Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pulling the ripcord

Some years ago in London, I was sharing a house with a guy called Mad Irish Dave. The nickname there says everything you need to know. I loved the guy dearly, and we had some great times together, but he did drive me completely up the wall. This is one of my fonder memories of that year we spent together.

One day, cruising the Classifieds for a new job, Dave had come upon an ad for some very dodgy-sounding sales operation and decided to check out the 'more information' telephone number. The recorded message was so painfully funny, we half suspected it was a practical joke - a set-up for one of those playing-pranks-on-the-public TV or radio shows, or a satirical 'event' contrived by some wacko modern artist. But no, after repeated listening we came to realise that it was all too real: an archetypally bumptious self-made man, overdosed on NLP and other self-empowerment bullshit, and utterly lacking in any sense of self-irony. His breathless spiel exalting himself, his company, and the dubious 'opportunity' he was offering to applicants, began something along the lines of, "Are you successful? Do you want to be successful? I'm successful. I know I'm successful, because I drive a top-of-the-range BMW, I wear hand-tailored suits, I have a beautiful wife, I own a huge house, I take 6 foreign holidays a year, etc., etc., etc., etc. ...." This went on and on, without a single beat for genuine self-reflection, for a good two or three minutes: an astonishing performance! I wince and snigger, in about equal measure, to recall it even now. "Do you want to be like me??" Oh, god no, please, anything but that!

The Super-Spiv's hilarious message concluded - after exhorting those who were brave enough and go-getting enough to pitch for a chance to join him in his materialistic paradise by leaving a message on his voicemail - with the would-be inspiring observation: "Remember - your mind is like a parachute: it doesn't work properly unless it is fully open." In other hands, perhaps, this twee Christmas Cracker motto might actually make a useful point; but from him, it just provoked further uncontrollable guffawing in us. Really, I mean rolling around on the floor in life-threatening paroxysms for several minutes on end.

Drunk and/or stoned over the course of that weekend, Dave and I left dozens of parodic messages on his voicemail number, vying to outdo each other in our spoofing of his bombastic style. Several of our efforts hinged on reworkings of the glib parachute simile. My favourite was:
"My mind is like a parachute: it can't stop me falling; it can only slow me down."

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