If you drive down Bay Street, you might see a life-size cardboard photo double of our neighbor, Gig Codiga, standing at attention in his mother-in-law’s front window, staring out through the . We call him, “Flat Gig.”
When they aren’t down the block caring for Gayle’s mother, the Codigas live next door. Our side windows face theirs and our voices carry through the open windows and across the driveway between our houses. It’s not San Francisco close, but close enough to share the sounds of everything from birthday celebrations to teenage arguments and, as a result, we know each other pretty darned well.
The Codiga’s windows have sheer coverings but if our Roman shades are up, we’re in a fishbowl. If my husband, Si, tries to dash from the shower past the landing window to the bedroom without a towel, I am sure they will see him. I say, “Careful, now. Gig and Gayle are watching.” And if Si puts his arms around me in our upstairs hallway and gets amorous, I push him away saying, “Cut it out! Gig is watching.”
I think to Si, the words “Gig is watching” sound like, “Not tonight — I have a headache.”
At a neighborhood party one night, Si complained to Gig about “Gig is watching.” The next day, “Flat Gig” the photo double appeared in the Codiga’s dining room window, staring at us across the driveway.
When we called the Codigas to laugh about it, Gig told us that he created “Flat Gig” when he had conflicting obligations — an out-of-town business trip and the Northern California Boys and Girls Club regional conference. George Phillips, Alameda’s Boys and Girls Club director and our mutual friend, took Gig’s photo double to the conference in Gig’s stead, where “Flat Gig” was elected as the next chairperson of the Northern California Boys and Girls Club Council.
Si loves a good practical joke and will always (always) escalate it to the next level. Si said, “Do we still have a spare key to the Codiga’s house?” I handed it to him, not thinking to ask why. Several hours later, I noticed pieces of 8 ½ x 11” paper taped to every pane of glass facing the Codiga’s.
While the Codigas were away, Si kidnapped Flat Gig from their front hall, took him to FedEx Kinko’s, made seventeen color copies, and then posted Gig’s likeness in every windowpane facing the Codiga’s. When they got home later that afternoon, I could hear Gig and Gayle’s laughter across the driveway.
A few weeks later I hosted our book club. In the middle of our discussion, one of my friends said, “Alice — I think I saw someone at the window!” The discussion ended abruptly as we all got up to see if there was a prowler in the front yard. It was Flat Gig on a wooden pole, peeking above the bushes into our living room windows. (Real Gig loves a party, and claims that with Gayle over at our house, he was lonesome and drawn by the sound of our laughter.)
One time Real Gig loaned Flat Gig to George and Jean Phillips to stand guard while they were out of town. Alameda’s former Chief of Police, Burny Matthews —a friend and fellow Boy’s and Girl’s Club board member – went over to the Phillips' to pick up some personal belongings and was caught by surprise by the life-size cutout. According to Real Gig, “Flat Gig” told him that Burny yelled, “Police! Up with your hands” but “Flat Gig” was scared stiff and couldn’t move. (Thank goodness the chief is a smart guy and after grabbing his chest, burst out laughing. No innocent bystanders or life-size photo doubles were wounded in this incident.)
Flat Gig's adventures continued when he attended the next Nor Cal Regional Boys & Girls conference, where once again he was “Gig-napped.” The attendees waited for a ransom notice that never came. Real Gig said the perpetrators mishandled him, took advantage of his fun-loving nature, and returned him dressed in tassel pasties. Flat Gig was so embarrassed he ran off with the janitors, not to be seen for many years.
He resurfaced when Real Gig was supposed to lead a team building session with 267 employees, but was called out of town yet again. You guessed it – “Flat Gig” showed up to save the day. He joined Real Gig in a video and attended the session in a Hawaiian Aloha shirt. The crowd shared their food and drinks with him, even though Real Gig maintains that Flat Gig stopped drinking and eating years ago.
My last Flat Gig sighting was at an end-of-summer pool party on Clinton Avenue. As I came through the wooden gate, I thought I saw Real Gig standing on the far side of the pool, wearing a big sombrero. I smiled wide and waved hello. As I got closer, I realized my mistake and saw Real Gig snickering from the pool teahouse. (A few nights later I mistook a white flagpole for an airplane contrail. I haven’t had my eyes checked since 2008. It’s time…)
There is no moral to Flat Gig’s story. It’s simply about mischief and pranks between good friends. But be forewarned: The next time you find yourself on Bay Street and you feel like you’re being watched, you might be right!