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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Newsflash: Be On The Lookout For Justin Gotta

Who’s Justin Gotta, you ask? Why he’s your consultant for house design, decorating, work, home, play, finances, politics, childrearing…

Let me explain.

I’ve discovered a rule of thumb that has carried me through my life without disappointment for many years. I came to these two realizations, this two pronged observation, observing customers’ as well as employees’ behavior. I realized only later that it applied to almost any stripe of life as well. Here it is:

Part 1: When the customer uses the word “just” in a sentence, you’re going to hear something dumb.

Example: “Why don’t you just build the second floor first, we have the lumber for that, and slip the first floor under it later? Why can’t we just do that?”

Or: “Why can’t we just make the house two thousand square feet bigger for no money?

Part2: When an employee uses the words “I gotta” in a sentence, it’s going to be followed by something stupid, or a lie, or a toxic admixture of mendacity and foolishness.

Example: "I can’t work today because I gotta…"

I’m not going to bother finishing that sentence, because it doesn’t matter what follows; it’ll be really dumb, or a fib, likely both, I assure you.

On one hand, I’ve had employees come to me and ask me if they could please leave work fifteen minutes early on Friday afternoon, because they had to go to chemotherapy. They scheduled their treatments on Fridays in the afternoon so they could recover in time for Monday.

People like that never use the words “I gotta.”

The “I gotta” is a sort of a vestigal verbal tail, left over from the teen years, used for trying to weasel out of your obligations or get treatment you don’t deserve by appealing to a deus ex machina, an overriding imaginary obligation that makes further discussion or disputation impossible:

“But I said I gotta have Wednesday off! Didn’t you hear me? I gotta! It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, I gotta pick up my brother and go to the casino and get loaded and then I gotta get another day off in a couple weeks to go to court for missing my child support payments that I blew at the racetrack on the way home from the casino and the barroom.”

“I just gotta.”

Keeping a watchful eye out for those two terms has served me in good stead lo these many years. And I always give as good as I get, so I’m careful to beware of them lest they appear in my own sentences.

Customers, beware the just and gottas on your own end, as well. Like an accusing index finger, the just and gottas generally have a malefactor on both ends of them.

If you hear: “We were going to work at your house this week but we gotta…”

Oh no. We gotta. The “we gotta” is an especially virulent form of the virus, and has been known to wipe out entire work weeks. Beware.

“Can’t you just pay us in advance? Because we gotta…”

This is the equivalent of the plague sweeping a medieval town. If you spot the dreaded we gotta, in the same sentence, or egads, the same prepositional phrase as can’t you just?, abandon all hope. There is nothing left for you but prayer.

I began to notice that the rule applied to everything in life, not just work. It’s as close to the Golden Rule as I’ve ever gotten, and I’m no philosopher. Think about it.

It’s charming to remember a time when that jug-eared martian from Texas, Ross Perot, was a legitimate presidential candidate, and whose whole party platform consisted of saying “Why can’t we just…?” about everything. Why can’t we just tell those Palestinians and Jews to knock it off? Why can’t we just raise the gas tax fifty cents? Why can’t we just run the federal government out of a Motel 6 in Austin?

And so forth. It’s a testament to the attraction of the “just” and “gotta” that he got as far as he did, and likewise a testament to the good sense of the electorate that finally realized he just a cross between your boss saying: “Why can’t you just work on Christmas eve for free?” and your plumber telling you he couldn’t come for two days because “I gotta wax my boat”

And so dear reader, remember, when someone says: Why don’t you “Just do it?” tell them you don’t “just” become a two hundred and seventy pound mass of muscle who runs as fast as a sprinter by buying shoes. When you hear: “Why don’t we just get five gay men to decorate our shabby apartment on television, or: “I gotta talk to the president again and dictate American foreign policy from a ditch by the side of the road, why can’t we just ..,” caution is called for.

Beware Justin Gotta.

3 comments:

Janet said...

OK, I am trying not to laugh too hard at a public computer in a nice quiet library. I have noticed for years the misuse of the poor word "just", particularly in the mouth of a well-beloved family member.

"I was just _ing..." invariably precedes something skirting a lie. Sure the person was doing that, but he/she was inevitably doing a great deal more, which puts an entirely different spin on things. So as soon as I hear the word "just", I start hooting in derision. That one won't get past me.

SippicanCottage said...

Someday I'll make some noise in a library.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Isn't Justin Gotta the illegitimate child of John Gotti?