[Editor's Note: first offered eight years ago. It got edited heavily, but there's still some ancient references in there]
[Author's Note: I've been doing this for eight years? Either I deserve a medal, or the readers do. There is no editor]
Who's Justin Gotta, you ask? Why, he's your consultant for house design and decorating, work, home life, play, finances, politics, childrearing…
Maybe I should explain.
I've discovered a rule of thumb that has carried me through my life without disappointment for many years. I came to two realizations by observing my housing customers' as well as my employees' behavior. Only later did it occur to me that it applied to almost any stripe of life. Here it is:
Part 1: When the customer uses the word just in a sentence, you’re about 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?
Part 2: When an employee uses the words I gotta in a sentence, it’s going to be followed by something stupid, or a lie -- generally both.
Example: I can’t work today because I gotta ...
There's no need to bother listening to that sentence, because it really doesn’t matter what follows, you don't want to hear it.
On the one hand, I've had employees come to me and ask permission to leave work fifteen minutes early on Friday afternoon so they could go to chemotherapy. They scheduled their treatments on Fridays as late in the afternoon as possible, so they could recover in time for work on 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, an attempt to weasel out of your obligations or get treatment you don’t deserve by appealing to a goldbricking, layabout deus ex machina, an overriding imaginary obligation that makes further discussion or disputation impossible.
"But I told you 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 have 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 hope to 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.
"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, in 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 jugeared martian from Texas, Ross Perot, was considered a legitimate presidential candidate, and his 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 "just" and "gotta" that he got as far as he did, and likewise a testament to the good sense of the electorate who finally realized he's just a cross between your boss asking you don't you just work on Christmas eve for free, and your plumber telling you he can’t come for two days, to make your finless brown trout disappear, because he's gotta wax his boat.
And so, gentle reader, remember: when someone says: Why don’t you Just Do It, tell them it's unlikely you'll just become a two hundred and seventy pound mass of muscle who runs as fast as a sprinter by buying shoes that look like moonboots. 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.