Monday, January 26, 2009

Come Aboard, We're Expecting You...

Senility isn’t patiently waiting for my ship to enter Port Retirement, oh no my friends; it climbed aboard sometime during my first visit to Mortgage Bay and has been quietly tossing barrels of memory overboard ever since. It's just taken me a while to notice the diminishing stock. Occasionally, though, I'm able to catch a glimpse of a jettisoned memory bobbing in the wake. Take this afternoon, for instance…

I’m in the break room folding some aluminum foil into the shape of a small cookie sheet when a coworker enters and asks if I’m practicing my origami…and my brain freezes. I don’t mean “freezes” like an overzealous intake of frozen margarita; I mean “freezes” as in mental lockup (like when you ask Windows to run more than one program).

Here’s the kicker, I was already anticipating this very question. Yep, I knew this question was coming and I was already working on my comeback, but somewhere between thinking and speaking, I got stuck. These mental lapses are getting in the way of some good punch lines. So, I figure, perhaps if I revisit this debacle I might be able to figure out what happened. Let’s rewind it and play it back a little slower...

It’s lunchtime and I’m alone in the break room.

(sounds of folding aluminum foil)

I’m preparing to re-heat some pizza in the toaster-oven and reinforcing a sheet of aluminum foil with a few strategic folds (to avoid a messy retrieval). Since I know this action will solicit a snide comment from anyone passing by, (I’d expect nothing less at our office) and origami was the most probable jab, I began formulating a snappy comeback.

I envisioned myself at a community college. There’s an origami instructor pacing the room. She’s helping us with our folding (of course). I’m making a pirate hat. (See, the “funny” is building itself up quite nicely; a vision of me, in an oxford shirt and khakis, wearing a crudely formed, shiny aluminum foil hat and spouting phrases like, “Arrr, ye mateys, ‘tis the bounty of the snack machine ye seek!”, or “Avast ye scurvy dogs, unhand that Lean Cuisine!”)

Now, any good smartass worth their weight in sarcasm will tell you; in order for a comeback to be effective, it must be short, snappy AND delivered without a hitch. Otherwise, you’ll come across like a weatherman attempting standup comedy.

(sounds of footsteps approaching)

Alright then, all I need to do is tighten up my “vision” and I'll have a snappy comeback at the ready. Let’s see, I'm taking a course at a community college…I’ll need something a little more concise…community college…

(co-worker enters break room)

Here it comes…

“Practicing your origami, I see,” utters my co-worker, as if on an unusually deep voice (oh yeah, we’re in slow-motion).

Hah, I’m ready for this one. I turn to respond; confident my mind will fill the voids as I speak. “Yeah, I'm…uh...”

What's going on? I can’t think of a phrase for taking a community course. Is it community college? Nah, that doesn’t sound right. Community school? No, that’s not it.

My co-worker raises his eyebrows and slowly tilts his head. He’s waiting for it.

I could just say I’m making a hat, but I’m not willing to take the easy way out…not yet. Come on, is it adult classes? No. Damn it!

“What?” he asks while in mid-blink.

“I…I’m taking a class at the community…uh…”

Argh...the joke’s lost. It’s gone. The moment’s past. I should have just said I was making a hat, that would’ve sufficed, but no, I thought I could make the community course thing work.

“I…I got nothing,” I was lying. I had something. I just couldn’t pull it together.

Resigned to failure, I ask my coworker, “What’s the uh…what do you call a class you take at a community college?”

My coworker looks at me like I just asked him to explain the meaning of life.

I reiterate, “You know…like when you take a course down at the community center. What do you call that?”

“I’m taking a class at the community annex?” he responds.

“Well, yeah…but, there’s a name for that right?”

Puzzled, he restates his response, “I’m taking a class at the community annex.”

He’s not helping, but I’m not letting this go…just yet. Maybe if I try a different approach.

“Do you remember that sitcom starring that guy from Taxi...uh, Judd Hirsch? He was attending some help group session at a community school…because he was divorced…he got a Dear John letter – that’s what the show was called, “Dear John”. Do you remember that show?”

“Yeah, I think I remember it…”

“Okay, and occasionally someone would wander into their classroom by mistake because they were searching for some other community class?”


“...and they would say something like, I’m sorry, I’m looking for the something, something class…”

(The microwave dings.)

“Community annex class is all I know,” he’s bailing on me now (and I can’t blame him). He turns and leaves, Hot Pocket in hand.

Alone with my thoughts (which violates a restraining order somewhere), I continue to search for the proper phrase. Man that was going to be a funny comeback. If it wasn’t for my failing memory…

Then I saw it, adrift among the waves, a barrel bobbing slowly towards the horizon. Painted on the side, in large whitewash letters, it read, “NIGHT CLASS”.

“Night class! That’s it! I’m taking a night class for space pirates! Arr!!”

By this point, another coworker entered the break room and said, “Space pirates, huh? Well Captain Morgan, your pizza’s burning.”

"Arrrr!!! Me pepperoni delights...arrrgh!!!"

(A woman in a uniform appears. She’s greeting me with open arms.)

“Welcome aboard. My name’s Julie. I’ll be your cruise director…”

“Arr, just point the way to the poop deck....arr.”

Copywrite 2009 Rick Rantamaki

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