9 Failed Attempts to Interview a Viral Video Villain
Hello, friends. Enjoying the Internet, are we? Mmmm. That was my satisfied yummy sound, because yes, you're enjoying it and so am I. I in particular have enjoyed the latest viral sensation "The Rhubarb Lady." Have you seen her? Allow me.
She's a charmer, isn't she? This kind of instant and unintentional comedy is what I live for. Her allure was to me like musk to a musk ox, or musk to a '70s lot lizard. Something that gets horny for musk. I had to have her!
The chance to interact with a walking comedy skit like this woman was too great to resist. I set to work, and it took me all of six days of emails and phone calls to narrow down who she was and finally how to contact her. With only four wrong numbers, I had her home number and, perchance, an interview. Enjoy!
Felix Clay: Hi, my name is Felix Clay, I'm a freelance writer and journalist, I guess. I'm looking for a Ms. Janice Gaynor?
Janice Gaynor: I'm Janice, who's this?
FC: Oh, great. My name is Felix Clay, I'm a writer, I was hoping I could talk to you for a few minutes for an article I'm writing.
JG: Fuck off, why don't ya?
At this point I was hung up on. But my hopes were high. That voice was unmistakable, like a smoky glass of bourbon, like choking on sweet velour pants. Very specific, very hard to forget. Janice Gaynor was tracked down, and she was mine. I decided to give her a half-hour while I heated up some Hot Pockets to celebrate my online detective work. They were delicious, and they burned the skin off the roof of my mouth.
Felix Clay: Hi, Ms. Gaynor? This is Felix Clay again. Sorry to bother you, but-
Janice Gaynor: I told you guys to fuck off!
"I got me a good feeling about this! Thumbs up."
Shorter than our first parlay, but I felt more of a softness in her voice. Plus she thinks I'm more than one person now, so perhaps a game of good columnist/bad columnist is in order. I'll play good columnist. Brockway can be the shit she's mouthing off to for all I care.
Felix Clay: Hello, Ms. Gaynor, I understand someone from my office has been harassing you?
Janice Gaynor: You what?
FC: Has someone from my office claiming to be a journalist been harassing you on the phone?
JG: I told you guys to fuck off. You won't leave me alone. I don't care what you want.
FC: Totally understandable, and you can rest assured, that person is being fired.
JG: Good! I'm sick of the shit! All day long, everyone calling and coming by, buncha fucks.
FC: Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. Is it all because of this Internet thing?
JG: Fucking assholes is what it is!
FC: That's the Internet alright. Assholes, every one of them.
Pictured: A metaphor for all of us.
There was some muttering at this point, and the phone was hung up again. However, I wasn't expected to fuck off, as near as I could tell, and that, my friends, is good old-fashioned progress. I imagined this was how those Nixon tapes were sussed out, lots of recording the vice president on the toilet for a while until finally something good paid off. I decided to give Ms. Gaynor a night and start fresh the next day.
Felix Clay: Ms. Gaynor? Hi, good to speak to you again. You'll be happy to know that Brockway asshole's been fired for harassing you, and we are determined to get your side of the story out there so people will leave you alone.
Janice Gaynor: The fuck are you?
FC: This is Felix Clay, we spoke yesterday about making sure people leave you alone.
JG: You a cop?
FC: I have seen them, yes.
JG: It's nonstop! It's harassment is what it is, I want the whole lot of them thrown in jail so they can get buttfucked! It's what they deserve.
"Buttfucking?!? Awwww, man!"
FC: Preaching to the choir, ma'am. Listen, let me ask you about the rhubarb-
JG: Fuck off! It's not a big deal, it's fuckin' rhubarb! It's fuckin fruit for a fuckin' pie! That lezzie bitch had to go tell the whole town like it's some thing. You come arrest me if it's so illegal, you fucker, I'll have you thrown off the force so fast, your fuckin' head will spin!
This went both better and worse than expected, like AC/DC playing smooth jazz, or sex with a woman who has a crooked vagina. We've broached the subject, but now I'm both an asshole journalist and an asshole cop. Not sure where to go from here. I break to have a delicious Fresca and consider my options.
Felix Clay: GIMME THE FUCKIN' RHUBARB! (at this point I began making nonsensical utterances that sounded a bit like GWAAAHH BOOBLAAAHH!)
Not even a word before hanging up that time. Unlike a samurai warrior, if I approach her with a fierce demeanor, it does not elicit respect and understanding. She has not recognized me as a kindred spirit. Still, you never know until you try. Toilet break, and then regroup.
Felix Clay: Ms. Janice Gaynor? I'm from Rhubarb Fancy magazine, and we'd like to feature you as next month's centerfold model.
Janice Gaynor: Oh, for fuck's sake, buddy.
Readers, I apologize for that one. I had it on a list of possible things to say, and I assured myself I wouldn't. But then I did. Immature is what it was, and I am nothing if not mature. Have you seen the article I wrote entirely about farts? I'm Cracked's Wolf Blitzer. I just sit here with my silver beard, looking sternly at all the other columnists. Once I stared so hard at Soren Bowie, he wept. Honest to goodness bitch tears. But I digress.
I begin to feel a creeping sense of dread as the next several dozen calls I place go nowhere. No answer, no voice mail, just endless ringing. I try to rationalize to myself what is occurring. Was I somehow call blocked? Is Janice Gaynor the kind of woman who has voice mail? What kind of insane outgoing message would it be? I imagine it would be her yelling at Maury Povich about what assholes his guests are for a solid 10 minutes, followed by a beep. What if dozens of other people had found her and were doing the same thing I was and we drove her insane? What if that last call I placed was the straw that broke the camel's back? What if she was in a tub full of water and rhubarb right this second with the toaster in her lap? Am I that kind of monster?
I poured myself a drink and called again. Nothing heaped upon nothing. Maybe she was just out. Maybe she was on a date. Oh my God, imagine her having sex. "No, you dickhead, that's the wrong fuckin' hole!" I laughed, but on the inside, I was still pensive.
What if she traced my number? Oh shit, son. What if she was on her way here? She lived across the country, but she's obviously dreadfully unstable. What if she looked me up online? My only hope was that she stumbled upon that British photographer who stole the goddamn felixclay.com domain. Hope you enjoy being famous for copying me when you're getting fistfuls of rhubarb shoved up your ass by a crazy old lady, Mr. Artist.
I needed to calm down and relax. I went to see a movie and then got pretty dirty drunk. I fell asleep on my own sofa eating pierogies. It was disgusting.
The next day I awoke in a haze of shame and fear. I needed to set right what I had made wrong. I needed to Quantum Leap this bitch.
Felix Clay: Ms. Gaynor! So good to hear your voice!
Janice Gaynor: Who's this?
FC: Ms. Gaynor, I'm what you might call a mirthemagician, and-
JG: Fuck is that supposed to be?
FC: Fuck is supposed to be your ticket to getting your life back. You don't want these people bugging you day in and day out about rhubarb, do you? I mean, really -- rhubarb?
JG: Fuck are you talking about?
FC: I like how you drop parts of your speech.
"Stop being an asshole."
And we're done. But great news! She's not dead and, near as I can tell, not stalking me. To be honest, I'm pretty sure she doesn't have call display, and if you asked her about it, I'd put good money on her response being "Fuck is that?" Still, it seems like rhubarb is a pretty touchy subject for her, and really, all I want to know is why the hell she lost her shit over some rhubarb. And in that moment the entire challenge I'm facing hit me like a ton of bricks.
There was no way I could ask her about the rhubarb, because in her mind, we were all the crazy people. She was just picking some alley rhubarb, fuck you for caring. The fact that anyone questioned it incensed her because it was the most normal thing in the world for a batshit loony toon like Janice. The only way we could converse on even footing was if we were on the same side. Fuck do I do that?
Felix Clay: Hi, Janice, do you have a minute?
Janice Gaynor: Who's this?
FC: (audible sigh) Listen, no bullshit, I'm just asking about the rhubarb. It wasn't a big deal, right? Like you were just going to pick some and leave, right? And this woman just started giving you shit for it, but if she didn't you would have just gone home and made a pie or whatever and it never would have mattered, right?
JG: You motherfucker! Go fuck your head!
The click that ends our exchange cuts like a dull knife. Go fuck my head? What does that even mean? What started as a journey to the land of comedy gold had become a frustrating endeavor in butting heads with the physical embodiment of that brief moment of irrational rage you feel every time you stub your toe. Janice Gaynor lives in that moment all day, every day. I wonder if she can see colors only visible to mantis shrimp.
"Know what a rainbow looks like to me? Looks like insanity jizzing across Satan's fiery backside."
Rarely will one ever get a chance to interact with something as pure as Janice Gaynor. Pure, blind hilarity. No idea that she's funny, no idea why anyone would think she's funny, probably get even funnier and angrier if she were clued into it. I feel like a physicist confronted with a new state of matter, or an element that doesn't fit into our periodic table.
There was only one choice left.
Felix Clay: Janice, it's Felix.
Janice Gaynor: Who?
FC: Just tell me why you're so angry. Why do you swear so much? Who the fuck gets so worked up about rhubarb?
Janice Gaynor: Stop calling, you dumb fuck, I've had it! You hear me? HAD IT!
I sat for a long time looking at the phone. Then purposely not looking at the phone. I watched TV. I worked. I ate some brisket. I sexted someone I barely know. It was OK, but I was plagued. Shouldn't I call her again?
No. No, Felix. This is a puzzle not meant to be solved by one such as me. Nor should it be. These viral videos, these zany Internet sensations ... when we dig too deep and pull back too many layers, are we any better off? Did you feel good when Rebecca Black made that video with Katy Perry? When Kai the hitchhiker murdered a guy? When Antoine Dodson decided he wasn't gay anymore? No. Those were all tragedies. And getting to the bottom of Janice Gaynor, the Rhubarb Lady, would be a tragedy, too. I would not delve deep like the dwarfs of Moria and expose her inner Balrog. I would instead tread lightly across her snowy crust of insanity, like Legolas. And so here we are.
Done a good thing here. Time to go home.
I tossed out Janice's number. I deleted my emails. The hunt is over. The white whale has escaped. And I think I'm a better man as a result.