I don’t know where I got my penchant for bullshit, but definitely one thing that for me helps the day go by at work is saying a lot of stuff that there is no way I mean.
My son was definitely on to this quality of mine at an early age. I think he was probably ten, maybe twelve, when he heard me giving a line of shit to some friend who was buying it hook, line and sinker. Now part of the joy of this shit-slinging is to make it so over the top that the receiver could really see right away that they are being teased – but to do it with such feigned seriousness that, unless they know this part of you, they still are sucked in by the story. When I really had this person way out over the edge and they still had not fully caught on to me, Terry jumped in with lots of enthusiasm. “No, he doesn’t mean it! There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates a moment before he starts. This is all made up!” (I don’t think he was openly using the BS word at that age.)
So the other day – the day before Easter – a 60ish female customer was checking out and I had just swiped a plastic container full of olives. Her male companion teased her, with some background information that I – having no memory of either of them – knew nothing about. (It’s a little trickier doing bullshit teasing with people you have no history with, but I was on a roll that day.) He asked her, “So do you buy olives every year on the day before Easter?”
I thought he may already have been teasing her – maybe that’s what inspired me. I jumped in and answered for her. “Yes, it’s a Latvian thing” (a long dramatic pause to give them a chance to already catch on that I’m BS’ing, but they apparently were still on the hook: “Where is he going with this?”) “Yes…”(“There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates.”) “According to the Latvians, if you eat olives the day before Easter, you get good luck for an hour.”
It was the “for an hour” part that was intended to take it so far over the top that the jig is up. And the guy, bless his soul, was such a good little natural improv-person that he immediately gave me an improv “yes…and” response. “So that would be a good time to buy lottery tickets.” “Right, but you’ve got to do it within an hour.” The woman was maybe a little slower to pick up on the joke, but by that point she was definitely following along – though I don’t remember her fully joining in with the fun. But it was definitely a good time for all three of us. And especially for me, having just risked some of my favorite kind of humor and had it work out.
Yesterday I was slinging some BS to a couple of co-workers. Sepi and I had both worked at Greenlife, one of our competitor health-food supermarkets. Sometimes it’s interesting or fun to compare that store with this one. We were doing this. One difference we have frequently noted is that Greenlife – for ten years now a subsidiary of Whole Foods – has more formal policies than our smaller 40-store chain. I don’t know what got the three of us started on underwear – or in any way suggested that I could take the conversation in this direction – but I said in total apparent seriousness, “Well they do have a policy at Greenlife that you have to wear underwear, but we have no such policy here.” Sheri Lynn, who has a great sense of humor and, even if she has only spotted the BS in the last little phrase, can pick it up and run with it said, “Well it’s a good thing we don’t have that policy here, because you would clearly be breaking it all the time.”
Sherri Lynn is a few years younger than me, but I moved from improv BS to reminiscing, “When you were growing up, were parents still teaching kids that you had to always wear clean underwear in case you got in an auto accident and they took you to the hospital?” Sheri Lynn did definitely remember this, though I’m pretty sure if your audience got a little younger, people would just stare at you.
Ah, the things that help the day go by in the checkout line….