Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Fine Art of Fookery

My Aunt Clara scarf is complete and now I'm moving on to the matching hat. Ehhhhhhhhhhxcellent... (Mr. Burns voice)

Why do I find such joy in messing with people? I don't know if I was born with a tendency toward fookery, but I certainly honed my fookery skills while working as a customer service rep for a cellular company. You know when you meet somebody with the same sense of humor as you have and it makes a completely crappy job almost bearable? Every time I watch "The Office" Tuesday nights on NBC, follwing Earl, I think of how important it is to have a kindred spirit when working in a place that sucks your will to live. I met my friend Renee at this crappy job - and Renee's penchant for following the rules just enough to maintain your employment status was equal to my own. Not getting fired is a key tenet of Fookery, and it's especially fun to push the envelope in a Union environment. I mastered Looking Busy When Actually Not by walking around carrying a clipboard and looking worried.

The best way to describe Fookery is a sort of benign heinousness - not anything that would get you in trouble, but just a little creative mischief to liven up your day. It doesn't necessarily have to be motivated by malice, but it can be, and often that inspires a whole different level of creativity. One example is how I pretended to have a lisp when working in a call center. I also pretended my name was Francesca, just to make it funnier. So, when I answered the phone, I said "Cushtomer Shervish, thish ish Francheshca, how may I sherve you, shir?" Shee? Sorry... see?? Nothing's grounds for dismissal if it's funny enough. Your manager can't very well write you up if he's laughing, now can he?

We had this other friend Scott who had more technical ability than we did (it's always good to have someone with technical ability for a Fookery friend, as it opens up a whole world of possibilities) and he often left mysterious company-wide voicemails of cartoon voices. Scott is one of the funniest people I know, and his fookery skills were quite impressive. We would sit in bewildered awe at some of the crazy shit he pulled. He was capable of some damn fine fookery. We liked to call him up after we got drunk on mimosas at Easter Brunch and remind him that he was our second-favorite Jew. Next to Jesus, of course.

Debbie, The Taskmaster of the office (ie. the toadie with no actual authority who walks around like a badass), was nicknamed "The Gooch", after the unseen yet ever-present bully on Diff'rent Strokes (I always wondered, why the apostrophe? Why not just "Different Strokes"?), and if she ever pulled you aside and told you to shape up, it was called "getting Gooched". The Gooch also happened to have the rankest breath imaginable. I don't know what the woman ate, but it yielded a dumpster-like combination of rancid smells, and when she spoke, a green garlicy cloud drifted out of her mouth. One act of fookery involved us leaving a pack of mint gum on her desk anonymously and twittering like chipmunks when she found it.

Then there was a manager with the unfortunate last name of Schwab. Her name was a lot of fun to play with. Anything hoosier-ific was Schwabby, Schwabbified or Schwabalicious. She was one of those who rose above her junior college education and blue collar roots (and don't get me started on her roots, she had a really bad dye job) to be in management but you knew she had a Camaro on cinder blocks in her front yard. Imagine a woman with blonde hair and visible black roots and waaaaaay too much eye makeup wearing tapered acid-wash jeans and fringed boots, and suckin on a Virginia Slim. That's Schwabbery, defined. If you're envisioning a white-trash version of Kathie Lee Gifford, you're on the right track.

Sometimes on our lunch breaks, Renee and I would call in to the queue and when someone answered with scripted politeness, we'd scream as loud as we could for a few seconds, then we'd hang up and call back. Ah, good times... then Renee moved away (sniff) and now we have to admire each other's fookery from afar. Actually, at times it comes in handy to have a fookery friend far away, just in case I want to mail something anonymously to someone who pissed me off and need it to have a postmark other than St Louis, MO.

Renee's had some damn fine fookery in her day. One of my favorites is when she placed a classified ad in the local newpaper asking for 100-pound+ dogs to show up (under the clever ruse of a fake dog food commercial audition) at the office of a woman who hadn't paid Renee for some work that she did for her. We don't know for sure if any 100-pound dogs actually showed up, but even if just one did, it's a fookin genius act of fookery, ain't it?

I'm sure Renee would probably tell you that one of her favorite Moments In Fookery History is contained in an email I sent her back in April 2002. Hubby reminded me that the people involved could possibly be reading this so I've made some adjustments in the story:

Well, I'm sure you remember Mr and Mrs Name Protected who are notorious for giving us re-gifted, crappy, age-inappropriate and incorrectly sized gifts (remember my clothes from the Juniors department and the Bubble Train for ages 18 months+ for Nat's 4th birthday?) that were purchased on clearance and put away for a gift-giving occasion that could be months away, rendering the shitty gift unreturnable and worth about 33 cents in store credit if you can even determine which store it was purchased from? And forget a gift receipt since you'd only get what they paid for it back, which probably isn't much more anyway. We end up giving the gifts they give Nat to Toys for Tots, which means I have to figure out a place to store it for 6 months.

And I'm sure you remember how we attempted to rise above this gift-giving inequity and continued to buy cool gifts for their daughter (Lil Miss NP), such as a wooden dollhouse and a Rainbow Princess Barbie, which were met with Mrs NP muttering "oh greeeeeeeeeeeeaaat, more little pieces for me to pick up..."

Well, we got wise to their scheme and decided to play it to our advantage. We look for toys with lots of parts that are completely annoying on clearance and put them away to give to Lil Miss NP. It's like a sport, and hubby and I are great at it. In fact, it's brought us closer together as a couple. At one point we found the Baskin Robbins mini ice cream maker on clearance at Target, but then we found it at WalMart for 20 bucks, so we returned it to WalMart (hee hee) and made money on the deal.

Then we found Cootie Jitterbug - a battery-operated, noisy and annoying version of the original, and put it away for nearly a year until Lil Miss NPs' birthday. Thank GOD they didn't have a party for her again this year. Every year they try to cram like 12 grownups and 7 kids in their house. No, Mr NP had a conference in LA, so they actually purchased a plane ticket and took Lil Miss NP to Disneyland for her 4th birthday. Whatever.

Anyway, we presented Lil Miss NP with her gift at Easter (in a non-reusable slightly torn gift bag, as I had covered every detail) and to my delight, she shrieked "I ALREADY HAVE THIS GAME!!!" Gleefully I imagined the scenario that we had endured so many times before - standing in line at the return counter "um, yeah, I got this as a gift and I need to return it..." "yeah, RIGHT! we haven't had those on the shelves for 6 months! You can have a dollar in store credit, if ya want it..." "no, thanks..."

Well, apparently Mrs NP knew exactly what it was worth since she probably bought it at the same time we did, and her reaction was "oh...you love that game...now you can have one upstairs and one downstairs..." And the best part was that I was in the bathroom at the time, where I could hear everything and yet freely snicker without fear of an embarrassing social faux pas. I was so tickled by my triumphant victory, I don't even care if she's onto us, which I suspect she is.

You'll undoubtedly see this recurring Fookery theme in upcoming posts.

3 comments:

monkeemaven said...

Oh my gourd, I love you.

Debbie Is Feeling Good Again said...

I know who you are. You think you're so clever, but maybe you don't fully appreciate that actions have consequences! When I worked at Southwestern Bell, I had to take eszopiclone, a medication my doctor prescribed so I can deal with stress created by employees like you and Renee. No, it didn't help the stress, but yes, it did have a side effect: really bad breath. Do I remember getting your gum? Yes I did. And I was so self conscious from that day forward it eventually led me to therapy. Years of it.

What you two twits didn't realize is that the rest of us at SBC were also snickering at you behind YOUR backs. We always pictured you ending up in middle age knitting, and I can see from your blog that we were right! Who knows what happened to Renee. We always joked that someday she'd marry a minor league baseball player and get a (much needed) boob job.

But I got the last laugh! I stayed with Southwestern Bell. I got my shares from GTE. My stock made me rich! I met the guy who invented breath strips in a focus group in the Galleria. We got married and now I'm set for life!

And best of all, I'm out of therapy and feeling good about myself again.

Penny Karma said...

Oh, Debbie! Great to hear from you! I see you've learned to spell polysyllabic words such as "consequences". Brava, love. And congrats on the improved breath. Although licking the toliets at a bus station would probably have done the trick as well as breath strips did.

Renee's a DDD now and an amateur porn star in her spare time. We're writing an informercial about the new book I wrote called Making Yourself Feel Fantastic By Making Others Feel Like Sh*t. You should make a guest appearance! Wouldn't it be fun to relive the old days?

Keep on rockin' in the free world, sistah.