[ToC]

 

I AM THE TUBEMAN

Cameron Thomas Snyder

 

 

1.

During the fall of 2016 my girlfriend enrolled at a local university with an emphasis in environmental science. Within the first month of her enrollment, we ceased having shower sex in order to cut back on water usage. Before, the sex portion of the shower (including brief foreplay—sudsy backrubs, heavy kissing, groping, etc.—and the actual act of humping itself) averaged out to 8.4 min. Add to that the time it took to perform basic hygienic tasks, and the total showering experience amounted to 16.5 min. With our showerhead producing 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm), we used 34.7 gallons every time we had shower sex. I realize this is an absurd and potentially reckless amount of water wasted, but I didn't want to give it up. I liked getting wet and wild. Since the termination of shower sex, I have, regrettably, turned on the shower and masturbated before getting in, simply to spite my girlfriend's unwillingness to have sex in there—even though she wasn't around to see—as a sort of sticking it to the man, or the woman, or, in this case, literally sticking it to myself. The duration of these masturbation sessions could be determined by two factors:

a.) I watched porn on my smartphone, or
b.) I relied on total fantasy recall for the erotic visions necessary to sustain arousal

In the case of a, the duration was typically much longer. Sifting through endless videos and speed-exiting out of disconcerting pop-up ads—despite adBlock Plus's promises—about "upping your dick size" and "HOT PAWGMILFS IN YOUR AREA LOOKING TO FUCK" takes time. 13.9 minutes (29.19 gallons) worth of time to be exact. Look at that number. All that water. It's unconscionable. This affects you, reader. I am sorry.
 

2.

Since shower sex was once an integral part of our weekly erotic romance but has now reached its quietus, our average amount of sex per week has lowered from the national average for our age group—1.3 times per week—to .9 times per week.

3.

I sit in my Subaru in the parking lot of Denver Goodwill and prepare myself for the sensory psycho circus of which I'm about to enter. A wacky inflatable tubeman guards the entrance.
     Blue, svelte, uncannily happy, he bows and rises in fan-powered fulgurations. His cylindrical appendages whip about erratically as if offering hi-fives, then reneging half-way—psych! A bald man exits through the pneumatic sliding doors and walks between the tubeman and the storefront, but he refuses to acknowledge the hyperactive windsock to his right. He lowers his head, looks away, and I look at them both from my station wagon's bug-smudged windshield. The bald man is almost out of reach when the tubeman bends and its bright white smudge of a mouth pecks the man's hairless head. The man's pace quickens. He slumps and skitters. He fears someone may have seen the kiss. I laugh wildly and shake my head in awe. This is the world we live in. I look to the left. A velour-clad soccer mom stares at me from the front seat of her minivan, bewildered. What has she seen? What am I to her?

4.

Have I timed my girlfriend's solo showers? Yes. They are long and steamy. They are longer, in fact, than those in which we once had sex. We could easily squeeze in a quickie. But we don't. I begin to wonder if she's doing some masturbating of her own in there. It's possible that my performance is no longer up to code—maybe we are soon to be one of those couples you hear about who only have sex three or four times a year. Oh no.

5.

Tubemen are banned in Houston under § 28-37. Attention getting devices (a) which states:

As used in this section, attention-getting devices shall mean devices erected, placed or maintained outdoors so as to attract attention to any commercial business, or any goods, products or services available on the premises of a commercial business, including but not limited to the following devices: banners; cut out figures; discs; festooning, including tinsel, strings of ribbons, and pinwheels; inflatable objects, including balloons; non-governmental flags; pennants; propellers; steam- or smoke-producing devices; streamers; whirligigs; wind devices; blinking, rotating, moving, chasing, flashing, glaring, strobe, scintillating, search, flood or spot lights; or similar devices, any of which are located or employed in connection with the conduct of a commercial business.

Here, or there, as in Houston, the tubemen or whirligigs or erect, inflatable objects are outlawed because they are distracting to motorists. They represent the threat of horrific automobile accidents and so much death. They are not outlawed, however, for the incredible amount of energy required to power the AirDancer® Blowers that inflate them. Touted as the "most popular blower for AirDancers®," these industrial-strength fans are designed for the most optimal tubeman efficiency. 1 horsepower, 3 speeds, 11 amps, 5,000 cubic feet per minute, the blowers provide constant animation for our phallic-looking tube friends. You might say the blowers fill the tubeman's lungs with life.

6.

I am to shower sex as the tubeman is to Houston.

7.

Doron Gazit, a co-creator of the tubeman, is a self-proclaimed environmental artist. Most of his work involves, in some form or another, air-filled tubes placed conspicuously in nature. He stretches red, elongated balloons across yawning canyons in the Dead Sea and calls it "The Red Line," a metaphor for veins. He says things like, "When I'm working in nature, nature actually turns out to be my canvas." Fundamentally, environmental art is created to shed light on ecological concerns, such as global warming. Are wiener-looking balloons effective in triggering environmental awareness? I have my doubts.

8.

Sometimes, before my girlfriend and I have sex (in the bedroom), I will turn on my 20" Holmes model-HBF2001D  3-speed electric box fan in an attempt to prevent our animal moans of love from reaching the alert ears of our perpetually-stoned downstairs neighbors. This, like the deafening sound of water spraying from a showerhead, creates only the illusion of muted privacy. They can hear everything.


9.

A bright spring day in Denver. A little hazy, pollen-ridden, and smelling faintly of Purina kitten chow, but bright nonetheless. East Colfax is alive with activity as I cruise around in my station wagon, tallying up all the tubemen I see. Tubemen are warm-weather creatures; they hibernate in the colder months and emerge in early- to mid-spring. This could mean motorists are less susceptible to outrageous forms of commercial advertisements during the colder months, or businesses simply don't want to bother setting up tubemen when it's freezing outside.
      Today, though, the tubemen are flailing.
      Out of 4 metroPCSs, 4 have purple tubemen. Auto-body shops seem especially convinced of the efficacy of tubemen. Many of these establishments are equipped with not one, but two tubemen, usually of a rusted barrel color. I'd very much like to be a fly on the wall during the conversation in which the owner, or manager, or whomever is typically in charge of making these types of decisions, says, "Why get one tubeman when we could get two?" Or maybe decisions like these are best made privately, without discussion. Goodwill, the smuggest of the nonprofit community-based braggarts, also loves some wacky inflatable advertising.

10.

At one point, sixty-nine Goodwill Industries locations across the country had, under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards act, certificates that allowed them, legally, to pay developmentally challenged employees less than minimum wage—we're talking like 30 cents per hour kind of less. Goodwill CEO Jim Gibbons makes roughly $800,000 a year. This kind of information makes those blue tubemen seem far less wacky and funny.

11.

There are like 11,000 metroPCSs in the United States, which I find surprising because even as I write this I am still uncertain about what exactly a metroPCS is, has, or does. Something to do with cell phones, I gather. Even so, the number seems egregious. Calculatingthe number of tubemen in America is impossible. But it doesn't hurt to fire off some calculations and rough-house some estimates. An average metroPCS is open for business 8.3 hours per day. Let's say tubemen are used daily from March 15th-October 15th (based on my warm-weather theory), so that's 215 days out of the year for 8.3 hours per day. Therefore a tubeman dances for 1,785 hours per year at a single metroPCS.
     A few more calculations:  

.121 kW (kilowatt hours)x 8.3 hours a day = 1 kWh x 215 hours a year = 215 kWh used per year per store x 11,000 stores nationwide = 2,365,000 kWh burned per year by MetroPCS stores alone

These are extremely rough estimates, not to be cited in your next thesis paper, but they are numbers to think about. And this is only a small fraction from one entity. Factor in the Goodwills, the auto body shops, and all the other fecund grounds for wacky inflatable men to dance provocatively and lure you in. I'll venture to say the kilowatt hours burned per year by Air Dancer® Blowers clock in somewhere near the billion mark.

12.

Each night, I turn on Holmes to the lowest setting expressly for the white noise it provides—the hum to drown out heavy silences (I've recently noticed that total silence at night induces a paralytic sort of hypnogogic mania that makes me want to chomp my teeth until they break into dust). I sleep at home, in bed, an average of 297 nights per year, and sleep an average of 7.3 hrs. per night, meaning the Holmes electric box fan runs for a total of 2,168 hrs per year. At .7 kWh, the fan uses 1,518 kW in a year—more than half of what one MetroPCS store uses to power one tubeman.

13.

When interviewed about his commercial success in the Air Dancer® business, Gazit replied, "I had to make my living, so I had my company." Simple enough. Today, he says he's focused purely on the environmental side of his art, yet his legion of inflatable humanoidscontinue to perpetuate the ecological decay he so vehemently decries.

14.

What has driven me to expose the hypocrisies of a man I'll never meet, when I am just as guilty of wasting energy and water? Is it some form of repressed anger bubbling up from the aquatic cock block? Am I, myself, not a fallible man? What have you seen, reader? Who am I to you?

15.

Due to the nature of my job, I shop at Goodwill an average of three times per week. My job is to amass used materials from thrift stores and resell them elsewhere for major profit. Morally, my views on this profession vary, as in I understand how my very musk might enrage other customers who are there to buy cheap used materials they otherwise couldn't afford, whereas my prerogative is to get there before they do, find the good stuff, and sell it on eBay. Also, I'm left to support iniquitous businesses like Goodwill Industries. I tell myself I'm only doing this until I can find a way to make money through writing. This is where I say, "I have to make my living, so I have my company."

16.

The tubemen are everywhere. They are on street corners, in alleyways, in the alleyways of my teeth-gnashing nightmares. They are the mascots of my own ineptitudes and hypocrisies. Look at them—so complacent, so carelessly wasteful. Watch them as they advertise not a used car sale or a BOGO cell phone deal, but the wacky, deflated end of humanity.

17.

What makes a person take everything so personally? What is it to depersonalize? Does it mean to float even further from the shores of reality? To untether from the dock, wave goodbye to a few good friends, and drift away from the material dawn? There is personal and there is solipsistic. When my girlfriend suggests I try being slightly more meticulous when washing the casserole dish while also remaining conscious of how much water I'm using, I take umbrage—I call it nagging. In reality, though, she just doesn't want to catch a foodborne illness from the bits of enchilada chicken I overlooked on the Pyrex dish, nor does she want to live in a dystopian drought-world where we have to drink our own piss, and I guess I don't want that either. But mostly, I don't want this to beabout me anymore.

18.

Months pass. Showers are taken, respectively. Then, out of the blue, I suggest shower sex. I'm fed up, ready to fire up an argument for the hell of it. "How about bed sex?" she says to my surprise. "I've never really liked the shower stuff. It's not really fun for me. I thought you knew that." Had I not considered this?—that a wet, meager 8.4 minutes may not be enough time to stimulate desire on her end? I say okay. We move to the bedroom and crash onto the bed. I leave Holmes OFF. I feel it, our sex-per-week slowly rising above the national average. We kick off the covers. We wrestle like children. Together we expend so much energy.

19.

In the backseat of a Lyft at 3 a.m. I squish my nose to the window. I squint through the contrails of rain droplets dig-dugging downward and I see him out there in the distance, atop a postindustrial warehouse, waving his limbs, dipping his body up and down, performing for no one. He's autonomous, off the grid, freakishly alive and alone. I watch voyeuristically as the ruddy orange tubeman dances in a dark Denver mist on a gritty rooftop and I feel like I'm hallucinating it all.

20.

I am a man animated by unseen impetus. I whip and bend and blow, attached at the feet. I am a consumer of energy, a producer of emissions, a product of some madman's flawed and extemporary design.

 

 

__

Since the completion of this essay, my girlfriend and I have relocated to an adobe house outside Watrous, New Mexico—a town of 147 people. We live on ninety acres of grassland that abuts a sprawling national wildlife refuge. There are horses on our property that we sometimes have to feed, and when it rains, we strap medieval-looking masks to their heads so flies don't eat their eyes. I swear I see the artwork of a Montucky Cold Snack tall can when I look out my office window in the mornings.

A local hydrologist is going around the area dating water, meaning she is testing molecules in local aquifers to see how old they are and how much longer the water will last. Once an aquifer runs dry, it is pretty much impossible to restore, and the surrounding land becomes uninhabitable i.e. no running water. The aquifer that provides water to the house I live in now is low. I piss outside. I keep my showers under five minutes. I considered shitting outside but my girlfriend said no. I will do everything within my power to conserve the water here and keep this place habitable. Shower sex is a dead language.