I can't remember shit, except for where to shit. I'm constantly looking up information, facts, and figures I learned years ago, I can't stop re-re-re-re-reading a recipe to see whether I'm adding a teaspoon of salt or a 7-Eleven Double Gulp's worth, and if not for video games with written lore, I'd forget every story the second I stopped playing it. That is, if I even remember to read the lore, which I usually don't.
So I decided that I needed to get away from Wikipedia, Google, Siri, and anything else that gives me answers without expecting me to internalize them. I had two options for doing so: putting on pants and living in the Ozarks for a month, or playing Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego -- a 30-year-old DOS game about the seedy underbelly of world geography that I never beat as a tot -- without any Internet assistance, instead relying entirely on whatever's still in my memory banks after years of ignoring the world in favor of eBaum's World.
My First Assignment (And Damn Near My Last)
My first step was to block Wikipedia, plus any other site that might distract me from my task.
Like CNN, the dirtiest site of all.
Next, I identified myself to the ACME detective agency -- since this is a serious venture of the utmost international importance, I chose a moniker with appropriate gravitas.
A doctor! Mama and Papa Pubic are so proud.
Dr. Pubic's first assignment sent him to Buenos Aires to investigate the dirty hack who pilfered something called the "bola." Right away, I began panic-drooling over my keyboard. I know very little about Argentina aside from the pope, and I know squat about a bola. Is it anything like Ebola? Or maybe Ebola is just the Internet version of bola. I'm getting sidetracked already. Focus.
Then there were my possible next destinations ...
I know fuck-all about them too. Rio's got a giant Jesus, Moscow's got vodka, Colombo is a way better detective than I am, and Istanbul was Constantinople until it got the works. If the actual clues were anything tougher than that, I was screwed before I even bent over.
But that's nobody's business but the Turkish bath staff.
Thank the DOS gods, a cream puff clue! I know what an Amazon is, and even where it is. Even better, I learned my suspect has a tattoo. Inputting this data brought me two possible suspects: Len Bulk or Ihor Ihorovich. Yep, this is definitely a Cold War-era game. "Ihor Ihor" not being recycled for a Snow White porn parody is a national travesty, by the way. I'd totally watch- no, you're doing it again. Focus.
In Rio de Janeiro, I was greeted with the following possible destinations:
What the fuck is a Kigali? This was the point where I really started experiencing Wikipedia withdrawal. The witnesses' clues were equally unhelpful. First, "He converted his money to forints." That sounds like Final Fantasy money, not Earth money. Then, something about Magyar, which they claimed is art but sounds more like a line of washing machines. Finally, a thing about meeting the "party secretary." So a country with political parties? That narrowed it to down to, oh, all of them. At least the two physical clues (he drives a convertible and has red hair) earned me a warrant for Len Bulk's arrest. That asshole ginger! He deserves such a shanking for shaming my people.
OK, so I had to pick a place. Eeny meeny miny Kigali. "Eh, they probably know how to party," I reasoned.
NOPE. Based on the one street urchin who spoke for an entire country, Bulk wasn't there. So I had to return to Buenos Aires and try again, or just give up and beg Siri to take me back. I chose to trek on and went with Budapest -- perhaps they meant the Communist Party?
Judging by the lone burglar crossing my path (in this world, all crooks and thieves convene in the same place, at the same time, all the time), they did indeed! And, even better, my next hint was easy like Sunday morning: His car had a red, white, and blue flag on it. So New York City I hit, where I learned that Bulk's flag was now red, white, and green. I wasn't aware you could have an open relationship with patriotism. But that sounded like Mexico City, which was an option, so off I flew.
Caught him red-assed! Seconds later, I chucked him into a prison cell with an amazing view, which should more than make up for the lack of trial.
I got trench
coats around my shoulders
I got fe
fedoras on my head
I had conquered the Carmen equivalent of Glass Joe, despite knowing nothing about other countries, even ones I've visited before, like Brazil. But I know what my own flag looks like, so that's good, at least.
All Hail The King Of Random Guesswork
After a mere one assignment, I earned a promotion to Sleuth. Suck it 1234, you gossiping nanodick!
And don't get me started on that brown-nosing twerp 123123.
I still had many cases to go before catching Carmen and wiping out crime forever. And, just as the clues didn't get any easier, I didn't suddenly start knowing what I'm doing. At one point, I went to Moroni to track down the thief who stole plans to the sultan's harem. I barely know what a Moroni is, and how do you steal plans to a harem? Isn't that a bunch of concubines? Unless he stole them. I'll bet he did, the bastard. I wonder where the idea of concubines originated? Maybe I should flop over to Wiki- NO! FOCUS!
It's no "Stuffed the Statue of Liberty in his pocket," but it's a comically impossible start.
And the clues didn't help me in the least. Something about Malayan art, and two mentions that he changed his money to dollars. And, like, every destination I knew not a thing about. Bamako? Colombo? I've probably researched them in the past, but fuck if I could remember them now. I was forced to rely on a strategy more useful than all the knowledge in the world: straight-up guessing out my ass. First up: Bamako, because it's fun to say.
WRONG. Luckily, my infinite airplane budget brought me right back to Moroni, where hopefully my Colombo guess would pay off. If nothing else, I'd at least learn what a Colombo is.
Land of the yogurt people, probably.
WRONG AGAIN. Colombo has trees, though, so I learned that at least. But since I saw no harems in those trees (I wonder if PornHub has a "harem in trees" section), back to Moroni I went, where everyone was all, "You deserve our country's name more than we do," and went with Singapore, since that was the only option left. At least I remembered where I'd already been?
That blind detective work paid off, as I soon got my man: a flashy crook named Fast Eddie B who looked exactly like Len Bulk, and every other criminal in the game too. Even the girls! Presumably, Carmen creates criminals in the same lab where Disney creates their pop stars, only she adds trenchcoats.
This one already dances better than Ariana Grande.
This blindness quickly became my MO throughout the game: I either threw shit at the screen and flew to whatever country whose name I could read after, or latched onto easy hints like "He wanted to see the Loch Ness monster." Since "Imaginationland, because Nessie's fake, you gullible fuck" wasn't an option, and England/Scotland was, I could safely fly there and keep my mission alive.
And why did I ace the Loch Ness clue but stumbled on a later clue about the Tutsi people? Because I learned about Nessie offline years ago, and that cerebrum-sucking WiFi monster that I'm plugged into today hasn't invaded my long-term memory yet. But if I had ever Wiki'd the Tutsi people, I've long since forgotten about it. If you told me that was Batman's favorite dance, I'd believe you.