Thursday, August 26, 2010

gene weingarten confuses me

Humor will save the world...unless it's just not funny. Speaking of, did anyone read Gene Weingarten's latest "Below the Beltway" column last week about men and women talking on the telephone? Probably not. I'm guessing the majority of the people who read this blog are probably both young and clever -- a market the Washington Post seems to be actively alienating as it continues to market its content to octogenarians and above.

For proof, let's look at the first paragraph of Weingarten's latest "humor" column, The feminine mistake: This time Gene has Gina's number:

"Do you recognize this scenario? You are on the phone, giving your phone number to someone. You recite the first three digits, pause a second for transcription, then continue with the rest. But just as you do, the other person inanely repeats the first three digits out loud, and everything gets lost in the cross talk, and you have to start over. And the same thing happens again. Mutual indecision ensues, with fitful stops and starts and stammers."

No. No I don't recognize that scenario because like a growing number of other Americans, I no longer rely on a landline to make or receive, well, any of my phone calls. This means that, unless someone takes special measures, his or her number will automatically come up on my phone when it rings, or more likely, vibrates -- something else landlines don't do. That, Mr. Weingarten, is how people under 40 exchange numbers these days. Either it's done automatically after someone asks for it over email, or you're in a bar and you get this all done in person. Mutual indecision does not ensue. Nor are there fitful stops and starts and stammers, unless of course you're dealing with someone who's either mentally impaired, hard of hearing, or apparently, Gene Weingarten and his aging lady friend Gina Barreca, who joins Gene in the above-mentioned article by offering this eye-rolling drivel on the matter:

"The phone number overlap happens because women are more apt to seek consensus, to make sure -- before proceeding with something -- that everyone is on the same page. It's nurturing, validating behavior, and it is entirely consistent with positive female values. It's the same reason why a woman won't adjust the thermostat, even if she is sweating copiously, until an inventory has been taken of all other people in the room, to make sure that everyone is equally uncomfortable, and that it's not 'just me.' A man walks into the same room, declares himself hot, and sets the thermostat to 30 degrees."

Maybe that'd be funny in the '50s, when men could also waltz into their houses and punch their wives in the face freely... But look, I don't mean to use the words "old" and "aging" as complete insults here. Hell, at 31, I'm no young whippersnapper myself anymore either. (And I think the fact that I just used the phrase "young whippersnapper" proves just how close to old and aging I am.) What I mean simply is that much like their own pulses, it seems people like Weingarten, Barreca and, hell, let's throw in Dave Barry, too, are losing touch with the pulse of what makes Americans "LOL." And in the slight chance that Mr. Weingarten, Ms. Barreca or Mr. Barry happen to be reading this essay (you know, in my dreams and such), "LOL" stands for Laugh Out Loud. Hey, I'm here to help.

But here's the thing -- buried deep beneath my frustration, I actually respect all of these people because at one point they were on the forefront of what was funny. (Or at least they weren't totally in the back.) And even though Weingarten and his ilk were never as daring in their essays as, say, David Sedaris or, hell, even Jack Handey's 1980s SNL one-liners seem more relevant today than most mainstream media humor columns in 2010, Gene actually seems like a funny person WNW (While Not Writing).

First of all, his Twitter icon is a twisted up pile of dog doo-doo. That's funny! As anyone with a good sense of humor knows, poop is a timeless source hilarity. Secondly, I heard an interview on Monday with Mr. Weingarten on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show and I only rolled my eyes once, and that was only when Gene started talking about that gimmicky piece of feature-writing garbage that somehow earned him the 2008 Pulitzer. Now, that was a joke...

But seriously (kinda), Weingarten was (kinda) funny on the radio. He made Kojo shift in his seat (or so I imagine) at his references to all things scatological; he had some amusing, self-deprecating one-liners; and, he demonstrated he's actually capable of being a witty observationist when talking about general goings-on (he did not, thank God, talk too much about telephone etiquette).

And so here we are, left to wonder why mainstream humor writing falls nearly completely flat in the wake of such truly funny sh*t (and that's the academic term), like Eastbound and Down, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Onion, Louie C.K., all of my friends, my Brooklyn-born grandmother, and basically 3/4ths of the rest of the world. Is it Weingarten or his editors at the Post? Are they really catering to an audience that hasn't heard of such new-fangled things like iPhones, email or, let's be honest, anything more technologically advanced than a phonograph? If so, who thought that was a good idea? And the questions go on and on...

But "meh," I say with a shoulder shrug. Since all major newspapers seem like they're going to close within the next few years anyway, I suppose all these questions don't really matter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go laugh at some poop.


By the way, I swear to all that is Glenn Beck-y, I'll have my video roast of the Tea Party Guide to DC (and the Tea Party, in general) up tomorrow. All the suspense is actually going to be worth it this time. Um, stop laughing -- that's not a joke...


Shannon said...

I do the phone exchange repeat pretty often, but that's at work (where I answer a landline) and have to take messages for my boss.

What Gene totally misses is that when someone repeats numbers back to you, it's because they're trying to confirm what you just said. Probably, you don't enunciate, or you have a thick accent, or you're one of those tools who uses speakerphone for everything so it sounds like you're in a well. Gene just has lousy phone manners, and gender has nothing to do with it.

One Blonde Girl said...

I hear you on the phone thing. It's slightly irritating when people over 40 call my cell and then proceed to give me their phone number, forcing me to pretend like I'm writing it down.

And unfortunately, I gotta go with Gina on the thermostat thing. Having lived with a lot of male roommates I can attest to the fact that 9 times out of 10 they're going to adjust the it with no consideration for others in the room. They're going to drink the last beer in the fridge too. Damn neanderthals.

Debbi said...

I hate every one of Gene's columns about Gina. Nothing but archaic gender stereotyping. I'm not even sure it was funny back in Gene's day.

Patty Duke said...

Ringing phone...
Patty: Hello XYZ Headquarters. How may I help you?

Caller: Hello. Is this XYZ Headquarters?

Patty: Yes it is. How may I help you?

Caller: Um, I was currently wondering if you have internships at you agency.

Patty: Yes we have internships. Let give a number for more information.

Caller: OK

Patty: Here's the number 456-789-1234

Caller: That was 457...

Patty: No 456

Caller OK 456 (pause)

Patty: 789-1234

Caller: 457-789 (pause)

Patty: 456-789-1234

Caller: I got it. Thanks

Ten minutes later...
Patty: Hello XYZ Headquarters. How may I help you?

Caller: I called a few minutes ago about internships and you gave me a wrong number.

Patty: What number do you have?

Caller: 457-789-1234

Patty: Let me transfer you.

Can we go back to the 50s so I can punch this caller? This is a actual example of the calls I get. And no, this was not a middle aged caller. This was a college student and male.

He also called at 10:30 p.m. This is past business hours on both coasts. I was always taught that the early bird gets the worm. I guess iPhones don't come with day planners.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, Marissa. You are so young and hip that you are never in a position where you have to give a phone number (not just the number you're calling from -- any number) to another person on the phone? How young are you, six? Are you a solipsist? Are you and the person you are talking to the only beings in the universe, serially capturing each other's phone numbers in an elaborate digital circle jerk?

Anyway, this was a funny post, and on point. I'll happily admit to being old and unfunny, though I probably should point out that I was a fan of Louis C.K. when no one had heard of him and you were still pooping in your pants. -- Weingarten

Marissa said...

Holy sh*t. Although I'm sure someone's pulling my proverbial chain, in the slight chance the above comment was really just left by the actual Gene Weingarten, I will address it.

First of all, if this is the real Gene Weingarten and you just typed the words "circle" and "jerk" in a row on this blog, I take back every disparaging remark I made in this essay and will now assume the position as your No. 1 fan.

And no, I am not 6 years old, although I often have the thought patterns of a toddler. (Are you still even a toddler at age 6?)

And yes, I do occasionally give out my number, but if I do, it's usually on a voicemail to a business associate and I make sure just to repeat it twice. No one's there on the other side of the line to interrupt me like an asshole or, I guess, act like a silly girl.

Finally, on the Louis C.K. tip, it's a little unclear. For all I know, you could've just started enjoying his comedy this morning, which just so happens to be the last time I pooped my pants. I have a problem. I deal with it.

HAHA! I might've just told a poop joke to Gene Weingarten who might've just written the term "circle jerk" on my blog.

Today is the best day ever!

Thank you, real or fake GW!

Marissa said...


OH G-SUSS! Don't get me started on the speakerphone. Tool of the devil, I say!

One Blonde Girl--

Perhaps, I haven't spent nearly enough time around boys and thermostats. Or maybe I'm the one sneaking over all the time to turn it down or up myself...eek...


I hear ya. Like I said, judging from his radio spot on Monday, I have a new view of him. I always thought his columns were corny, but now I'm convinced he's writing to the Post's target market and not what he might actually find humorous. I think he'd be more effective (and funnier) using the more abstract, quite frankly, more clever voice he exhibited to Kojo. Also, more poop jokes.


OK, that's irritating. All rules get flushed down the toilet when you're dealing with someone who doesn't have the mental capacity to understand rules and opts, instead, to flush them down the toilet. Now, you have to plunge them out. What a mess...

Debbi said...

For what it's worth (and, sadly, based on actual experience), that comment sounds like Weingarten, but I don't think he would have made it anonymously. Unless he's changed his policy or something.

Anonymous said...

'Twas me. And you're welcome. I like your blog, and your criticism of me was not without merit. I think nasty commentary is okay if it is well supported by fact, which yours was. I am old and out of it and some of my references are dated. I try to remain as connected to the actual world as any wrinkly can be. I have yootful friends and whatnot, and still appreciate a well-turned calf.

That last was just for you and yours to gnaw on. -- Weingarten.

(I'm "anonymous" only because I can't quite figure out what a Google Account is.)