Sunday, December 25, 2016

ain't that mr. mister

You know what I hate?

Okay. Okay. I know. I know. That list can get pretty long and I'd probably have you here all day. What I meant to say was: you know what occurred to me that I hate? Being called "Mister Josh." I actually don't care for "Mr. Pincus," but I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable, like when it's your turn at the doctor's office and the assistant sticks her head out into the waiting room and calls your name. Or when you're being addressed by an overly polite solicitor on the phone. Or — worse — when you think you're being cool and one of your son's friends says, "Good one, Mr. Pincus!" I usually tell them to call me "Josh," explaining that "Mr. Pincus" was my father. That's usually met with a forced chuckle and "Another good one, Mr. Pincus!" (I went to a concert to see a band with whom my son is pretty close. After the show, my boy introduced me to the band's guitarist. I congratulated him on the great performance and he shyly replied "Thank you, Mr. Pincus, " as though I just watched him in an eighth-grade Christmas pageant.)

A few years ago, a new co-worker was introduced to me on her first day. It was pretty obvious that this young lady was considerably younger than I am. I was probably old enough to be her father. Nevertheless, I smiled and shook her hand and she was escorted away to be presented to the next new colleague. Several days later, I had some interaction with my new co-worker. At the end of our work-related exchange, her parting words were: "Okay. Thanks, Mr. Josh." Those words shot up and down my spine like ice water. I quickly (and firmly... maybe too firmly) responded. "Please." I began, "You can just call me 'Josh.' Please don't call me 'Mr. Josh.' I'm not your mother's new boyfriend." She squirmed a little, returned an awkward grin and sort-of slunk away. Okay. Maybe that last part was uncalled for.

Remember those telephone solicitors I mentioned earlier? Well, they started calling me "Mr. Josh," too. I will sometimes answer my phone event though I don't recognize the suspicious number displayed on the caller ID. I offer a hesitant "hello?" into the receiver and am immediately greeted with a "Hello, Mr. Josh!" delivered in a vague, unidentifiable foreign accent. That makes me shudder. I have now decided that no matter what this guy is selling, proposing or pitching — I ain't interested. He turned me off within the first three words.

Recently, I went to the bank, something I have not done in years. Since I pay all of my bills online and my paychecks are automatically deposited electronically through my employer, I have no need to go to an actual bank. But, just this week, for reasons that are far too mundane to explain, I had to go to the bank. I had a day off from work and I was looking for something to do. At a little before 10 AM, I pulled into the parking lot and wandered in to an empty bank. Obviously, I'm not the only one who no longer goes to the bank. Two tellers were standing silently behind the high counter. As I approached, they both turned, smiled and asked, in unison, if they could help me. Being lazy, I chose the one closest to me. The further-away teller looked dejected as she turned her attention back to the busywork she was doing. I handed my check to be deposited to the young man on the other side of the counter. He confirmed that I was making a deposit. (I suppose the words "FOR DEPOSIT ONLY" in giant capital letters scrawled across the reverse of the check gave him his first clue.) I nodded in the affirmative. He tapped some buttons on some machinery that was out of my line of vision. I heard the whirrrrrr of a printer and the guy handed me a small receipt. Then, as I was folding the receipt into my wallet, he spoke. He spoke those words. Those jarring, cringe-inducing words.

"Anything else I can do for you, Mr. Josh?"

I glared at him and just said, "No." I should have said, "Yes. Don't call me 'Mr. Josh.' And tell everybody else in the world the same thing." But I suppose that would have been asking too much.

...or you can call me 'RJ' or
you can call me 'JJ'...
There used to be a comedian named Billy Saluga. He was popular in the 70s for a character that he created — a cigar-smoking, zoot suit-wearing, loud-mouthed gentleman called "Raymond J. Johnson, Jr." Saluga appeared on a lot of talk and variety shows doing his "Raymond J. Johnson, Jr." shtick. If you are not familiar with (or are too young to remember) his act, it went like this. He would introduce himself with his full name and someone would call him "Mr. Johnson." He would get flustered and explain "You can call me 'Ray' or you can call me 'Jay' or you can call me 'Johnny' or you can call me 'Sonny.' He would proceed to delineate every possible configuration of his lengthy moniker, ultimate ending with: "But ya doesn't hasta call me 'Johnson.' "

I laughed at Saluga's antics back then, but, after all these years, I finally understand his pain.

No comments:

Post a Comment