“Hey, you’re that guy!”
“That guy! You’re Eric Leitzen! You’re the guy that out-memorized the computer!”
“That’s just a myth. Leave me alone.”
Ah yes, good old Urban Legends. The rat in the deep fryer, the claw on the makeout car, and the guy that out-thought the computer.
I’m just another Urban Legend now.
Yeah, it’s true. I went up against a computer. I was fresh out of college, incredibly broke and needing some money. So I began to try out for quiz shows. I broke the record on both Jeopardy and they won’t let me back on Who Want’s to Be a Millionare. Needless to say, I made some money off of my mind.
Don’t ask me how it works, because I can’t tell ya. I can memorize stuff, I can memorize stuff real good. All US Presidents, in order? Got it. The Periodic Table? Pick a number. My memory can just plain…remember, and I don’t know why. I’ve been able to do this since I was in elementary school. I remember the oddest little facts. In second grade we had a “traveling trophy” for the most proficient student at Math flash cards. I remember that the highest card in that deck was eight plus nine. seventeen. Why do I remember that? I don’t know. Why do I remember the entire American aircraft carrier fleet during World War II? I don’t know, I just do.
I’ve got some other quirky talents too. I have a really good sense of smell. I know that’s weird, but I can tell who someone is usually by their perfume from across the room. I can tell the difference between spaghetti cooking and lasagna, I can smell the ricotta cheese. Weird, no? I also think I have perfect pitch, but I’m not sure. I can sing pretty well though.
But anyway, my memory versus the computer. The Memorization and Articulation Computer. MAC. Good old MAC. He had a helluva database, and and attachment just like a human hand. He could grip a pencil or stylus and take a test just like a human could. The arm thing was an add on by ABC for the reality show, but the processor was actually a database for the United States national archive.
Yeah, I drew big ratings that night. ABC saw some good numbers. “See if man is smarter than machine! See if flesh still dominates over steel!” and blah blah blah blah, you get the picture. Anyway, we were both given identical test, on all sorts of stuff, and we had to see how long it could take us to take it. I mean, it had everything from conjugating French verbs to the analysis of Charles Dickens. And so we began. Test after test went by, and we were pretty evenly matched, especially with MAC’s little arm thing. Made it a little more fair. About the time I was blazing through a critique of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” I heard a siren go off and all hell break loose. Apparently, MAC had broken down. I had beaten the computer in a test of memory. Smoke had begun to circulate from his processor, and I just kind of sat there, dumb, as they raised my arm in victory. I actually was a more efficient thinker than a computer? A GOVERNMENT computer? It was overwhelming, and I really thought that I could do something with this gift that was given to me.
Until I went backstage.
The whole fucking thing was a work. MAC was supposed to break down, it was a mother fucking set up. ABC got its ratings, and in doing so gave me all the money I could ever want to shut up. So I became the man that out-thought the computer, and I am the only one out here in the general public that knows it was a god damned fake. That’s why I’m sitting here in this bar, downtown Chicago, with a pint of Guinness and my shitty memories. I’m not Eric Leitzen anymore, I’m Jonathan Johnson. I’m not a German anymore, I’m Irish. My hair used to be short, parted, and brown, now it’s long, red and shaggy. I shaved off my trademark goatee, and I’ve starved myself to lose weight. Anything to get away from that guy, that fake. Every once in a while, someone will recognize me, but I blow them off. I’m no hero, I’m no genius. I was just a victim of circumstance.
A victim who happens to be filthy stinking rich.
Yeah, ABC keeps me happy with the buckets of money they pour on me every year. And I’ve got quite a bit invested. I won’t have to work for the rest of my life, guaranteed. Hell, by now no one would believe me if I told them it was fake. So now I just sit back, lazy and complacent on my pile of ill gotten money. But I don’t care anymore. Everything I stood for was taken from me, was faked, but I have been richly compensated. And that’s just fine and dandy with me.
God dammit, it is hot in this damn bar. These Chicago people must be cold blooded. I’m in a t shirt and jeans in here, and I’m sweating like a god damned butcher. It’s only October, people, you don’t need the heat turned up yet. Good God.
Maybe it’s because I’m such a naturally warm person. I am. Heat really does get to me. I see the rest of them, fat and happy in the heat while I sweat my fucking brains out. I can feel that typical aura, that area of heat that I fucking exude like a furnace.
I just keep sweating, and drinking, and trying to forget my life.
But no matter how hard I try, someone always tries to bring me back.
“Hey, you’re that guy!”