Invasion Of The Personality Snatchers.

When I am looking for little bits of charm and wisdom, the first place I look after the undersides of my Nantucket Nectar caps is the canon of popular children's songs. One particularly meaningful song begins with the immortal line, "The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round," which continues ad nauseum until the children get tired of singing it or the bus driver threatens to drive headlong into the next telephone pole if the children don't shut the hell up.

Last weekend, I decided to take a Greyhound bus home to Connecticut for my annual "Fall Frolic" - an agrarian adventure full of county fairs, orchards and rekindled family conflicts, all as refreshing and biting as the crisp autumn air itself. Those children's songs offered me no help, however, for the bus ride that usually takes two hours - ninety minutes if I was driving - instead took three and a half torturous hours. The wheels of this bus weren't going anywhere near 'round and 'round as a bunch of college students sat, trapped in the deepest, darkest stretches of the Massachusetts Turnpike. As a Television major, the first phrase that came to my mind on a bus full of young, quasi-attractive college students was "Love Bus: The Cranky Voyage."

For I was indeed getting cranky - cranky because I was looking at the same tree for ten minutes, cranky because I was getting bored of my CDs and cranky because I was surrounded by a bunch of nasal, squeaky-voiced Harvard kids - the kind even I, a self-proclaimed nerd, would be ashamed to be seen with. At first, I thought it couldn't get any worse than the girl sitting across the aisle from me, who simply could not help herself from detailing each idiotic breakup she'd had with her current "boyfriend at large," but then the batteries in my discman died and my ears bore witness to a grave aural transgression that forced me to re-evaluate my position and purpose in the universe.

I listened as a young gentleman holding a thesaurus and sitting two seats directly behind me got chuckles and laughs with the same jokes and witty observations I had used to entertain my friends almost a year ago. I also noticed that his voice sounded oddly like mine. This man was a personality plagiarist. Using the principle of Occum's Razor, I determined that this person, upon realizing he had no true personality of his own, decided to stalk me for several weeks, learn all my mannerisms and clever sayings and flee before I could realize what was going on, giving him ample time to return to whatever godforsaken fiefdom he hailed from (I think I heard something about Tufts) to establish himself as some kind of second-rate beacon of coolness and hilarity. Speculation and fourteenth century philosophers make a wonderful pair.

I was on to his little scheme, but what was I to do about it? If we were in the medieval times on Merlin's Magnificent Mechanical Mare, I'd be able to slap him with my chain mail glove and challenge him to a jousting match, where I would promptly skewer him with my razor sharp wit. And lance. Or, if we were both DJs, we could have some sort of scratching competition, during which I would lay down some mad phat funky beats and force him to yield the title of "The Illest" to me, but we weren't in either of those places. We were on a stationary bus. So I simply sank into my seat, stunned, to ponder the ramifications of this near-encounter.

I soon realized that your identity, versatile as it may be, is really the only thing you've got going for you in this image-obsessed postmodern playground, so when you meet someone who reminds you a little too much of yourself, your instinct is to automatically try to destroy that person … or at least make sure you never run into them again. It's the psychological equivalent of realizing someone at a party is wearing the same dress as you - not that I would know much about that, but … well, you get the idea.

Are personality plagiarists simply searching for their own identity, their own voice or their own image? Aren't they really just lost, helpless children, stranded on a bus whose wheels, indeed, cannot go 'round and 'round?

The answer is no. They're just lazy social leeches who can't survive by themselves, at least in the area of personality development. I may be smiling in that portrait of myself, but behind those attractive incisors there lies a tongue - a tongue of untold hatred and verbal ability - a tongue whose mocking ability knows no bounds. So watch your backs, personality plagiarists - that bus ride put me in a bad mood.

Also, I have a baseball bat, and I may know where you live.