“Forget you, pal…”
I understand the world through the prism of early episodes of The Simpsons. Who between the ages of 25 and 40 doesn’t? (If you just put up your hand or sheepishly whispered “me”, I’m frankly suspicious of you and will regard you as a degenerate until you present me with evidence to the contrary.)
Anyway, there’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer discovers a miracle hair regrowth formula and uses his now-thick mane and new-found self esteem to rise up the corporate ladder. (If you’re a Simpsons fan it’s the one with Karl, one of the finest non-recurring characters to ever appear in the show.)
Don’t worry – this isn’t a column about developing your career via follicular enhancement or rug propagation. It’s about a moment in the episode where Homer gets told by a doctor that the ointment is well out of his financial reach:
Doctor: Allow me to present the Dimoxinil action set. A six-month supply of the drug, gravity boots, scalp massager and a T-shirt.
Homer: Great. How much?
Doctor: A thousand dollars.
Homer: A thousand bucks? I can’t afford that!
Doctor: We do have a product which is more in your price range. However, any hair growth while using it will be coincidental.
Homer: A thousand bucks. Of all the rip-off screw job, chip joint… Forget you, pal! Thanks for nothing!
By the time he’s delivered this immortal line Homer has become distraught and leaves the surgery sobbing.
In the lunch room at work the next day, he relates the story to his mates, assuring them that he presented the final words with thunderous decisiveness and “storm[ed] right outta there”.
What makes “Forget you, pal” so memorable is the fact that it’s a universally experienced situation. We may not all have burst into tears after hearing unfavourable pricing news (although I have… several times – you should have seen me when I discovered it cost $13 per year to purchase the URL www.haught.com.au), but we’ve all told family, friends and office allies the story of how, during an argument with Lieutenant General Knowitall, our retorts to his sophistry and nastiness were either incisively witty, electrically sarcastic, admirably bold or a glorious concoction of all three.
We neglect to mention the ever-reddening face, the pitiful attempts to discover common ground, the nervous laughter or the fact our voice broke on at least four occasions.
And good on us for this revisionism. Why diminish ourselves by telling the truth when we could be telling of our heroism and rhetorical genius in the face of office villainy?
And if you don’t agree. If you you think truth will out. If you believe we shouldn’t take lessons from animated television shows and apply them in our lives, well… forget you, pal! Thanks for nothing!
An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
You can read Benign to Five in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the BusinessDay section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)