“Dear humorless curmudgeons of La Jolla, please holster your shaking fists momentarily while I have some fun with words.”
Maybe that should preface the sign posted outside my office…
Our company Fairway Technologies may very well host a pack of domesticated nerds and technocrats, but we do maintain a basic understanding of common social behaviors, including the use of humor to add levity to the otherwise dull software consulting business.
Outside my office door is etched a small inconspicuous sign that reads “Solicitors Will Be Persecuted”. Funny? Lame? Or did you think to yourself, ‘these morons have misspelled the word Prosecuted?’ Why would anyone prosecute a solicitor, or moreover have the right to do so, and for what? Soliciting, albeit obnoxious, is not an illegal activity. Is this tiny sign not obviously a joke, a play on words? It’s all too obvious.
Or so I thought.
It seems I am being punished for my faith in mankind’s funny bone. For choosing to have a little fun instead of acquiescing to ubiquitous corporate legalese. Legalese that all but the most respectful solicitors summarily ignore anyway. It would seem so, as confirmed by the shockingly frequent intrusions into our office by pedantic passers-by intent on instructing me on the difference between persecution and prosecution. These are not exactly the kind of visitors we cherish at Fairway. In fact they are the exact sort of aggressively clueless time-bandits that we seek to discourage from our offices under threat of persecution.
It’s an interesting insight into the minds of those who clearly don’t get it. We’ve all dealt with their ilk. My working theory is that most people believe they are much smarter than the world at large, and to them it is far more likely – even though rationally spurious – that other people must be typo-prone slackjaws, rather than clever.
At first I was polite in explaining that the sign is a laugh, and not a misspelling. As time wore on and responding to pugnacious philistines lost its charm it became sort of a sport; how quickly could I convert some righteous know-it-all’s smirk into a bewildered, furrowed grimace. Unaware that an opportunity to chuckle has passed them by, they are overwhelmed by the creeping terror that they have missed the point – their smug cluelessness exposed publicly by their own hand. Pilloried, the humbled curmudgeon shambles their way whence they came – trailing grumbles of indignation the only reminder of their brief and unsuccessful battle for grammatical superiority. I admit that I have begun to derive quite a bit of schadenfreude from administering justice to the humorless, but that was not the original point of our sign.
Our tiny, innocuous, lighthearted sign was born of a simple hope: that people would enjoy a laugh. That their day would be brightened – even if just a little – by the knowledge that someone else shared their wariness of solicitors as well as their zest for word play, and had combined them into a mildly humorous message for their enjoyment. I never dreamed the message would be so frequently misinterpreted, or for that matter so controversially popular. Its recent mention in the Union-Tribune seems inconceivable given its microscopic exposure, but is further proof of the massive confusion and fascination that surrounds it.
My faith in funny has been battered, but not broken. I ask you, should businesses have no sense of humor? Should we fear being harangued for harmless goofs mistaken as gaffes? Won’t others stand for humor? For justice?
I still hope so.
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