Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Scottish Cultural Moment" Dept, plus Pierce family anecdotes old and new

Jennifer, if you're reading this, you should stop now, since having to hear this joke for a fifth time is just cruel and unusual punishment, unless for some reason you're interested in the difference between the way I tell a joke and the way I write a joke. You now know by experience what those who have been my friends for years have long been resigned to: you do not want to be the first person I happen to tell a new joke to.

Since I know two Jennifers, by the way, I should probably have been specific as to which one I was addressing in the foregoing paragraph, but the trouble is I can't remember this particular Jennifer's last name...I remember that she's named after a street in Houston but that's the best I can do.


James and Alistair -- just a couple of London blokes, they are -- are sitting in a London pub discussing Alistair's upcoming wedding. As we join them, Alistair is talking about why he's not going to wear a tux: "...but I thought: 'Alistair, old boy, why don't you go back to your Scottish roots for the big day?' So it's out with tux and in with the kilt -- kilt, sporran, dirk, pipers, Scottish all the way."

James has just done a spit-take with his Guinness in delighted amusement over the visual image. "A kilt? You're not serious, Alistair -- you're wearing a kilt?"

"Indeed I am, laddie. You'll see for yourself come the big day."

James shakes his head in amused disbelief. "This I'll have to see, you in a kilt." He pauses for a moment, then asks, "So what's the tartan?"

A bit bemusedly, Alistair answers him: "Why, I should think she'll be wearing white."


I was, back up at the top of this post, merely teasing my esteemed co-worker Ms. White, which I feel it necessary to specify, since I'm so notoriously apt to forget names people might really have thought I seriously couldn't remember her name. (No way I'm going to forget "White." True, I might forget "Jennifer," but that's only because Outlook fills in "Jennifer" for me as soon as I type "Whi..." in the e-mail "Send To:" box, thus relieving me of the necessity of remembering it...) In fact I now have to tell an entirely true story on myself.

A couple of days ago I arrived at work and, along with several other folks, got in the elevator, headed for the 19th floor. A moment later a woman about my age stepped onto the elevator and slotted herself in among the rest of us. I glanced at her and instantly thought, "Hey, I know her! In fact, she's very cool...very smart, and an exceptionally nice!#$#!, what is her name? And where do I know her from? She's not BG...oh, @#$!#$, she's out of context and the synapses aren't firing, but I know I know her, and I know I like her...where do I know her from?...Oh, wait, she's got a BG badge. But why haven't I seen her around here before -- I know I met her someplace else...c'mon, hon, if you'd stop holding that badge in your hand with its hedge toward me and just hold it up where I can sneak a peek at it..."

The elevator was about halfway up at this time, and then, sure enough, she happened to turn her head and saw me. Instant recognition, and she said delightedly, "Kenny! How are you doing? It's so good to see you!"

Quite truthfully -- because although I couldn't think of her name to save my life I knew perfectly well that in whatever previous existence I had known her, I had really liked her, I answered, "It's great to see you, too! Are you working at BG now?"

"I started yesterday." Well, that explained it.

"I'm delighted to hear it." That was nothing but the truth. "What floor are you on?"

"Twenty. You?"

"Nineteen." As if on cue, the elevator stops at my floor. "This one, in fact."

"I'll come find you," she says cheerfully.

"Awesome. Welcome to BG!"


The door closes and I head for my desk, thinking, "Aw, man, what a way to start a day, making a fool of myself before I even sit down." I get there and several of the folks who sit in my immediate vicinity are already seated; so naturally I immediately have recourse to my standard psychological coping mechanism for situations in which I have just made a royal ass of myself: I promptly tell my friends the whole story. Chris Greer is chuckling away by the time I'm done: "You have no idea what her name is?"

"No idea in the world. I just know that she's smart, good at her job, and a very nice person, and I really like her. But on her name, not a clue."

All of a sudden Pete O'Neill, who I had not realized was even listening, pipes up from his desk over by the window: "Kenny, are you by any chance talking about Lisa Kutach?"

Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus." "Yes! Yes! Of course!"

So Pete came through for me in a big way, and this morning when I ran into her on the 20th floor I was able to say cheerfully, "Hi, Lisa."

I'm figuring Lisa doesn't know about the blog and by the time anybody tells her about it she won't trouble to crawl through the archives and stumble across this post -- but just in case: Lisa, if somehow you've found out about this blog and are now reading this entry...[sigh] don't mind me, it's just that I'm an incurable airhead. But I really am delighted you've decided to come join us.


It's a genetic thing, you know -- a congenital defect, if you will. My father's father, whom unfortunately I never met (he died in '64, two years before I was born) was a lot like me, or perhaps vice versa. My late (and much-lamented) Aunt Gloria was so honked off the, wait, let me start back at the beginning.

Aunt Globie, like my dad and all their siblings, was born on the farm. (My dad is a throwback to an era my own kids can't imagine; he grew up plowing behind a mule and learned to drive on the Model T pickup truck Pa bought for the family after my dad was a few years old, and when he was in college he went back home to the farm and helped install electricity in the house so his mama could use an electric iron rather than having to heat the Old Cast-Iron Faithful on the stovetop every time she did laundry. It's not that Pop is that old; it's just that Pa and Granny were that poor and that far behind the times.) Now Pa was precisely as capable of imagining a Lamaze class as he was capable of imagining a Kazakh transvestite, which is to say, not at all: his role in the birthing marathon was to fire the starting gun, as it were, and then nine months later, after the doctor or midwife came out and told him the baby's gender, to go in and find out from Granny what the kid's name was going to be and then to go hitch up the horses to the wagon and head the twenty miles into Athens so that he could fill out the paperwork for the birth certificate.

Well, when Aunt Globie was born, Granny informed Pa that his latest daughter was to rejoice in the name "Gloria Fern Pierce." And off Pa went in the wagon, and in due course, several hours later, he returned, having completed his assigned duty.

About twenty years later, young Billy Halpert proposed to Globie, and she accepted, and the family headed into Athens in a festive mood to get the marriage license. But they ran into a completely unexpected snag: there was no birth certificate.

"Are you sure?" I can hear Globie's incredulous East Texas drawl in my mind clear as if I'd been there my own self.

"No, ma'am, I've looked twice; there's no Gloria Pierce registered."

Then Pa spoke up sheepishly from where he'd been standing off to one side. "Um...try looking under 'Violet Rose Pierce.'"

And there it was. And thus the whole story came out...

Twenty miles is a long way when you're riding in a wagon behind two horses. It took a few hours for Pa to get to Athens, and I imagine he was kinda tired and adrenaline-crashed even before he started...and besides, this is Pa we're talking about, and he was an airhead after my own heart. So he got to the hospital, and the nice young lady took out the form and settled in at her desk and then looked up at Pa with her pen poised at the ready and asked, "What's the baby's name?"

And Pa realized that he had no idea.

"Um...hold on a minute, it's slipped my mind..."

The family story doesn't describe the look on the nurse's face, but you and I, Gentle Reader, can readily fill in the narrative lacuna from our own imaginative resources.

Pa was concentrating desperately now. "...wait, it was a couple of flowers, I think...oh, wait, I got it! It's Violet Rose."

And he answered the rest of the nurse's questions, and then he went back home, and he walked in and carefully referred to "the baby" until some other member of the family referred to her as "Gloria," and he thought to himself, "Oh, probably nobody will ever look at it anyhow" -- and until Billy Halpert fell in love with Globie and asked her to marry him, she had no idea that she didn't even know what her own name was.

So you see, as my East Texas Granny would tell you in a New York minute, "Kenny comes by it honest."


At 2:31 PM, Anonymous esteban said...

I think this post best describes "fuzzy logic." 8^)

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Jim r said...

Kenny, You don't know how good you have it. I once was trying to introduce my boss (of five years) to a contractor I was hiring. For the life of me, I could not say my boss's name.


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