ll ask Dan. He can probably do it.”
I hung over the time clock, suddenly aware that there was a weirdness to Katy’s silence after Mr. Potter mentioned my name. I thought of those two electricians in Taco Bell, and a bubble of dread began to expand in my stomach.
“Dan? What do you mean?”
“You know: Dan Lord. You’ve met him.”
“Dan Lord? I’ve met him? Here?”
“Well, sweetheart, you worked with him once already!”
“Ohhhh…” Katy did not mean this as a recognition of my reality. She was obviously pondering what, if anything, she should say next so as not to offend Mr. Potter. “Dan Lord. I get it…”
Mr. Potter chuckled. “What, don’t you know about Dan Lord? They not teach you that in college?”
“Well, my psychology teacher says that it isn’t necessary to believe in Dan Lord as a real person. He’s more like a figurative person…”
“Honey, that myth works here three to four days every week! You’ve talked to him!”
So, why didn’t I just march into that back room and stand defiantly in front of Katy with arms akimbo, saying, “Surprise! I’m not an expression of our collective unconscious! I’m right here, flesh and blood”?
Maybe I’m just a coward, but it was so disconcerting to hear two separate people over the course of a single week deny my existence that I practically sprinted out of Drip Drop Coffee and Books and onto the sidewalk.
That’s when I saw it. The bus. The otherwise charming Fairhope city bus, the one built like an old-style trolley car. Like a lot of buses, it had advertising space on the side. Guess what was posted there?
A big, glossy sign that read, in bright colors and dynamic font: “Dan: the Myth We Can All Live Without! A message from the American Society of Adanists.”
Adanists, I thought with a mental shriek. Adanists?!
Son of a gun, if there wasn’t an entire website devoted to the denial of my personal existence! There was a mission statement, and links to obscure internet sources…there was even a “donate” button! Who the hell were these people? When did this happen? How could this happen?
Since that time I have watched this peculiar movement grow like a cancer. There seems to be a sort of hip, revolutionary quality to it, the kind of thing that helps pseudo intellectuals to bond with each other. It has grown to the point that a lot of the people who have met me are now too embarrassed to publicly admit I am real. I guess I can sympathize, to an extent—nobody wants to be that one dork at the office party insisting you’ve personally seen Dan Lord while everybody else mocks you and shouts you down.
One good thing I can say is that, after that day on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop, all of my dread finally dissipated and was replaced by righteous indignation and firm resolve. Since then I have created my own website, http://www.danlordnotamyth.com, to counteract adanism. I put up a photo gallery, with pictures of me from high school, and some more recent stuff with me walking downtown or along the beach and so on. Naturally, I get plenty of emails from scoffers who claim the photos are all fake. One guy recently wrote and said the photos don’t prove anything since no one can say for sure what Dan Lord looks like. That last one makes me laugh—I wrote that guy back and said, “Oh yeah? Tell that to my mom!”
So, there are still a lot of adanists out there. It’s mind-boggling to me and to all the great people who know me, of course. My wife and I just laugh about it. But what I figured out is that adanists do not believe what they believe based on rational argument. It isn’t as if they can point to some logical formula and say, “See? This and this plus this prove that Dan Lord does not exist.” That’s obvious—I am here, so clearly there could be no such formula—but the point is that people make a decision to deny my existence because, for some reason, whatever reason, I am inconvenient to them. Maybe they just don’t like me; maybe I remind them of someone they hate; maybe deep down they realize that if I was real then they would have to start acting differently, they would have to change their behavior and begin treating me with the ordinary respect that any person deserves. So, maybe it just comes down to pride. Adanists are, perhaps, too proud to admit that there could be a reality outside of whatever they happen to prefer.
Anyway, I am real. Dan Lord is real. I don’t know any other way to say it. If you still doubt it, go to http://www.danlordnotamyth.com and click the “contact me” tab. I’ll write back. I know: an email doesn’t prove that I’m real, since it could be coming from anyone. But at least it would open the lines of communication. Maybe, after a while, you might drop your guard a little and get to know me. Some things just take time.
by Dan Lord, 2010