Embrace the Bauer Within

How many times has this happened to you: You’re sitting at home, doing nothing, completely bored — and suddenly you’re dragged into an international crisis that makes the next 24 hours of your life a non-stop roller-coaster of explosions and death! What’s that you say? It’s never happened to you? Then apparently your name isn’t Jack Bauer!

But now the adventures of Jack Bauer, hero of TV’s “24,” can be YOUR adventures, too! Simply follow the instructions in this handy guide and you’ll soon find that your life is every bit as thrilling and bloody as Jack Bauer’s!

VOCABULARY: To be a CTU agent, you must speak like one. Learn the following terms and work them into your daily conversation.

INTEL: n., information or data.
Example: “Caitlyn, I have just received intel that indicates you were totally flirting with Spencer at the dance last Saturday!”

HOSTILE: n., enemy.
Example: “Caitlyn, look out! There is a hostile approaching, and she’s mad that you were flirting with Spencer!”

OPERATIVE: n., employee or agent.
Example: “When the toilet overflowed, I had to call Rodney’s Qwik-&-EZ Plumbing, and they sent out an operative to fix it.”

PROTOCOL: n., standard procedure or policy
Example: “I could see most of the man from Rodney’s Qwik-&-EZ Plumbing’s butt crack, which I believe is protocol.”

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BONUS TIP: Replace all the light bulbs in your home with 10-watt bulbs for that “CTU headquarters” feel.

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SCHEDULING: As a Jack-Bauer-in-training, you must make effective use of your time. Follow this template for scheduling your daily activities.

8:01 a.m. – 8:58 a.m.: drive; bark instructions on cell phone; stop occasionally to shoot someone.
8:59 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.: attempt something outlandish, foolish and/or impossible.
9:01 a.m. – 9:58 a.m.: drive; bark instructions on cell phone; stop to rescue daughter from bear trap.
9:59 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: attempt something outlandish, foolish and/or impossible.

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FIELD QUESTIONS: Answer the following questions as though you were Jack Bauer. Growly whispering is not necessary.

1. You are driving the kids to soccer practice when you encounter heavy traffic due to a minor fender-bender that occurred up ahead. What do you do?
A) Get out of your car and leap from hood to hood until you reach the source of the traffic jam, waving your gun as you do so.
B) Take one of the victims of the fender-bender as a hostage and shoot your way to the front of the line.
C) Shoot one of the people involved in the fender-bender and cut off his leg with a saw, and then somehow take down a chopper, too.

2. Your spouse calls you from work and says, “Honey, I was thinking about picking up some Chinese take-out for dinner.” What is the correct response?
A) “Dammit, that’s not the right move!”
B) “Dammit, there’s no time!”
C) “The chow mein is the real target! I repeat, the chow mein is the real target!”

3. The copy machine in your office is malfunctioning for the third time this month. What do you do?
A) Alert your boss to the urgency of the situation by shooting a co-worker in the head.
B) Notify your superiors that you believe the manufacturers of the machine are Middle-Eastern terrorists, then set fire to the copier in order to draw them out of hiding.
C) Inject yourself with heroin so the police will come, thus getting your office mentioned on the nightly news, thus reminding a executive of the Xerox company (who watches that particular news show every night) that he needs to send someone out to service the machine.

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You are now prepared to be Jack Bauer. The world is in peril! Get out there and make it worse, and then ultimately make it sort of better!

This column underwent many, many variations before I settled on this format and this content. It began with wanting to discuss the unusual vocabulary used in the show and expanded from there. I considered writing a mini-play about a pizza delivery guy who thinks he's a CTU agent and behaves with appropriate breathless intensity ("I've just received intel that the customer has requested extra cheese," etc.); I thought of having CTU downsized and actually becoming a pizza delivery joint, with all those ringing phones and satellite surveillance being used to get pizzas out on time (the ticking clock works for that format, too); I thought of writing the application form to work at CTU (one of the questions would have been, "Are you a mole?," to which a "yes" answer would get you hired on the spot); and so on. I finally decided the scenario that presented the fewest comedic roadblocks was this one, the handy guide for becoming Jack Bauer. I hope you like it.

Oh, and if you don't watch "24," take my word for it. This column is hilarious.