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Maroon 5’s Payphone Music Video: A Novelization

If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here.

Adaptation by Madeline Jacobson (blogger) and Carl Jacobson (local curmudgeon)

I found myself standing in front of the burning wreckage of a European sports car and wondered to myself how I had gotten there. How had I, Dirk Steelhorse, man about town, come to be near such a disreputable scene? I pulled out my iPhone and stared at it mournfully as it played its swan song and powered down. Just as well, I thought as I tossed the probably still functional phone into the fire, The cops had probably wire-tapped it anyways. I didn’t know why they would have wire-tapped it, but it seemed like the type of thing that cops would have done to someone standing in front of a parking lot fire of dubious origins.

Questions raced through my mind. Did I start the fire? Not according to Billy Joel. Am I Jason Bourne? No, I was Dirk Steelhouse, or something. I needed to retain a firm grip on my identity and try to recall what had happened. Memories began flowing back to me like a waterfall full of memory trout.

I had recently spent a dime up at Sing Sing for knocking over the First American Savings Trust Bank. Upon my release, I decided that Dirk Steelhound was going to turn over a new leaf. And so I applied to work at America’s First Trust Savings Bank and shortly thereafter, found myself promoted to a managerial position at the establishment. And people say the job market’s bad. Not for ex-bank robbers like myself!

I’d been working at the bank just this morning, I recalled. It had been a busy day. I’d taken my glasses off, shuffled some papers around, put my glasses back on, and chewed pensively on a Bic pen for lunch. At 12:05 my co-worker, Roxy Velure, sashayed by my desk. I tried to wave to her but she didn’t notice me, so I did that thing where I pretended I’d just been lifting my hand up to adjust my glasses. Dirk Van Steelhausen had never been very good with the ladies. Sure, my body had become perfectly toned through prison gym workouts and my chin had the alluring cleft of two rugged mountain peaks majestically created by the primordial upheaval that had thrust them towards the heavens, but I was shy. All I could do was sit and dream that someday Roxy would notice me.

Yessir, it was a hectic but typical day for Dirk Steelhoop at the ol’ money house…that is, until my old bank robbing gang and league bowling team, The Steal Workers, came through the door. The first thing I thought was: Isn’t this beautifully ironic that I am now on the other side of this exchange? followed by: I should seek shelter behind my desk as they seem to be firing bullets wildly into the air, and probably would not take kindly to me since I ratted them out to the police ten years ago.

After I was safely hunkered down in the fetal position behind my desk, I cautiously glanced around and discovered that Roxy Velure was crouching behind a desk right across the aisle from me. What lucky happenstance! Now it was finally my time to shine—I would finally have that conversation with Roxy.

First I pointed at my shoes as a way to mime-indicate that I liked her own strappy wedge sandals. Women like when you pay them little compliments like that, I’ve read. Roxy apparently misunderstood me, though, and thought that I was indicating that she should take her shoes off so that we could make a speedier run for it.

Having removed her shoes, Roxy adopted a sprinter’s stance, clearly ready to get the hell out of Dodge, and I knew I had to take action if I wanted to go with her and land that date I’d been dreaming of. As my former robbing buddy, Rocky Ironbound, walked by my desk with his gun hanging tantalizing out of his waistband, I recalled the advice my father had given me at my Bar Mitzvah: “Son, don’t be a hero.” I also remembered the words of Dr. Hiram Finkel, author of the book How to Woo Women and Other Practical Matters: “Women love a hero, especially when they endanger the lives of themselves and others.” The words of the good doctor overruled the advice of my own flesh and blood, so I grabbed Rocky’s gun and pushed him to the ground.

Another member of my gang, Mitch Goldbrook, saw that I had acquired a piece and unloaded his shotgun, Sweet Samantha, in my general direction. Luckily for me, Mitch and the rest of the members of my former gang were all terrible shots. As they unloaded their guns hither and thither, shooting in every direction that wasn’t my own, I grabbed Roxy’s hand and said, “Come on, dame, let’s steal out of here.” I thought it was a good pun given the circumstances, and I hoped that Roxy would remember my wit when we had escaped.

Roxy and I ran in slow motion and in a straight line towards the doors of the bank and escaped with surprisingly little difficulty. As we exited the building, the police began shooting at us, which I thought was odd since we were dressed in non-bank robbery garb. I suppose I did have a loaded gun, but really it was a bit careless of them.

Given my previous interactions with the police, I wasn’t too keen to let them get close to me. There was no way Dirk Steelhoist was going back to prison on a trumped up firearms charge, so I flung the gun away from myself, not looking back to see if it hit a civilian, and pulled a screaming Roxy down the street and away from the cops.

We appeared to have lost the cops after a couple blocks, but I knew that to make good on my getaway and also finalize my dinner plans with Roxy, I’d need to procure a nice lowkey vehicle. Just up the street, I noticed popular rapper Wiz Khalifa stepping out of a classic Cobra convertible, clearly on his way to a trendy scarf shop. His keys were now dangling in the hands of a slow-witted valet, like a gun dangling from the waist band of a bank robber, and I began to get an idea. “Don’t worry, babe,” I told Roxy suavely. “I’m just gonna go downtown and get us a dinner reservation.”

Roxy looked rather perturbed by this turn of events. “Aren’t we in the middle of escaping a bank robbery?” she asked.

I gave her a wink and a nod to show that I found her light-hearted comment amusing. “I can multi-task,” I assured her. “Just crouch here behind this car so that the cops don’t find you and I’ll be back in a flash, or my name isn’t Dirk Steelharp.”

I crept forward stealthily like a meerkat on the hunt, approached the pudgy valet, grabbed the keys, and pushed him to the ground with a cry of “Have some of that for seconds, why don’t you!” I wasn’t sure where all these catchphrases were coming from, or what they even really meant, but they seemed appropriate somehow. Having properly sassed and physically harmed the valet, I hopped into Wiz Khalifa’s car and tore out of the city center.

I tore out into to the desert, which was luckily only a five minute drive from the center of the city. I decided that this would be a good time to look behind me to make sure I had successfully evaded Johnny Law. However, as it turned out, I was being pursued by 14 cop cars and 4 military helicopters. The only thing to do was to take evasive action, so I began weaving back and forth across the road like a kid that had just gotten off the Tilt-a-Whirl at the county fair. As I drove erratically, I thought of Wiz Khalifa and wondered what he was up to. I couldn’t help feeling that deprived of his prize car, he was now huddled over a trash can fire somewhere, angrily rapping about this whole situation. O cruel Wheel of Fortune, I imagined him intoning. Now when you see me I’m stunting, and all of my cars start with the push of a button. Although I knew he was probably angry now, I couldn’t help thinking that some part of him would also admire my decisive iniative.

I couldn’t spend long dwelling on Wiz Khalifa, however, because off in the distance appeared a police road block. I looked to my left. I looked to my right. Nothing but barren desert on all sides—blast! No way to get around the barricade! There was only one thing to do: I pulled the e-brake as I had seen in so many Tom Cruise films and whipped around, darting swiftly between two lumbering police cars. Improbably, one of the police cars exploded behind me. Lucky for me that all the local police cars had recently switched to propane tanks!

I drove back to the outskirts of the city to return the car of Wiz Khalifa, who was indeed standing over a trash can fire, angrily muttering to himself. I had just climbed out of the car and was ready to hand the keys over when the car decided to give up on life and exploded right then and there. The heat from the fire was too much for me, so I removed my shirt to reveal my rippling biceps and bad-ass prison tattoos.

I was about to do that cool thing where you walk away from an explosion without looking at it, but just then I was hit by a temporary bout of fire insanity, causing me to forget everything that had transpired and to even lose a grip on my own name. But, thanks to the extended flashback that I just recounted, I now remembered who I was—Dirk Steelhurts, esquire.

Now I knew that I had to get back to Roxy and also make those dinner reservations, but I wasn’t sure how to do that since my only mode of transportation was crackling merrily behind me. I suppose I could have asked Wiz Khalifa for help, but I could see him in the distance shaking his head at me, and I decided against it. Instead, I walked to a nearby payphone—a relic that I thought had vanished years ago, like the Rolodex and the dodo bird, yet that was remarkably here in front of me now, glowing slightly like some sort of holy grail. I didn’t actually have Roxy’s number, or the number of any local restaurants, so all I could do was dial randomly and hope to hear a friendly voice on the end of the line. As I reflected on the day’s events, I thought about how everything that had happened could be constructed as a metaphor—for life and love, for failed communication in modern society, for gender roles in the workplace—and as I heard someone on the other line ask “Hello?”, a soulful song that would appeal to a wide demographic poured forth from my throbbing vocal cords.


About Madeline Jacobson

Saturated in pop culture since 1990. Writing about it since 2012. If you want to talk to me about anything I blog about, please do! Comment on my blog, or find me on Twitter @mjacobsonwrites

One response »

  1. Pingback: State of the Pop Music Union | Pop Culture Tea

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