Um, 4,000 Words?
by Peter Zelchenko January 16, 2009

It's been a busy night this week down here in the Gapers Block boiler room.

We've been carefully adjusting the controls and valves on the boiler. This old steam system has leaks aplenty, so we're eyeing the water level every few minutes and wrapping the pipes where we can. It's been fired up nearly full time all this week. Never a break. When your room is cold, and you, resting against your feather pillow, pound the radiator with your opulent Dave Eggers hardcover magazine or whatever, we hear you and respond. That comforting hiss is the sound of us down here on the watch. Not to mangle metaphors or anything.

Damp down here in this basement. And drafty, too. Pull the little woolen blanket up over our shoulders a bit more, read our Racing Form in the flicker of the tallow candle.

It's a thankless, thankless job down here. Did we mention thankless?

Sure, you come down here once in a while. We hear the footsteps echoing and it fills us with joy. Let us talk your ear off about politics, food, literature, culture. We just hammer away at random. You seem to like it. But you haven't come down here much lately.

Saay, didja get out there for Christmas, go to Macy Field's? Didja see the big holiday banners on Michigan Avenue whipping in the snow and wind? Didja get a real tree or a plastic one? Didja buy lots of nice things for your loved ones?

We didn't. We've been down here keeping the boiler going.

A thankless, thankless job. We get no thanks.

Maybe you're tired of us. Or maybe you're just up there reading, staying out of the cold. We can't leave the boiler, aren't allowed up there to the rooms anyhow. The editors are pretty strict.

Hang on, pressure's getting too high. Just a minute.

Okay, back.

A lotta weather we're having out there, ain't it?

So, anyway, to see if you're even listening, we've decided to do a contest.

That's right. Your task is to identify the object in the following photos:

  1. Full-length view
  2. Big honking part Side A closeup
  3. Phallic view
  4. Big honking part Side B closeup

The Gapers Block sticker is for size reference. (What? You don't have a Gapers Block sticker?! You should come to one of the events.)

Here are some hints:

  • The end is cast aluminum; the extension is smooth fiberglass rod; the two components appear held together by some kind of epoxy resin or heatset adhesive. (Okay, we just tested it with a lighter -- it's not melting, so it's epoxy.)
  • Take careful note of the wear on the object, and on its smaller details. It will help you divine what manner of tool it is -- or isn't.
  • Look more carefully. You're probably mistaken.
  • You probably see it almost every day and don't even notice.
  • It is not what you think it is. We thought so, too. (That is we thought that it was what we thought it was. Or so we thought. Until we thought a little.)
  • It is what it is.
  • In front of Manny's Delicatessen -- just moments after President-elect Obama famously ordered lean corned beef for himself and strange bedfellow Rahm Emanuel (that's national news, for fuck's sake!) -- this object was instantly identified by CDOT employees Bill McKinney and Yvonne Andrade. They also offered to relieve us of it, and we declined until after the contest.
  • The GB sticker is not the size of a bumper sticker, good gravy! It's only 5.5" x 1.5". And the floor tiles are 12 inches square. (Good gravy!)
  • The object's function is brilliantly alluded to elsewhere in the text of this report.
  • In a more philosophical inquiry: Is it, in fact, what it is? (Be sure to remove this before publishing, as it is not an actual hint. Or is it?)
  • You're not even warm, at least in a figurative sense. We trust you are warm in a literal sense.

Guesses go to our ghostwriter, Guess as many times as you please. We may or may not respond with additional hints. The first correct answer gets a home-cooked meal on us, with special guests CDOT employees Bill McKinney and Yvonne Andrade. Void where prohibited. CDOT employees and their extended families, especially those who are on the Clout List, are ineligible for this contest (that goes double for you, Alan Mellis!).

Yessirree, it's been a busy old night this week.

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