Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Legend of Snicker

While managing the Dog Ear Records store in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook in the late 70s, it was common to become a baby sitter of sorts for adolescents.  This wealthy bedroom community was miles from the nearest mall, so a trendy strip center like our Plaza Del Prado sufficed as the hangout of choice for tweenies and those not old enough to drive.

Besides the McDonald’s and an ice cream shop, Dog Ear was the most popular “hang” because of our music, playing hip videos, and the game room in the back of the store.  Even though I grew to hate the various sounds of Pacman, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Donkey Kong, no one couldn’t argue with the fact that the six units we had generated upwards of $2,000 a week in sheer profit.  Back then it was a quarter per play…that meant these kids were playing 8,000 times per week.  So, as one can imagine, there was a lot of foot traffic through our store.

I got to know many of these kids, most of whom were just looking to pass the time.  The majority were spoiled rich brats with way too much coinage on their hands.  But, in order to be a good manager, I would befriend as many as I could while simultaneously making sure they didn’t try to run the joint.

One thirteen-year-old, Mike, was one of those smart-ass punks who had a quick retort for everything.  A workaholic lawyer father, a borderline alcoholic socialite mother, and a couple of anorexic older sisters bent on getting the perfect body shape and tan left Mike with little attention at home, let alone encouragement.  He had a vivid imagination, wicked sense of humor, and a loud mouth.  Imagine a real-life version of Anthony Michael Hall’s  “Farmer Ted the Geek” character from Sixteen Candles.  Many didn’t get Mike, but I liked him.

Among his irritating characteristics was his desire to relay every dirty joke and thought that ran through his mind at P.A. volume.  This was not only embarrassing to some of my sensitive female employees, and of course, the bulk of our clientele…but also to me.  You see, I’m no prude, having heard and even told my share of sordid tales over the years…but this guy possessed perhaps the sickest mind I or anyone else who came in touch with him had ever encountered.

Most managers would’ve permanently banned Mike from their premises due to this verbal diarrhea, but having learned of his tough home situation, I felt I could somehow encourage him.  I think he appreciated the acceptance, and, with time, he learned to keep his foul commentary at a lower volume, if not even cutting it out all together in a rare moment.

One hot September afternoon, Mike was again generally loitering. He had regaled several new bad jokes that involved animal/human husbandry, given thorough descriptions of what he surmised the anatomy of some of his female cohorts would look like if their clothing were sufficiently discarded, and described in thorough details his mother’s feminine hygiene rituals.  I was in my mid-twenties, and this kid made ME blush.

At one point, Mike made a remark about a new banner display I was unpacking, stating “Man, that’s the longest one I’ve ever seen.”  As I was stretching it out on the floor I retorted, “Yeah, that’s what she said last night.”  Mike started to giggle, and within a few seconds it turned into robust guffaws of laughter.  “That’s what SHE said last night…Bwah-ha-ha-ha!” Apparently, he had never heard this all-purpose double entendre before, and it not only tickled his funny bone, it downright put him in fits. 

For the next few hours, nary a statement could be made without him interjecting his new-found favorite quip.  I would be hanging a sign and say, “I think it needs about 3 more inches to the left,” and he would blurt out, “That’s what she said last night!”  Or, when Nick, one of the sales guys, saw me lifting a heavy box and advised, “It’s best to bend your knees when doing that,” Mike shouted out, “That’s what she said!”  He even tried it with situations that only made sense to his warped little mind like when I asked a customer, “Would you like that in a bag?” “That’s what she said!” he would howl.

Like all things with Mike, he didn’t know how to edit himself, and it was bothering my staff and customers.  I pulled him aside, and reasoned with him.  “Mike, I know that can be funny at times, but it has to be used with restraint or it simply isn’t funny when overplayed. Plus, as you could tell when that one woman just glared at me, it’s offensive to those who aren’t as, uh….liberated as you.”

“Here’s an idea,” I continued. “How about we come up with a code word that we can say just loud enough for each other to hear?  It will summarize ‘that’s what she said,’ but won’t offend anyone else. 

“What word should it be?” he asked.

“Hmmm….what do you think of ‘snicker?’ But remember, you gotta say it quietly, almost non-chalantly, so as not to draw attention.  And one more thing, in order for this to be funny between us, you can’t call your own ‘snicker.’  It should only be when you hear someone else say something that fits.  Is it a deal?”

“Deal!”  he chimed. 

Over the next several weeks, various snickers were declared in a very reserved manner.  It became quite fun—our little inside joke.  But eventually, other staff started to catch on, as well as kids in Mike’s circle.
Some of them were so funny we began keeping a list.

  • “I’ve got an extension if you need one.” (when an employee was trying to get to a hard-to-reach area with the vacuum cleaner nozzle)

  • “Oh, terrific, look at it…it’s all caved in.” (uttered when a display unit had gotten crushed by a leaning customer)

  • “You gotta apply WAY more pressure than that for any results” (describing how to press a stapler into wood paneling)

  • “That hose had some kinks in it.” (when a fire truck was summoned to a grease fire at the McDonald’s)

  •  “Oh, no.  Aaagh! It’s gonna melt before I get it up!” (exclaimed when I dropped some ice cubes down the back of Mike’s shirt).

  • “This is the worst…it keeps collapsing when any suction is applied.” (referring to a flimsy straw not properly doing its job on a milkshake)

  • “Would you like me to pump it, or is this self-serve?” (from a gas station attendant)

  • “Be careful how long you leave it in there—it can melt, or even worse, get scorched.” (instruction on our temperamental toaster oven)

  • “It’s spread as far as it’ll go, and it STILL won’t fit!” (holding some shelving apart trying to squeeze an extra box)

  • “I think there were instructions on the side once, but they’ve been worn off from friction” (looking for directions on the outside of a cash register)

  • “This is so huge—I mean, look: my legs barely get on either side of it, and it’s pinning me to the seat.” (ridiculing an overly large steering wheel in a compact car) 

  • “Look at the size of that…how does that fit in your pants?” (questioning the girth of co-worker Bob’s massive wallet) 

  • “See, I can barely wrap my hands around it.” (another comment on the billfold)

  • “I keep pulling out and backing in, but can’t get the hang of this docking.” (a new female UPS driver attempting to make a pick up)

  • “Ohhhh, man…it’s big, hot, and juicy…just looking at it makes my mouth water.” (desiring a fresh McRib sandwich)

  • “That dude’s riding my rear end like there’s no tomorrow.” (complaint about a tailgating driver)

  • “I see a whole lot of movement, but it doesn’t impress.  You may think it feels good, but it’s doing nothing for me.” (critiquing someone’s awkward dance technique)

  • “Even strokes…EVEN strokes!  When you’re all herky jerky like that it doesn’t get the results that I want.” (instructions on applying varnish)

  • “I like THAT one—what is it, about 12 inches long AND covered in leather?!”  (unpacking table top display units)

  • “Limp AND soggy—NOT what I’m in the mood for.” (angst over a lousy piece of pizza)

  • “When I was underneath it earlier, it popped out and nearly poked me in the eye when I opened it up.” (lamenting a new spring-loaded change tray in a cash register)

  • “Be patient, it takes a while to heat up, but when it does…look out!” (another warning about the toaster)

  • “When you slid into me, you tore my legs up, and now I can hardly stand.” (accusation after a softball collision)

  • “I barely touched it and it went off.” (fiddling around with a camera)

  • “I would’ve gotten it in if your hand hadn’t gotten in the way.” (trying to throw something in the trash can)

You get the picture.  Little by little, more folks heard about it.  One could walk around the Plaza and hear “snickers” being declared by various shopkeepers. I was at a convenience store several miles away and heard the attendant say it to a coworker.  Others within the Dog Ear chain of stores across Chicagoland started incorporating it.

As the fall continued, it became common parlance at area high schools (at one student pep rally, the principal addressed the students by saying “thanks for coming” to which several kids yelled out “snicker!” and hundreds roared their approval). I even heard one local radio morning team utilize it. 

A few years later I was in another state on tour with a band and heard some guys on the load-in crew saying it. Some acquaintances in the Pacific Northwest told me that it had come into common usage out there. Another friend told me that friends of his used it in Ontario.

Decades have passed, and many of my friends and associates still employ it with some regularity. One of them refers to it as “The Legend of Snicker.”  I’m not sure of its legendary status…but it sure has been good for some big laughs at oft-inopportune times.

Perhaps you have some funny lines like these you can contribute…   

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