I met an alien last Wednesday. Don't get up on your political soapbox yet; it wasn't an alien who'd hopped any fences or walked across borders, but the kind that cruises around looking for country bumpkins to abduct. However, like Bugs Bunny, he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up here in San Diego.He had no tentacles, antennae, or egg-shaped head, but he claimed to be from some place that Homo sapiens are "unable to pronounce" (aliens are always underestimating us). His mission: to study life forms, perform tests, boldly go where no -- well, you get the idea. I was skeptical at first, but when he showed me his shiny gadgets complete with wacky buttons, I believed.

Like a decent Southern Californian, I welcomed him to Earth with a trip to un restaurante mexicano. He said the food was atrocious. A little offended, I finished off his burrito before heading to the mecca of all travelers (whether they're from Illinois or Neptune): the beach. I showed him everything there, yet received no response. I started to wonder whether aliens were any fun at all.

Desperate for feedback, I took him to Balboa Park, Seaport Village, even the mall; still, no reaction. I grew so bored with what was supposed to be an unprecedented, breath-taking encounter that I stopped trying to impress him and started to entertain myself.

We stopped by the zoo. As he yawned at the animals, I elucidated the purpose of the brass sculptures found along the paths. I told him about the Great Hippo who gave man nostrils and granted a few distinguished prophets the ability to wiggle their ears. I demonstrated. He stared in awe. Success. Emboldened, I described elaborate torture devices called "carnival rides" on which you surrender money and are forced to endure minutes of stomach-twisting, vomit-inducing madness. At this remark, the impressionable fool fainted. Earth 1, space 0.

At the end of the day, he ascended home nervously, watching for rainbows (the deadliest form of lasers). I can safely say that life forms do exist elsewhere, but they're certainly not "more intelligent." Oh, and we can relax about Martian invasions; word has been sent that if any planets mess with Earth, we'll impose mediocre sitcoms on their society. -- Mary Lindquist, El Capitan H.S. graduate

From H.G. Wells to Spielberg, earthlings have portrayed the consequences of alien visits, but what humans do not know is the safe and practical way to deal with aliens. The wait is over: introducing Madeline's "Guide to Extraterrestrial Encounters." My followers will learn the "three H's" of alien appearances: hide, help, and holler.Hide: Think of Elliot in E.T. His smartest move was to hide the alien. Whether in a closet or a flowerpot, aliens must be hidden -- from the United Nations, the paparazzi, or Mike Aguirre, it doesn't matter -- the only way to protect an alien is to hide it. If you are a minor, tell your parents. The most common mistake juveniles make when encountering an alien is not telling their guardians; by telling parents about a hidden alien, one can distract from an abysmal algebra grade.

Help: Chances are the alien has damaged its vehicle in the ever-growing spaceship-breaking force field that surrounds our planet. Your duty is to help the alien restock its supplies -- whether they are AA batteries or Dixie Chicks CDs for easy listening on the return trip -- and repair its ship. The "help" step is especially important because your aid will prove that you see the alien as an equal, as a pale and slimy friend.

Holler: Try to set up an alien-signaling device to effectively "holler" that you are hiding the alien. The device should be undetectable by the NSA or any other government agency. The point of contacting your alien's home world is so that the alien's family will rescue it; otherwise, the alien's future will be like that of the characters on Lost.

By following these three steps, one will turn a "close encounter of the third kind" into a "close encounter of the preferred kind." -- Madeline McCurry Schmidt, Valhalla H.S.

It is not every day that a person meets an alien who wishes to learn more about the human world. If such an opportunity arose, however, it would be difficult to decide what to show him. So, I would take him to every continent so as to give him a glimpse of the whole world and not just the usual London or New York. Of course, those cities, along with the other most-visited tourist destinations, would be included in the international journey. Breaking the caramel crust of a crème brûlée in a Parisian café or seeing the Sistine Chapel (albeit among throngs of sweaty tourists) is something everyone needs to experience for themselves. Having covered all of the great European capitals, my alien and I would move southward to Africa. Coming from the opulent streets of the French Riviera, this would be a drastic change in environment. Seeing the desert and poverty of the African countries would be important for the alien to realize that the state of the world is nowhere close to being ideal. Visiting Africa would also show him the extent to which human cruelty affects innocent people, especially in violent regions such as Sudan. However, while there, we would be able to enjoy the African flora and fauna.

After Africa, we would journey eastward to Asia. The Asian countries would present an entirely different culture than those of the previous two continents. Even the music would be a departure from the refined music of Europe and upbeat rhythms of Africa...not to mention the food differences. At the Buddhist temples and tranquil zen gardens, the alien would learn about beauty, meditation, and most of all, respect. He would discover the role of religion in weaving the fabric of people's lives.

Traveling southbound, we would make a short stop in Australia, allowing the alien to admire the amazing landscapes and rare animal species. Moving even further down, we would journey to Antarctica so he could gaze at the South Pole, a piece of earth unaltered by man. After having all of our appendages frozen off, we would move toward the equator, to South America. Here, in the land of soccer, supermodels, and soothing rhythms, we would learn about Ché Guevara and the blessing that is Brazilian food. In the nights, we would dance the merengue until we no longer felt the effect of tequila.

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