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Halloween: What's My Clone Code?

In the early 80's, at the height "child abduction" hysteria (and you kids thought CNN invented the culture of fear), our local TV station ran a series of commercials introducing the "Kid Code." The concept was simple. Whenever a skeevy man wearing a hat and fake mustache approached you with a fistful of lollypops, you'd shout "What's my kid code? WHAT'S MY KID CODE?" And the man would say "Manimal?"--which was of course your kid code because Manimal was effing rad. So you'd climb into the car with him and get molested. Another public service provided by local news.

Now that I am older, I am much better at estimating risk. I now recognize, for instance, the chances of my being abducted by a pedophile are vastly overblown (especially since I am 36 and have lost my boyish figure). No, the biggest threat, as I have learned from a quarter century of science-fiction novels and horror movies, is that:

  1. My body will be taken over by a malevolent presence or a rage-inducing virus;
  2. Someone will create a biological or robotic clone of me;
  3. A shapeshifter will assume my identity;
  4. Someone will graft my face onto their head;
  5. Due to wacky time- or interdimensional-travel related hijinks, there will be two or more copies of me wandering around concurrently.
Indeed, one of these scenarios seems to unfold in pretty much every movie made (e.g., Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Face/Off, Steel Magnolias, My Dinner With Andre, etc.).

Fortunately, motion pictures have also taught us how to deal with such a contingency: you demand that the Doppelganger (if Doppelganger he be) divulge some fact that only the real person could possibly know. A Clone Code, if you will.

As with a Doomsday Machine, the whole point of a Clone Code is lost if you keep it a secret. So here is mine. The next time you see "me" in person, be sure to verify that I am who I say I am; if I hesitate in responding or provide the wrong answer, flee immediately, contact the authorities, and report a ursurpage (or, in cop lingo, a "4-43").

Alternatively, if you have a shotgun handy, you may want to err on the side of caution and just take my fetch out yourself.

Version: CCv1.0

Identity: Matthew Scott Baldwin

Challenge: "One year in high school, you wound up serially dating three girls with the exact same first name. What was the name?"

Response: "Shelley"

-----END CLONE CODE-----

If you have a blog, you may wish to publish your own Clone Code, to ensure that any of your doubles are promptly unmasked and eliminated.

And for god's sakes, don't get into a vehicle with anybody until you have adequately verified their identity. Unless it's Automan, of course. Automan is effing rad.

Posted on October 29, 2007 to Great Ideas


But... if your code is easily available on teh interweb, which surely any clone-maker would have access to, wouldn't they be able to know your code? What you've done is invalidate your own code. It's no longer something only you know - now, it is in the webs and the google for all time.

Posted by: Max cascone on October 29, 2007 12:54 PM

Version: CCv1.0

Identity: Robert Cockerham

Challenge: "What was the problem you were always haunted with in Middle School Newspaper Class?"

Response: "Story Ideas"

-----END CLONE CODE-----

Posted by: Robert Cockerham on October 29, 2007 1:01 PM

My wife and I have a secret code word to be emplyed in the event that one of us switches bodies, becomes mystically aged or de-aged, is duplicated by some means, or travels through time. For obvious reasons this code word is top secret.

I'm pleased to find others who think like us!

Posted by: Dave Lartigue on October 29, 2007 1:21 PM

Two of my all-time favorite shows as a kid, and you peg them both. You're inside my head, aren't you?!?!?!

Posted by: Palad on October 29, 2007 1:47 PM

My husband and I have a "safety word" that could probably double as a clone code in case of emergency...heh.
But now you've got me thinking about a Jet Li movie where he had a clone and his wife tricked the clone by mentioning a fake version of how they met. The clone also "remembered" this version so she knew he was fake. Was it The One? This is gonna drive me crazy. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: blakspring on October 29, 2007 2:45 PM

I badly want the opportunity to report a usurpage.

Posted by: LizRM on October 29, 2007 2:56 PM

But...but...how do we know that this wasn't posted by the clone?

This kind of information cannot be spread on websites, it must be done in person, with several witnesses who verify your non-clone status.

Posted by: Chuck on October 29, 2007 3:59 PM

Yeah Baldwin, you're only considering the example of a nefarious clone. What if dude just came back with naive dreams of setting up a beach volleyball team? Now you got a whole rung of trigger happy blog lurkers wasting people who kinda look like you and who inadvertently respond to the challenge question with a disinterested 'Huh?'

Posted by: Anonymous on October 29, 2007 4:27 PM

Version: CCv1.0

Identity: Andy Rooney

Challenge: You ever wonder why people like the cheeseburger hot, but the lettuce and tomato cold? Why can't it be the other way around?

Response: Boy, do I.

-----END CLONE CODE-----

Posted by: Andy Rooney on October 29, 2007 6:55 PM

Version: CCv1.0

Identity: Any Catholic altar boy

Challenge: As long as you sit on my lap and stroke my mitre, you can watch a Kevin Smith movie.

Response: Kickass! Kevin Smith is effin rad!

-----END CLONE CODE-----

Posted by: Catholic altar boy on October 29, 2007 8:43 PM

I dunno. I kinda like the idea of some evil shapeshifter taking over my life, at least for a week or so. That way I could go off, lie on a beach somewhere and catch up on my reading. Meanwhile Darzos the Dark (or whatever) would spend the week taking crap from my boss, being told hes putting on weight by my wife and getting woken up every night ant 3 am by my (or temporarily his) restless kid.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on October 30, 2007 1:58 AM

A. Your brain cracks me up.

B. I'm so excited other people remember Manimal! I mentioned it a couple weeks ago and got blank looks all around. I regret to say I don't remember Automan because after watching that intro, it looked awesome!

Posted by: Lauren on October 30, 2007 6:20 AM

Version: CCv1.0

Identity: Micah A. Rousey

Challenge: What are the Thundercats?

Response: Effing rad... Ho!!!!!

-----END CLONE CODE-----

Posted by: Modern Polymath on October 30, 2007 7:55 AM

This idea is effing rad. Thank you for doing your part to save mankind.

Posted by: Joe on October 30, 2007 9:48 AM

Even if you didn't post this for all to see, it doesn't really do anything to stop the "you"s who came back through time. I mean, they would all know about Shelly, too. Unless they were borne of you from before then, which would be kind of neat. What kind of man would you be if you hadn't had three Shellys in a row? Of course, I'd think you'd remember if you started time travelling before now. A butterfly flaps its wings.

Posted by: Nathan on October 30, 2007 10:11 AM

In college, for me, there were three successive Lisas (with much confusion and wisecrackery from friends). Just to break things up a bit after that, there was a Debbie and a Lorinda(no kidding) before . . . yet another Lisa.

Posted by: Bill Fisher on October 30, 2007 10:21 AM

Steel Magnolias?

Posted by: Anon on October 30, 2007 1:05 PM

This is by far one of the best and most informative pieces of literature I have ever read. Ever.

Posted by: John on October 30, 2007 1:46 PM

What's this about the Da Vinci Code?

Posted by: Clueless White Person on October 30, 2007 8:11 PM

ha! i thought it was just my paranoid arse who made friends memorize some arcane factoid only the two of us would know! i feel all less whacked out now! thanks!

Posted by: babs on November 1, 2007 2:21 PM

Great idea, but it doesn't cover those times when we ourselves suspect we've been taken over. Yesterday I dropped every single thing I picked up, including my laptop, which landed on my foot. "I" know that "I" would have thrown a fit, broken a couple of things on purpose, and probably yelled at my dog/ But "I" didn't do any of those things. And so I suspect . . . But if "I" know "my" clone code, then surely "he" or "it" will . . . It's all too confusing. Great site, by the way.

Posted by: timothy hallinan on November 3, 2007 8:29 AM

Finally! I sent a link to the Automan You Tube to my friends. Do you know how many blank stares I get when I reference Automan. I mean the Thundercats people know, but I thought my dad and I were the only two viewers of Automan. Effin' rad man, totally tubular, like awesome, I finally feel vindicated. Glad to know others operate based on the same random thoughts and info I do.

Posted by: JR on November 4, 2007 6:21 PM

> As with a Doomsday Machine, the whole point of a Clone Code is lost if you keep it a secret.

Not true! In any other setting I would be embarrassed to reveal this, but I actually have a private code for myself that I've never told anyone. This is useful when someone comes from the future saying that they're you. I think it was a Niven story that inspired this, but, boy, it sure would have helped poor Xander in Buffy Season 5 wouldn't it?

It would also come in handy if someone tells you that you keep losing your short term memory but that you said to believe them. That, of course, was inspired by "Dickmento".

Posted by: Wolfe on November 5, 2007 5:17 PM