Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

So it's nine o'clock on a Saturday night and a couple of friends and me are walking into the grand opening of the Pasadena branch of:

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

"My God," says a person I'm with. "It is real."

You're darn-tootin' it is. Good chicken, great waffles. Soul food in the sleazy part of town.

I'd first heard about Roscoe's when it got a gratuitous reference in the movie "Tape Heads." Two young video producers make an ad for the place, part of which runs like this:

Roscoe's the name and the call me the king,
Grandmaster of the chicken and the waffle thing,
I said now read my lips and, friends, don't miss a word,
'Cause the grandmaster's gonna... give your bird.

(Chorus)
Come to Roscoe's for delicious food,
We got fuel for your attitude,
We got the baddest waffle and cluck,
And you get good value for your buck.

Hamburgers are greasy and pizza's plain nasty,
And them little tacos are messy and rasty,
But my chicken's so fine, it'll blow your mind,
It'll shake your hips, it'll pad your behind.

Poultry ain't your bag, well, that don't matter,
'Cause I'm down by law, with my waffle batter.

Stir it up!

(Chorus)

You get the idea.

I had the 18, a thigh and a waffle, and a side-waffle, and a lemonade. Someone got Lisa's Delight, half lemonade and half ice tea, separated, and had to ask if you're supposed to mix it up before you drink it.

The waitress looked at us funny. I suspect we were a little more into the experience that she was.

As we left, we got hard little candies -- I had the purple one -- and got to keep 16-ounce Roscoe's sports bottles.

So I'm getting ready for work and I'm listening to KROQ and a segment comes on called "What's Your Deal?" in which average slobs call up and bitch at the morning DJs -- Kevin and Bean -- about anything they want.

Now, two day before, Kevin and Bean had made their intern, Lightning, drive two hours out to Barstow to get them ice cream from the Dairy Queen. He had gotten back about fifteen minutes after the show had ended, so yesterday they made him do it again. And made fun of him when the orders were wrong.

They pick on Lightning a lot.

So I phone the 800 number and they put me on the air.

"Hey."

"Hi, there."

"What's your deal?"

"You guys are just way too mean to Lightning."

In the background you can hear: "Yeah!"

"Oh, you don't know the half of it," says Kevin or Bean -- I can't tell them apart. "He's constantly screwing up."

"Everybody screws up."

"But not nearly this much. Where do you work?"

"At CaseWare in Irvine. Computer programmer."

"Do you crash the mainframe?"

Mainframe? Non-computer people. Sheesh. "Every day."

"No."

"Yes. Constantly. I'm colossally inept."

"You can't be."

"I am."

"No."

"Yes. And one day, the Lightning's of this world will rise up and slaughter their slack-jawed, ice-cream suckin' oppressors, and I'll be there with them!"

There's a very, very slight pause.

"Ice cream suckin' oppressors?" says one.

"The problem with that," says the other, "is that you'd never manage to all start the revolution at the same time."

Then they hang up the phone and start making fun of me on the air. Something about losers defending losers.

Oh, we'll start the revolution all right. At around five-ish, some time in October. Or February.

So I'm getting ready for work and the phone rings.

"Hello?"

A speakerphoned voice booms in my ear. "HiGreg, myname'sBillTropp, andI'macorporateplacementconsultant. Wespokeafewmonthsago. Iwaswonderingifyouhadsometimerightnow?"

"Uh," I say. I've got no idea who this guy is, but I talked to a few headhunters after I left Quotron. For all I know I promised to marry this one. "Er."

"Great," he says. "I'vegotacoupleofgreatsituationsherethatyoumaybeinterestedin."

When, exactly, did the word "situation" come to replace every other noun in the English language? Cops have situations when people barricade themselves inside houses, generals have situations when there's an invasion going on, and now head hunters have situations when they've got job openings. Maybe it makes a job sound exciting when you deal with "situations." "Jim, we've got a pizza delivery situation here..."

"Ah," I say.

"Great," he says. "Thebestoneisasituationthat" -- big breath -- "woulduseyourMSandOOPexperience."

MS is "Microsoft," not "multiple-sclerosis," and OOP is "object-orient programming." I'm convinced that the folks out there who invent stuff like OOP give them silly names on purpose ("scuzzy," "gooey," "oop") just so slick head-hunters will have to sound ridiculous on the phone. Which is fine by me.

"Well, ah, Bill. I kind of have a job--"

"Withwho?" he says.

"Ah, well, with CaseWar--"

"Goodcompany," he says. "Whodoyouworkfor?"

"Marty Caga--"

"Goodguy. Haven'ttalkedtohiminalongtime. Shouldgivehimacall."

"Ah."

"Mmm-hm."

"Ah."

"OK, then," he says. "Ifyoueverneedanything,don'thesitatetogivemeacall. Bye."

"Uh..."

And he hangs up. Why do I feel like I've just accidentally subscribed to six or seven magazines?

So I'm driving to work and I pass one of those car dealerships that line the 405 between LA and Irvine. They've all got big electric signs, three stories tall, that flash prices and specials and the fact that they'll give you free donuts just for stopping by.

Well, the one I'm passing now blinks three ads followed by some random preachy platitude, followed by three more ads. Stupid, stupid stuff. HappyPeppyPerky stuff.

Like:

IMPROVEMENT BEGINS WITH 'I'

And:

1ST DUTY OF [heart] IS TO LISTEN

And:

BIG SHOTS R LITTLE SHOTS WHO KEPT ON SHOOTING

I actually look forward to passing this dealership every day, because just trying to read the sign without rear-ending the guy in front of me is a challenge and, if I manage it, I get to feel hateful and smug.

But today's saying throws me off. It says:

TECHNOLOGY OR PERISH

Technology or perish? What the heck does that mean? Technology or perish. Sheesh.

It's not even a sentence -- it's not even a fragment. "[Noun] or [verb]" doesn't many any grammatical sense. It might as well say BANANA OR WHITTLE. Or CARPET OR FLY-FISH. Or any number of other time-wasting garbage.

Dammit, if you're gonna go flashing sayings at tens of thousands of people a day, you should make sure that it makes sense. I mean, I could set up a big sign and start broadcasting nonsense, too, but I have a sense of social responsibility. I have a sense of common decency. I know that there are people out there with a dangerously off-kilter sense of mental well-being and even the slightest, just the very slightest, oddity may set them off on a five-state killing spree that would leave dozens dead and endless desolation and carnage in its path.

Stupid sign.

So my roommate Larry is driving home from work the other night and he pulls up next to a woman who, and he swears this is true, was checkin' him out.

And so, fill with the confidence that only complete self-delusion can provide, he shouts, "What's your number?" over to her. She yells something back, and he scribbles it down on a piece of paper, not quite sure that he heard it right. She speeds off, directly into the speed trap just over the hill.

Larry waves as he drives by. The charmer.

The next day, he gets to work and dials the number and then phones me right up.

"Call her," he says. "You'll get a machine, but call her."

OK. So I dial the number.

The machine picks up part way through the first ring. A lush, romantic Elton John starts playing, and after a bit, this:

"Hi, this is Holly. Thank you so much for calling. If you could leave me your name, number and a brief message I'll call you back as soon as possible. If this is an old friend, thank you so much for keeping in touch. If this is a new friend, I look forward to meeting you. God bless."

And a beep.

I call Larry back, and he says, "Hooker."

I say, "Phone sex."

Some sort of professional girl, we agree.

"But at least," I say, "this explains why she gave you her number."

So I'm sitting around the apartment on Friday night, cleaning my phone. And you can keep your smart-ass comments to yourself, thank-you-very-much.

Suddenly, from up the street a party erupts with the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" blaring out at a volume that could cause sterility in cows.

Great. The Beastie Boys. Manhattan Beach is a breeding ground for USC business school grad students and on Friday night they like to kick off the sterile conformity of their week-day existence and slip into the sterile conformity of their weekend existence. If you walk by a bar, you can count two dozen identical couples standing out front waiting to pay ten bucks to be a in a room where it's too loud to talk and too crowded to dance.

At least it's "Sabotage" and not--

"Fight for Your Right (To Party)" starts up. Gad. The anthem of the drunken moron. There's a bunch of them out on the balcony singing along, swilling the latest random concept beer. Ice Draft Dry Light or something.

At least it's not--

A country song starts up.

What the hell is going on here?

Now, I know some people who like country music and to a one, they're intelligent, thoughtful folk. But something about the whole concept rubs me the wrong way -- maybe it's the hats -- and your typical line-dancing crowd makes the Beastie Boys look like... well, let's say it makes them look less like chimps.

Any song that involves the word "Chattahoochie" should be banned by international agreement.

It's ending. Thank God. Maybe now we can get on to--

"Fight for Your Right" starts up again.

It and the country song are repeated back to back for the next twenty minutes.

If I kill them all, I could sell their clothes...

So I wore a new shirt yesterday and it dyed my entire upper-body a greenish-blue. Only some of it washed off in the shower.

I look like a drowning victim.

So I'm at the Dodger game, having fun, making an ass of myself, shouting "Zubon wo doko ni arimasuka!" which, of course, is Japanese for, "Where's my pants?"

There's a kid in front of me, goofing around with a friend of his, tossing a lollipop back and forth.

So, naturally, I put on my Authoritative Adult Voice and say, "My God, be careful! That's a Blow-Pop, and it could go off at any moment! You've only got thirty seconds after you pull the pin!"

And the kid, this eight-year-old kid, turns around and gives me the most withering look of scorn I have ever received in my entire life. He looks at me like I'm dirt. This friggin' tow-headed tyke makes me feel like I'm a big oafish dolt who should just sit down and shut up.

So I sit down and I shut up and I can hear the wind whistle by.

And then the kid starts smiling. A big, got-you grin.

That kid's got a great future.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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