476: One-Sided

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He continued, "Okay, Bernanke is uncontaminated. Find a crossbow and get him into position behind one of the columns at the Fed entrance. This is gonna get ugly."
Title text: He continued, "Okay, Bernanke is uncontaminated. Find a crossbow and get him into position behind one of the columns at the Fed entrance. This is gonna get ugly."


The comic refers to the phenomenon of hearing half a conversation from a stranger on a cell phone and, not noticing the cell phone, imagining that that person is talking to you and responding in kind. The chart gives a plot of the frequency that this occurs (for Randall here represented by the Cueball to the left) against the amount of time that passes before the error is discovered. It also implies that Randall's second relationship was in reality just a particularly long instance of this occurrence, suggesting that his 'partner' wasn't even aware of the relationship.

The title text is the continuation of the phone call, which involves a fictional conspiracy involving the then Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and a crossbow.

On September 23, about a week after this comic, Randall posted a short story to his blog, featuring Ben Bernanke breaking into the Federal Reserve building with a crossbow.


[Caption above the panel:]
Sometimes my conversations with strangers go on for a while before I realize that they're talking on their phones.
[To the right above a graph, Cueball is standing next to a Cueball-like guy with a backpack.]
Guy with backpack: Hi!
Cueball: Hi.
Guy with backpack: What's up?
Cueball: Uh, not a lot...
Guy with backpack: Shit. Does Bernanke own a crossbow?
[To the left and below these two guys is a graph with the axis labelled. The graph looks parabolic towards the left-hand side, but as x approaches infinity, y approaches zero. A vertical dashed line runs through the graph, slightly to the right of the peak of the graph. To the right of the dashed line, there is an arrow pointing to the right that is labelled. The x-axis has a broken scale, and to the right of the break, there is a very small increase in the graph that is parenthetically labelled with a small arrow.]
Y-axis: How Often This Happens
X-axis: Length of conversation
Arrow: Awkward Zone
Small arrow: (My Second Relationship)

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Could the Bernanke in question be Ben Bernanke, American economist and currently chairman of the Federal Reserve (i.e. "The Fed")? I assume the crossbows are a reference to something topical, but have no idea what. Might it be a video game of some kind? --MisterSpike (talk) 09:04, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. As for the crossbow and "uncontaminated" thing, and tying it all together, there was some big video game set in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC, but I can't for the life of me remember what its name was.

-- 12:41, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

This was the original Deus Ex, if I remember correctly. This would fit oddly well, actually. There's a huge plague and everything. 21:03, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

I think the Fallout 3 reference is a bit far-fetched to be anything more than speculation, especially since there's no mention of Ben Bernanke, or any Bernanke, in said game. The "contamination" aspect of the title text is most likely used because it's a simple, commonly-used "disaster' plot that justifies the use of a crossbow and doesn't require much context or explanation, if any. Also, Fallout 3 does not have crossbows. Codefreak5 (talk) 20:15, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

Sometimes my bus journeys go on for a while before I realise I went past my stop, replying to people shouting on the telephone.

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 01:47, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

I think that the Crossbow references might be a nod to xkcd 564 - a continuation along the same themes (this is my first time adding a comment or editing, so sorry if I do anything wrong) 19:58, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

Wrong order. 564 might be a callback then? 17:56, 7 December 2015 (UTC)