Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holy Catch Phrases, Batman!

Recently, I was reading through John's archives over on Random Squeegee. He's a funny, funny boy who deserves to have hordes of slavish followers, and the fact that he isn't a world-renowned celebrity on Nobel Prize winner Al Gore's Internet is just one of the many things that mocks my childlike faith in God. And if it sounds like I have a little bit of a man-crush on him, what can I say? One time when I was feeling low, he sent me a picture of Rodney Dangerfield's zombie eating the brains of Karl Rove. So although I've never actually met the guy, I'm not ashamed to say that I love him with the robust, manly love that might exist between two vikings who are secure enough in their manhood to dress up in red chiffon and ride each other up and down the hallway...

What the fuck was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. Anyway, John has posted at length about his co-worker Joe, who is apparently more annoying than a sack of Bill O'Reillys. As near as I can tell, Joe is a socially-awkward man in his fifties who attempts to reach out to people by spewing random pop-culture catch phrases that make absolutely no sense out of context.

Full disclosure time... I think I used to be like Joe. I was constantly tossing off non-sequitors and regurgitating crap I'd heard on TV in an effort to make myself seem interesting. How bad was I? Well, I remember when that horrible Rob Schneider skit debuted on Saturday Night Live where he played the office worker who sat near the photocopier and kept regaling his co-workers with silly variations of their names. "Kristine! Kristiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine! The Kristinator! Kristyl! Krystal Burger! Onward Kristian Soldiers! Makin' the copiiiies!" And when I went to work on Monday, no fewer than five people made a point of telling me, "There was a guy JUST LIKE YOU on Saturday Night Live!"

So I'm probably lobbing stones from the patio of my glass house by giggling at the Joe stories, but in my defense, that was 20 years ago. I've since grown out of it. I no longer spend my every waking moment trying to be the wacky office guy. Life's just too short.

(Recently, one of the senior managers where I work told me that I reminded him of Jim Gaffigan. I choose to believe it's because of my wry and insightful sense of humor, and not because I'm whiter than a klavern of albino Republicans.)

During the 90s, when I was working at Brinker International (the restaurant company, not the armored car company), I was surrounded by folks who were trying way too hard to be funny. And, like Joe, they did it by randomly spouting catch phrases that had long since surpassed their use by date. Any remark made in a group of three or more was certain to be met with unfunny retorts like "Don't go there," and "That's just a little tooooo much information," and "That's what she said," and OH MY GOD! SHUT THE FUCK UP, TRAGICALLY UNHIP CO-WORKERS!

There was one programmer named Rex who performed no discernible function, yet managed to retain his job at Brinker for several years. We used to joke that Rex was a barometer for the rest of us, because he illustrated just how badly we could fuck up and still not get fired. Anyway, Rex got hold of the phrase "That's not what you said last night," and continued to flail away at it long after it was little more than a horse-shaped pile of dust. I mean, it didn't even have to make any sense. He used it like most people use punctuation.

So one day, I conspired with my friends Scott and Mike. The programmers and the QA team were getting together for a group lunch, and we decided we were going to catch phrase everyone to death. The plan was this: every time somebody said anything, no matter how innocuous, I would turn it into an innuendo. Scott would reply, "Well hell, who doesn't?" And Mike would end it with, "That's not what you said last night."

For nearly half an hour, the conversation at the table went like this.

Someone:
I don't think we're going to be able to meet that deadline.

Me:
I've got a deadline you can meet.

Scott:
Well hell, who doesn't?

Mike:
That's not what you said last night.

Someone else:
Maybe we could shorten the testing schedule.

Me:
I've got a testing schedule you can shorten.

Scott:
Well hell, who doesn't?

Mike:
That's not what you said last night.

Someone else:
Can we push back the rollout date?

Me:
I've got a rollout date you can push back.

Scott:
Well hell, who doesn't?

Mike:
That's not what you said last night.

Someone else:
Jesus, would you guys stop doing that?

Me:
I've got something you can stop doing.

Scott:
Well hell, who doesn't?

Mike:
That's not what you said last night.

Our little object lesson did nothing to curtail Rex and the rest of the catch phrasers. If anything, they became even more egregious. In fact, most people hadn't really noticed it before Scott, Mike, and I had done our little stunt, and now they blamed us for having started the trend in the first place.

However, Hands Across America didn't solve the homeless problem and We Are the World didn't put an end to famine in Africa, but they're considered successful because they raised people's awareness of those issues. And I like to think that's what Scott, Mike, and I did. We raised people's awareness, baby. We raised the *shit* out of it.

The world "hero" gets bandied about so often that it has just about lost its meaning. But like Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi, we took a stand against a perceived injustice. And although this act caused us to be labeled pariahs and outcasts, I like to think that future generations will vindicate us as heroes.

I've got something you can vindicate.

Well hell, who doesn't?

That's not what you said last night.

2 comments:

Professor said...

Leave it to a bunch of guys... :)

John said...

Wow, a man-crush. I hope this ringing endorsement doesn't mean I have to update more. Old posts need love, too.

I'm pretty sure Joe has a big drippy man-crush on Howie Carr. If you've never heard of him, he's a local Bill O'Rielly clone, who's claim to "fame" is a drive-time radio show and a best-selling book about Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Oh, and being a repugnant smug douche, almost forgot that one.

Joe does whatever Howie says, which at the moment is getting all worked up about immigrants stealing our livelihood corrupting our white women with their savage brown-skinned ways. For the past, I don't know, 2 years, Joe's been singing "Everything's free in A-mer-i-ca" constantly because Howie plays it whenever he brings up those damn illegals. Even if there wasn't a million other reasons to despise the smug bastard, introducing Joe to another annoying trait is more than enough in itself. Holy fuck I hate Howie Carr.