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June 12, 2008 / Brittany Hendrick

How Stephen Hawking helped me achieve sarcasm in the workplace

When people ask me questions of which they may not like the answer, I’ll sometimes say, “Do you want my real response?  or my PR response?”  I don’t know why I bother saying that, because then people eagerly say, “Both!”  Yet when I supply both, my “real” answer still manages to render the other party speechless or nervous.  Hey, I gave you the option…

I’ve thought of a new way to respond to situations in which I should make a decision whether to say something outright or keep my mouth shut.  I call it my “Stephen Hawking Response.”  It’s quite simple: I stare at the person in mock idiocy and blink a few times.  The “mock idiocy” part has nothing to do with Hawking’s condition but rather acts as the sarcasm element.  One may ask, “Well?  Are you going to answer me?”  I just did.  It’s not my fault you don’t know Hawkingese.


So, my boss and I have a very good rapport.  So good, in fact, that we sometimes employ sarcasm.  More like… he starts it and I allow it to happen because I’m good-natured like that, and he knows it.  I think he does this to get a rise out of me.  I stubbornly do not play along most of the time and let it roll off my back.

Earlier today, I did something different.  I played along, and I got to use “Stephen Hawking Response” in a sentence.  The email exchange, below, is between my boss, who is on vacation this week, and me.  It has to do with figuring out my ticket situation for the Ladytron concert this Friday.  But the subject of the email is not so much important as the beauty of the tone.  I think I’m going to weep.

—–Original Message—–

From: Me
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 1:15 PM
To: The Fuhrer, Jr.
Subject: RE: Ladytron, 6/13, Variety Playhouse

Wow, TWO sarcastic emails this week! Awesome. Usually I respond with what I call my “Stephen Hawking response”: a series of blinks, and I’m satisfied. Because my actual sarcastic responses would outdo yours ten times over. However:

Ummmm, I really don’t like to “bother” people with “the telephone” when they are on a planned office absence we refer to as “vacation” unless it is an “emergency.” “Communication” with Mr. Meadows has been via email anyway. And if you didn’t “get” my email by chance, I figured I am fully capable of “handling” it on my own since I’ve “worked” [here] long enough and Meadows “knows” who I am. So, if I “reminded” him myself, and explained that you’re on “vacation,” no one would get “offended.” Meadows already “knows” I want tickets, so it wouldn’t be “rude” or a “surprise” if I emailed him. And it’s not like I’ve ever “nagged” him for tickets before. Maybe I should’ve had the “moxie” to “copy” Meadows on the email I sent to you on Monday, so that you wouldn’t have to “write another” to him, and that would’ve saved everyone a lot of “trouble.”

HAHAHAHA. Must be lunchtime.

—–Original Message—–

From: The Fuhrer, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 8:26 AM
To: Me
Subject: Re: Ladytron, 6/13, Variety Playhouse

Uhm, so that thing on your desk that we refer to as “the telephone” allows you to communicate with people when they are not in the same room with you.


Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld


Funny thing is, I still have no idea if I got tickets to Ladytron.  Hm, in the future I think I should say, “Do you want my PR response?  Or my Stephen Hawking response?”  That might cover all bases for keeping me out of trouble.


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