Suddenly there it was. A blatant flying saucer hovering over Central Park.
People stared, took pictures, and approached the ship for a closer look. About twenty minutes later the mayor and her entourage made their way slowly through the gathered crowd and with bullhorns, got the crowd to step backward, letting the city’s delegation have under the ship and a few yards around the ship. There was some debate over where the front of the ship was. Finally after much hesitation they picked a “front” and the mayor began speaking in the bullhorn.
“Welcome,” the mayor said as magnanimously as possible, “to our humble city on this, the planet Earth!” She paused, then, hoping to hear something back from the flying saucer.
There were some whirring sounds from the ship, then a disembarking stairway unfolded from the ship. The lucky humans had picked the proper front. Then down the stairway came a delegation of three aliens. They were about the size of the mayor, maybe 5 and ½ feet. They had space suits on so obviously they came from a planet with a different atmosphere. Or perhaps the suits were there to stop contamination from earth life.
When they stood in the grass some word was said from the aliens. “Blizzark.” Then they raised their hands with palms forward. With two large fingers and one thumb, they held up their hands in what looked like the Vulcan salute.
The delegation got the idea instantly and very confidently did their own Vulcan salutes. But before they could get out the words ‘live long and prosper’, shots came from the alien ship. The whole of the city’s delegation were shot to death while the three ran back aboard the ship. The surrounding crowd almost trampled to death some of its own in efforts to get away.
The aliens safely got aboard the ship, the stairway folded back up and the flying saucer flew away.
A day later the alien ship appeared over a large park in Los Angeles. This time no crowd gathered. No one wanted to be in any delegation that went to the ship.
After the-day-before’s failure, many people chimed in with what was thought to be wrong with the approach of the delegation. Los Angeles’ mayor’s office went through them all. And decided to give one a chance. Largely they liked him because Sam Joachim was 86 years old so if they threatened him with jail, he might be in there for the rest of his life while the lawyers wrangled.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll do it if I only have to get you past the part where the New York delegation screwed up. If I make it I will tell you why they screwed up so you can avoid similar mishaps.”
Sam was taken to the park and given a bullhorn to speak with.
He did everything the same. He approached the ‘front’ of the saucer. He used the bullhorn to say, “Welcome to Los Angeles on our planet Earth!”
The alien ship opened up and came down in their delegation of three again. They got to the grass, said “Blizzark,” and did their ‘Vulcan salute’.
Sam answered the ‘Vulcan salute’ with his hand raised, palm up and his fingers and thumbs spread normally.
The back up delegation held their breaths for a full minute. Nothing happened.
“I was right,” said Sam Joachim, turning around.
“The New York delegation thought quite simply that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. When imitation can be the nastiest form of mockery. That at least, is how the aliens took it. Go on try to talk with them. Just be very careful. And make sure there is no blind mimicry.”