So I am talking with my coworkers. We are laughing and joking about one of our colleagues who went to his first baseball game… ever. He’s a Kiwi — in that he is from New Zealand, and not a flightless bird or the fuzzy fruit you find at your local grocer. He was excited because 1) he got to sit in a box seat, which is pretty cool, and 2) he was told there would be hot dogs — a man after my own heart. We were laughing and joking and having a good time, and sharing some jabs at the Kiwi’s expense. Most of us admitted that it is okay to skip work for a baseball game. I, not being a baseball fan but wanting to join in the conversation, said, “I’d fake my kids death to go to a baseball game.” (In a very well done Jim Varney impersonation, I might add.)
Before anyone starts sending me death threats, calling me a bad parent, and demonizing me on the 10 o’clock news, let me just say that I would never do any such thing. First, its my kid and that is just wrong. Second, it would take to much work and I have seen to much film noir to know that a plan that complicated will eventually go awry — especially for the lazy. However, the moment those words left my tongue you could hear the psychic record player needle scratch across the vinyl grooves of everyone’s mind. It was like I let loose the black incantation of Dormammu.
In retrospect, I just should have said nothing. Kept my one little comment to myself. What boggles my mind is that everyone in the audience shares a bit of off-color humor. I don’t think you can get rid of inappropriate behavior in the workplace — at least it would make things really dull. Work is high stress, and thankless (not all jobs but many). People need a window of off-color remarks to keep their sanity in check — to reassure themselves it is okay to laugh. Now, there is a lot of grey area there, and a lot of room for trouble. Certainly you want to try to stay clear of anything that becomes degrading to others — yourself is fine but leave everyone else alone. You also want to know the comfort level of your colleagues. Certain industries produce an acceptance of certain remarks and it is important to know what is accepted and not accepted on both a group level and an individual level.
My comment, I do not think, is not that off-color to produce the kind of silence you would hear after a bad night Yanni at the Acropolis (and now I have the Yanni fans on my case). It was an example of absurdism. Something so far removed from reality that the audience is allowed to laugh even somewhat nervously.
So, my question is how inappropriate is inappropriate? It reminds me of the greatest line in any film, “What’s the matter with being Sexy?” (sorry Nigel, they meant sexist). If its generally okay to come in to work with a joke from the Bob and Tom Show, or Howard Stern — two shows that I don’t listen to — how is my absurdist comment any different?
This is why my brain hurts.