Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me
After the mayhem of the 2016 election, one man stood as the only person in the nation—other than those in a coma or a cave—who didn't have a clue who won.
On election night, Pilliard Dickle (aka his real name, Joe Chandler) went into a self-imposed "Bubble of Isolation," cut off from the din of the outside world.
"Everyone was trapped on this insane merry-go-round-run-amuck. You had to stay up into the night, glued to the returns, gnawing your nails to the quick. You had no choice," he says. "Well, I had a choice. I gave myself one.”
His idea was to treat himself to 24 hours of not knowing before returning to the fracas, but he discovered a serenity in his blissful information-desert he was in no hurry to walk away from.
"I stepped from a world riddled with turmoil into a world comprised of trees and squirrels and pimento cheese sandwiches.”
Life in the bubble
For an artist and writer, the Bubble of Isolation proved to be a creative haven.
“I stepped out of an unhinged world of turmoil into a quiet world comprised of trees and squirrels and pimento cheese sandwiches,” he says. "I got a lot of work done on a novel I'm wrestling with, I made a huge dent in my 2017 calendar and I wrote a sequel to Sympathy for the Devil. And I ate lots of sandwiches."
His daughter Emily and his ex-wife (but still best friend) Natalie were his laisons to the outside world, feeding him select tidbits of information.
"Emily told me there was civil insurrection," he says, "but that could have gone either way. Natalie sent me a news story with names and phrases blacked out like a classified CIA document. I'd waiver this way and that, but my two 'handlers' pretty much kept me near the 50 yard line."
After a few days in self-imposed solitary confinement, he was pining for the freedom to go out and get a burger. But when he found himself not being able to take a call from The Jimmy Kimmel Show because he was on a call with the Today show, he figured he could tough it out a while longer. "Especially since what I was doing was nothing," he says. "Which I'm particularly adept at."
"If I'd any idea not watching TV would make me famous for 15 minutes, I'd have not done it years ago."
The media's take on this was all over the map. The Today show treated him like a hero, whereas Cosmopolitan magazine saw him as this white Christian Southern male who simply didn't care what was going on.
"I do admit to being white," he says. "That much they got right. But they were dead wrong on the rest. I do care. Passionately. It's traumatic to witness the systematic dismantling of our democracy. That's what drove me into the bubble the first place. My brain needed a break."
The bubble turned out to be a placid fortress of creative solitude. He started work on a new book and completed an ambitious sequel to the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil, which picks up where the original song left off and updates it to the present day.
This bubble of bliss was finally popped. The Bert Show, a nationally-syndicated radio show out of Atlanta, threw him a "gender reveal party." Only instead of "blue or pink?" the question was: "red or blue?" When they opened a big box and a cluster of red balloons came wafting out, it was all over. Or so one would think. But the media kept calling.
"I had an opportunity to speak on the BBC," he said. "On behalf of all of us here in America (well, half of us, anyway), I offered our friends across the pond an embarrassed apology."