The Popcorn Guy or Right Here,Sir!

3779101411_fd5986be79_zOn a family vacation a few years ago, we got turned on to Conan O’Brien.  We watched him every night in our hotel room.  During one of his opening monologues, he was telling a joke about football.  He asked if there were any football fans in the house and made a joke about there being one guy who wasn’t.  “Is there anyone who doesn’t like the NFL?” he mused.  Then he jumped into a character, raising his index finger with a flare and said in a voice which resembled a munchkin, “Rrrrrright here, sir!”

We laughed hard at that, and it has become a running joke with my kids ever since ,because THAT guy is ME.  I don’t care about the NFL one little bit.  When he did it, it wasn’t a favorable portrayal at all.  This “Rrrright here, sir!” guy was a man to be ridiculed for his pride in not being a fan, but I don’t mind.  That’s who I am.  And the joke lives on.

Occasionally, when I’m “that guy” in any way, not just with football, someone will say it.  It’s always good for a laugh.  But because of something significant that happened at the movies one night, the joke has grown in scope; becoming a sort of folklore among us.

I took my family and my daughter’s boyfriend to see a movie at the Warren Theatre.  While we waited in line for popcorn, we chatted and joked, oblivious to the people around us.  My daughter ordered, and after the pimple-faced teen boy brought the popcorn out I said to my daughter, “Rrrright here, sir!”

The boy turned around with the drink and with a wistful tone said, “Yeah, I know.  My voice is annoying.”

I immediately tried to assure him that we were not talking about him.  I tried to explain that it was just a running joke in the family, but he seemed unconvinced and rang us up without saying another word.

We laughed about it later.  Although we felt sorry for the boy, we also saw some comic value in the situation.  It was as if he was just looking for an opportunity to confirm what he already knew:   his voice was annoying. (it wasn’t annoying at all, by the way).  He could have shot us a retort.  “Oh yeah?  Well, your face is annoying!” or “Screw you, I put a booger in your popcorn.  Good luck finding it.”   Or he could have politely said, “It’s not very nice to make fun of something that I can’t help.”  Not this guy.  He assumed we were making fun of his voice as if maybe this wasn’t the first time it had happened…and then he apologized for it.  Poor kid.

And so our little joke gained new meaning.  We began embellishing it.

“Rrrright here, sir!” was now always followed by, “Yeah, I know my voice is annoying.”

Then it became:

“Rrrright here, sir!”

“Yeah, I know my voice is annoying. My girlfriend says so.”

 

Which eventually became

“Rrrright here, sir!”

“Yeah, I know my voice is annoying. My girlfriend says so.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

(Head bowed in shame) “No.”

 

I’m not particularly proud of this little bit of theater.  It’s not kind, and I’m generally a kind person, but this kid’s response was so unexpected.  It’s not about him. I don’t him.  Maybe the joke was on us.  It’s the situation that’s funny to me.  It’s funny, but like much of comedy, it is rooted in sadness.  Many teens have low self-esteem, and it makes them feel miserable.  I know what it feels like.  I also know what it’s like to be the butt of a joke.  I also know what it’s like to look back and find the humor it it.  But this isn’t a joke he will look back on because he’s not IN ON it.  The character in our joke isn’t a real person.   Yes!  I’m desperately trying to justify my participation in this farce!

If he looks back on that moment, he will see it as the time when his fears about his voice were confirmed.  I’m not particularly fond of my speaking voice, if I’m being honest.  My wife makes fun of it, and I’m a little self conscious.  But as the boy might have said, it’s not something I really have control over so BACK OFF.  😉

We rarely run the lines anymore, perhaps because we are ashamed of our own insensitivity.  Perhaps we were shaming ourselves by making those guilty inner accusations like, “Boy would you feel bad if you found out that kid killed himself that very night.” But I confess that my daughter and I did it in the line for popcorn at Star Wars.  We did it, not out of malice, and perhaps not even out of humor, but to commemorate the day when we met the popcorn guy.  It was a wonderful day full of laughter and friendship and family.   Just as we had been doing it to commemorate our vacation.

“Rrrrright here, sir!” is a joke that I really like for me.  Yeah, I’m that guy.  I’m the no-football guy.  But now it’s about the popcorn guy.   I have wondered how that story ended.  Did he go home feeling bad?  Did he stand in front of the mirror and rehearse other voices trying to find one that he didn’t deem “annoying”.  Did he tell his girlfriend who then said, “Duhhhhh. I’ve been saying it to your face for months”  Or did he have a girlfriend at all…