One of the fun things about writing in a town different from your own is that everything seems new and somewhat miraculous: “Why look! They give you coffee in a blue mug in this café. What wonders will we next behold?” While here, we’ve written in a lovely bookstore overlooking an energetic stream. We’ve written at Holly’s house. We’ve plotted and planned in the car and at a hipster vegan-ish café where college students in varying degrees of ironic t-shirts congregate. But the most interesting—and potentially dangerous—place was a lofty office space in a hundred-year-old warehouse. The hazy, late-winter sun was still in the sky when we arrived. Everybody said, “Oh, look at the old brick! Those beautiful high ceilings! The exposed duct work! Love the airy quality! What amazing windows!”
You know what I thought? Serial killer heaven.
See, I’m a survivalist. I am right up there with the dude in “Zombieland” and his Double Tap rule. So while everybody else is marveling over the architecture (pretty fab, I must admit) I’m mapping out escape routes. I’m wondering if Leatherface has a live/work space here. Or if that flimsy lock on the door downstairs is going to hold against a Crazytown Dude and his pet chainsaw. It’s just how I roll. I’m telling you I had to pee for the last two hours I was there and I conjured up my inner Bruce Lee and toughed it out because I was not going to the bathroom in a potential serial killer building.
Later, Robin Wasserman said with a happy sigh, “That was my favorite place to write.” Poor innocent kid. Clearly, Robin grew up playing with wide-eyed pink plastic ponies who pooped rainbows. Me? I cut my teeth as a pup on horror. Horror comics, horror TV shows, horror novels, Hammer horror, Drive-In movies with 50-inch screens filled with gratuitous blood sprays, Extra-crispy horror with a side of spicy horror sauce. When I played with my Sparkle Ponies, I armed them to the teeth so that they could take out the hordes of Zombiepocalypse Barbies cruising the shag carpeting in their Dream Cars of Death. My ponies knew that bedroom floor was a potential killing field and they were taking no chances.
It dawns on me that some of you may also be living in a fool’s paradise. You may be considering renting office/writing space, and while you might have thought about costs and space and convenience, you might have neglected that most important consideration: serial killer survival rates.
People, I’m here to walk you through a serial killer office security check. Just one more service I provide. You can thank me later.
HAPLESS WRITER: Okay, well, it’s 10:00 pm and this old warehouse, which is about 20,000 square feet of hipster creepy with overhead florescent lighting that could go out at any time is devoid of humans at this hour. I think I’ll walk down the very, very long hall to the bathroom.
Stop. Hallways are serial killer happy spots. How many movies have you seen where the heroine is running down the hall, she stops to look behind her and when she turns back around—BAM! She’s got a face full of crazy-eyed sociopath. Think: Where are you going to go in a hallway? You know those doors on either side of you will be locked. And unless you have some Nightcrawler abilities and can run along the ceiling, you are out of luck, my friend. You know what you do? You order a pizza. If the pizza delivery guy shows up unscathed, you walk out with him. If he never shows up, you stay snacking on those stale peanuts with the door to the hall locked and you pee in a bottle. An excess of dignity can get you killed.
HAPLESS WRITER: It’s dark out and the building is abandoned and it sits off a not-very traveled road and behind the building is an expanse of thick trees. But I have finished my work and it’s time to go out to the dimly-lit parking lot with its million-and-one hiding places and get into my car.
Do you want to be a serial killer Happy Meal? Huh? DON’T GO TO THE PARKING LOT! DON’T DO IT! Parking lots are notorious serial killer havens. I swear they have tailgate parties. And you will show up in your U Mass sweatshirt and they will be there firing up the grill in their Kill U sweatshirts. Serial killers love to hide in back seats or sit in their vans with tinted windows, enjoying that leather interior smell, while they wait for you. The minute you you are desperately trying to unlock your car with the remote, they will pounce.
“But, Libba, what can I do?” you ask. “I’ve got to drive.” Okay. I hear you. Chillax. Unless you can get yourself one of those Knight Rider cars that will come right to you (doubly effective as David Hasslehoff is a known serial killer deterrent–they love him from his “The Young and the Restless” days and will ask for autographs), you’re going to need a plan. If you absolutely must park your car—and I hear from those of you who drive that that’s the protocol—park it away from all dumpsters, alleys, vans, and other potential hiding places. But do this first: Plaster your vehicle in Amway stickers. Because no killer wants to risk getting an upsell on nutritional supplements just for a kill. Word.
HAPLESS WRITER: There’s dodgy cell phone reception here, but it’s affordable space so I’m going to take the office.
Okay, see, this is where I start to feel that maybe this person is too stupid to be alive and the serial killer is doing the environment a solid by removing his carbon footprint. Of course there’s dodgy cell reception because serial killer hot spots mess with your coverage! These guys can take your bars down to negative ten and still be able to text you the words: LOOK UP. That’s the last text you will ever get, my friend. When looking for serial killer-free office space, just remember this little rhyme: Dodgy cell? Welcome to hell. This is a non-negotiable. Move on.
HAPLESS WRITER: Why look, this office complex has a vending machine area. How convenient that will be when I am working/studying late at night and need Oreos and a Mountain Dew. I’ll take it!
You know what serial killers love even more than killing and coming up with distinctive signatures? Snacks. They loves them some little seventy five-cent packages of Doritos and Trail Mix. And Fat-Free Newtons, if they are weight-conscious killers. They will stockpile their junk food and wait for your ass to show up. They will have rigged the machines so that all selections get stuck between the glass and the expulsion mechanism, causing you to pound your fists against said glass, thus being distracted, and faster than you can say, “Hey, isn’t that Bob over there? He went for some Bugles and was never seen again,” you will have an ax through the back and the killer will bang your head against the machine to dislodge your Snackwells, which he will eat and enjoy. My advice? Buy yourself a year’s supply of Swedish Fish and giant bottles of water. Avoid the vending machine area at all costs. Just do it.
HAPLESS WRITER: Gee, my neighbors in the office space upstairs on the mysterious fourth floor sure do make some weird sounds. I think I’ll just go up and introduce myself and make a gentle, neighborly request that they might keep the weird noises down a bit.
Sure. You go on up. While you’re at it, why don’t you go ahead and wear your Ask Me About My Death Wish t-shirt. I cannot emphasize this enough: If you have the bad luck to find yourself sharing office space with a possible serial killer, never, ever, ever go up to complain. That’s just asking for it. Of course there are weird sounds coming from upstairs. Because dismemberment and the crafting of a line of bone jewelry that can be sold on etsy is not a quiet process. So unless you want to end up on a crafting website under the headline: Whimsical spinal column necklace jingles as you jangle! I suggest you never complain to the neighbors.
What can you do? Take up folk dancing. It’s a well-known fact that serial killers hate folk dancing. Loud music from the old country mixed with the incessant reverberation of clogs makes it impossible for them to concentrate on jewelry making or the dedication of goat innards to the Dark Lord. But won’t they just come down and kill me, you might ask? No. They won’t. Because they will be afraid that the minute you open the door, you and your merry band of dancers will pull them right into your Tamzara and they just hate group activities. Well, unless they are also clowns, but that’s really a subset. Trust me, you pull out your Riverdance LPs and they’ll move on to less populated digs.
I think that’s enough to get you started. I need to eat some Cheerios and work on this book before I board my train back to NYC where you usually see the killers coming. (You think it’s an accident I live in the most populated city in the U.S.? Please.) I hope you will take these serial killer safety precautions to heart. I really don’t want to see you on etsy.