“Humanize Maybe?” by Tim Miller

Apr 15th, 2020 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Not all that long ago, I attended a professional development session at my school with the purpose of the training to address the following question: What to do in the event of an active shooter?

Nothing is remotely funny or humorous about active shooters and the reality that public schools need to train their employees for the potential of such an event.

However. There was something that I did in fact find humorous during the training. Which is sort of what I do when life turns lugubrious. Here it is.

The PowerPoint presentation, from the San Diego County Office of Education in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, had a slide with the following table.

Trying To Humanize Yourself With An Assailant

I would like to focus on the Homicide Maybe row for the following short play.


Scene: A dark alley in an American city. A FATHER OF THREE has gone out to get a quart of milk so that his children would have milk for breakfast, but since this father is not familiar with the city, let’s say it’s Baltimore (he’s there for his sister’s wedding) with a lot of brick buildings which can be confusing (but it’s not Baltimore as the author does not wish to imply that a lot of murders or robberies happen in Baltimore), and that this FATHER OF THREE is using his phone’s Maps app and not understanding why it keeps buzzing to alert him that he is walking in the wrong direction. The FATHER OF THREE, head-down, staring at phone, mistakenly turns down a dark alley and then pauses while Maps vibrates and redirects him yet again. Suddenly an assailant jumps out from behind a dumpster and holds something that feels like a gun to his back.

ASSAILANT: Don’t move, or I’ll kill you. Give me all your money.

FATHER OF THREE: OK! OK! Don’t shoot! (Puts hands in the air.) Hey, can I ask you just one real quick question?

ASSAILANT: Huh? All right— but just one. Then you’re a goner.

FATHER OF THREE: Would it help if I humanize myself?

ASSAILANT: What does ‘humanize’ mean?

FATHER OF THREE: You know, like make you realize that I’m a human being. That this quart of milk is for my little kids, three girls all under 6. That I have a family and a job and that I like to eat salami and play guitar and root for the Cubs. You know, that other people will kinda miss me if you killed me. And my school would have to find a new science teacher. I would miss my sister’s wedding. Well, weddings. See, it’s the first of two weddings— it’s a long story. That kinda stuff.

ASSAILANT: I didn’t know you could just add -ize to the end of a word. Is that a verb now?

FATHER OF THREE: I believe it is. To make human. Like if you weaponize something, say, a stapler, then you are making it a weapon. That’s probably not a good example. Demonize is to make a demon. Like the press is demonizing Donald Trump. That might not be a good example either. Are you a Republican? Or, I guess the right question is did you vote for Trump? Not that it’s either here nor there. Politics are so crazy right now. I mean you can be a Republican and be totally against Trump. Not that it’s any of my business. You might not even have voted. Though you really should vote. Listen to me, just rambling.

ASSAILANT: Shut up. You’re dead.

FATHER OF THREE: Just one more, like real real quick question.

ASSAILANT: (Grumbling) Arrrgg! Fine. Last question. Then you die. And don’t get off subject.

FATHER OF THREE: Is this a robbery or would you consider it a homicide?

ASSAILANT: Why do you ask?

FATHER OF THREE: See, I’m a teacher (more humanizing here), and I recently went through a training about what to do in the event of a public shooting. I know. Crazy times we live in. Don’t get me started on the whole arming teachers debate. Anyway, there was this slide about how you shouldn’t ever try to humanize yourself to an Active Shooter.

ASSAILANT: Makes sense.

FATHER OF THREE: Right? But there was this table about how in the event of an armed robbery, you should. Right next to armed robbery it said, “YES.”

ASSAILANT: I could see that. An armed robber doesn’t necessarily want to kill people, but he—or she— will if they have to, to get what they’re after.

FATHER OF THREE: Exactly. I knew from the moment you held me against my will that you were a reasonable person. (FATHER OF THREE starts to turn to face him, but ASSAILANT prevents him with gun-like object.) But next to HOMICIDE the table said MAYBE. So then I was trying to think of examples of when you would try to humanize yourself before someone trying to murder you and when you wouldn’t. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another slide. I guess it would have been off topic.

ASSAILANT: Hmmm… I could see like a cheating husband situation, where it just doesn’t matter. Like the husband cheated and the wife is gonna kill him and there’s nothing he could say. She knows he’s a human, and a lousy one at that.

FATHER OF THREE: Bingo. I was thinking along those lines, like a big variable is whether the person trying to kill you knows you or not, because if they know you, then they already know you’re a human.

ASSAILANT: Another very… um…


ASSAILANT: Yeah that. Thank you.

FATHER OF THREE: Don’t mention it.

ASSAILANT: So, another very-uh-bull (FATHER OF THREE nods) is probably whether the murder is premeditated or not. I can see how another slide is really wanting in the presentation.

FATHER OF THREE: Right? And why do they say premeditated? Is it like you meditate beforehand about murdering someone? Ohhhhm. Kill Gary. Ohhhhhhm. Kill Gary. That would seem like an oxymoron.

ASSAILANT: I thought an oxymoron was like jumbo shrimp— Hey! Wait a minute. That was another question. Quit trying to change the subject. You’re gonna die. (Prods the object further into FATHER OF THREE’s back.)

FATHER OF THREE: (Desperately) Wait wait wait—at the beginning you asked for my money.

ASSAILANT: Oh yeah, I did, didn’t I?

FATHER OF THREE: So isn’t this a robbery? Not a homicide? And haven’t I humanized myself sufficiently?


FATHER OF THREE: I have cash. And credit cards. And a phone that keeps vibrating for some reason. You can have it all. I won’t cancel the cards for 24 hours.

ASSAILANT: Make it 48. And the milk, too. I’m thirsty as hell. Just lay it all down slowly and walk away. Nothing sudden or it’s the end.

FATHER OF THREE complies, very slowly and deliberately, setting down phone and wallet and milk. He takes about ten steps and then, without turning says: So wait, was this an Armed Robbery Yes or a Homicide Maybe?

ASSAILANT: Homicide No. (Fires.)


Tim Miller is a writer and humorist living in San Marcos, CA. He got his start as a humor columnist for The North County Times near San Diego in 2011. When the newspaper ceased publication, he turned to freelance writing, while also developing theories about the widespread extinction of local newspaper humor columnists. Once, while eating a leftover burrito, he had an epiphany. Something about a meteor. While the theory remains unpublished, his writing has appeared in The Piker Press, The Writing Disorder, and The Scarlet Leaf Review. Also, Tim Miller has been personally rejected by The New Yorker. To the dismay of plumbers everywhere, he blogs his leaky thoughts at https://thefaucetblog.com/. Find him on Twitter @faucetwriter. As a school teacher and father of three young daughters, he’s f*cking hysterical when he’s fully rested, which is never.

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