Archive for the ‘The Observations’ Category

“Maybe the dingo ate your baby.”
December 4, 2015

a_cry_in_the_dark_1988_gratispeliculas dot org_CROPPEDAn outlandish observation to use on those who are beside themselves when they lose something precious to them, and they need someone to help them get a hold of themselves.

Elaine and Jerry accompanied George to a dinner party where they got stuck and she got bored. Crowd-watching from a settee, Elaine beheld a woman carrying on mawkishly about her fiancée, Where is my fiancée? “I have lost my fiancée,” she exclaimed to Elaine, “the poor baby!” As if reading a placard, Elaine delivered this “baby”-on-bored reply.

Think “the dog ate my homework.” But where “dog” is a story made up to cover up one’s own laziness, “dingo”—a type of Australian dog—is a true story, brought up here to point out another’s craziness over their “baby,” whatever it is that, when they lose it, makes them lose it (“Maybe the dingo ate your strongbox key”). Elaine’s line stems from the real-life account of an infant death in Australia at the hands—er, jaws—of…well, you get the picture. The Meryl Streep motion picture A Cry in the Dark immortalized the story.

The prospect that the “baby” of the person you’re ding-o-ing was eaten by some wild animal is, of course, so over-the-top as to be as down-under mythological as the subject of that Streep flick. That’s the point. Some mythology is obviously at work here in that person’s mind, to make them act all “Baby can’t live without me.” They must be there for baby. “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

As with quoting a movie (even a famous one), the risk of dumb looks or backlash is high with this line, but a high five is also not altogether out of the picture. You might kill it, as they say in comedic circles about a bit well done. Or you might be killed—the bit flops.

Either way, “dingo” is worth it*, to let them know you’re killing me.

From “The Stranded”
Season 2, Episode 9
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Time code for the scene: 07:08 (*Watch for Elaine’s smile at the scene’s end.)

Dedicated to Anthony Narkawicz  

“I think Poppie’s got some problems. There’s a whole other thing going on with Poppie.”
July 17, 2015

pizza_yeahthatskosher dot comA summary observation to make around people who know someone who has problems, but they act as though he or she has no problems. But you’ve no problem pointing it out.

When Jerry’s girlfriend took him to the eatery owned by her father, “Poppie,” Jerry excused himself before the meal that Poppie was to make. In the bathroom, Jerry was washing up, when out of one stall came Poppie, zipping up. A finger-flick double-check of the hair (and zipper), an Ah! Jerry, tonight you in for a real treat, and Poppie was out the door. Apoplectic, Jerry glanced at the stall—then the sink—then the stall…then later gabbed about it all to an unfazed George, who popped this unvarnished take.

Clearly, this wasn’t the first restroom-related Poppie infraction. Surely, others in the restaurant had seen Poppie inaction but, for whatever reason, did not confront Poppie with his sloppiness.

Just the same—with any Poppie crossing your path—don’t talk about the Poppie in front of the Poppie. (And leave “Poppie” in the line, no matter whom this is directed toward. Poppie could be anybody, so use it on every-problematic-body.) And don’t confront the Poppie. This is not cause for a “Sloppy, Poppie?

This is diagnostic—not antagonistic. Not yet. Conditions must be right. Confer with a friend or other confidante to ensure you are not the one with the problems. Then make your move (contact health inspectors, slip him a mickey, etc.).

Then you can wash your hands of the situation.

From “The Pie”
Episode 15, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 3, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene(s): 10:00-12:50

Dedicated to MFD

“Well, this has all been one big tease!”
August 30, 2011

A flabbergasted observation to make when you’re headed in a certain direction–you know where this is going–then you pass a sign that says, “This road has no outlet.”

Looking to reduce the time in his shower routine, Kramer badgered Jerry into standing in his shower and acting out what he does in his routine. When Jerry left it at that–no disrobing, no sudsing–Kramer popped the cap on his inflated expectation, deflating with this line.

Not getting what you want. It’s at the heart of both types of teasing: the taunting kind, which we deal with as children (“Quit teasing me! Mo-o-om…”) and the titillating kind, which we deal with as adults (“She’s teasing me! Ma-a-an…”). The man-child Kramer brings both together in one exclamatory statement. Jerry doesn’t shower it up, so Kramer dresses him down, the “hipster doofus” calling his good buddy the “shower doofus.”

In Kramer’s hands, note, it is a silly taunt–that’s the rub. So you didn’t get that raise? Waited for a relative who didn’t show? Offered some champagne to celebrate the big news, then your friend finds he has no bubbly in the house after all? Go ahead. Tell them what this is. Let your voice crack a little, a la Kramer, on the tease–like your voice is changing, indicating a breaking through into maturity.

And that is what you are doing with every Kramer-ian tease: showing some maturity. We can’t always get what we want. That’s just life. So rather than get upset, get a little silly.

A little immaturity, in other words–in this case–is actually the mature thing to do.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Disc 2, Volume 8
Timecode for the scene: 5:45

“Musicians. Get a real job.”
July 11, 2011

An impromptu observation to make when someone talks so incessantly about musical things–about, say, some new song they’re plucking–that you’re thinking Yeah, you’re really plucking something there.

“So the Raisinets are eating a box of Raisinets?” Jerry asked Elaine as they rode the subway and discussed a commercial showing various candies playing in a band: Raisinets on sax, Milk Duds on banjo, etc. At one point, the saxophonist Raisinets buys a box of Raisinets from a nearby concession stand. Elaine didn’t get it either. Jerry wrapped it up with this bon mot that he got from the scene.

You love music. (Who doesn’t?) What you don’t love are people with a mere modicum of musical skill who confuse the universal love of listening to music with the personal love of discussing music. And explicating it. And tying any conceivable topic of discussion back to it. You mention Back to the Future and in seconds your guitarist friend is onto Don Giovanni.

Eddie Van Halen did the guitar in the scene where Michael J. Fox puts the Walkman on McFly? Huh. No, I haven’t seen Amadeus. That’s why Eddie named his son WolfgangFascinating, you say–your polite “crescendo” as you bow out before you’re made to feel like you need the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rosetta Stone for Italian, and a few other “parts in your kit” to…er…be on the same sheet of music.

Wait for this person to leave the immediate area then strum Jerry’s low note with the nearby audience–or, if you’re comfortable with your conversational talent, play this rimshot while that person has a front row seat. Don’t fret about their reaction; eventually, they’ll understand: anyone with so much time and energy on their hands for one thing clearly needs something else to do. You’re just helping them get to it.

Or, to put it in terms they’ll understand: you’re giving them a friendly kick in the arpeggio.

From “The English Patient”
Episode 17, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:00 (you read that “music note” right; this scene is the prelude to the episode)

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
July 6, 2011

A logical observation for helping someone find their way when they’ve lost it, and what they need to be shown how to use is not their GPS transmitter, but their BS detector.

No job, no money, no place but my parents’ house to live, George sighed to Jerry and Elaine one day. “Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life…has been wrong.” His direct admission led Jerry to this indirect exhortation–Do the opposite–which led George to change everything. Suddenly, life was no longer taking a bite out of George; now it was the other way around.

We, like George, often don’t learn until later that some steps we’ve made in life were the equivalent of stepping in it. We take that job. (Later: “What BS. I should’ve taken a break.”). We dated that person. (Later: “That dating service was BS.”). We pursued that degree. (“Why did I pursue this BS? I should’ve gone for the BA!”) And we should’ve seen it coming. If only we’d had a Jerry initially to point it out–to help us separate the bull from the viable.

When you use a line like this to help a George you know–that project manager, prodigal sibling, or fast-food-drive-thru worker, to name a few candidates–expect that not every one may be as receptive as George, who took to Jerry’s sage-like words like an acolyte to a mantra. (“Jerry,” George said later, euphoric from his opposite successes, “this is my religion.”) For all of its likely rewards, the opposite has its risks of humiliation, retaliation, loss of membership at the health club, etc. And that’s okay, the sage-like smile on your face will say.

You’re okay, that is, with your risk in saying this for their reward, which is that they would actually arrive at something for once in their lives…which explains why you’re quoting Jerry here in the first place.

You had to, or else you were going to lose it just listening to them.

From “The Opposite”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 4, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene: 1:38 (for Jerry telling it like it is); 12:10 (for George taking it as his religion)

“That chick’s whacked.”
May 19, 2011

A blunt observation for the language of relationships, categorized not as the kind of comment where you’re trying to make history, but the kind where you just felt like saying something like We’re history.

Puddy and Elaine broke up for the bajillionth time while Jerry was car-shopping at the dealership where Puddy was working (and Jerry was hoping to get the “insider’s deal”). When Jerry–about to sign on the dotted line for a Saab–noticed something amiss with the usually unflappable Puddy, he asked, “Did you two break up?” This was Puddy’s “flappant” reply.

Sometimes in the dating relationship a moment compels you to over(or under)state the truth to articulate an emotion. It’s a somewhat juvenile tendency that most people don’t lose when they become adults. This is why you can technically blow a samba in a televised dance contest, or fiddle with the facts in a movie you make about a historical event, and people will ardently defend you to your critics by saying, “Yes, but it was emotionally true.”

Note that Puddy’s emotional truism–delivered as flatly and as quickly as if he’d just told Jerry, “That Saab is a lemon”–will not work in marriage, where the integrity of the relationship demands fidelity to the facts…and subtlety in the heat of the argumentative moment. Your loved one is not “whacked” but “acting whacked,” and so on.

You could still Puddy the waters by using this line as is, but don’t be surprised if your conversational rapport with your spouse becomes, for a time, akin to Whac-A-Mole…and you’re not the one holding the hammer.

From “The Dealership”
Episode 11, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 10:42

“You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I’m back in two seconds.”
February 8, 2011

A snappy observation to use when someone you know is asked to do something, and they could be moving a little quicker. They could use a little motivation. So you decide to give them some.

Setting up his son George with a job interview with a bra salesman, Frank Costanza told him that he should know something about bras–then admonished his wife Estelle to go get one of hers to illustrate. George objected to the discussion, but Frank pressed the point. And when Estelle took too long, he pointed that out too…in his own fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of way.

Our motivations come mostly by example: we pick up things from parents, friends, teachers, etc., and imitate (or amend) them. Then we reach a certain age and stop thinking of how such examples apply to us–and start talking to others, exclusively, about examples that apply to them. Because they sure could use the help.

Thanks to Frank you now have a fresh example for helping those slow-goers you come across: toss some tighty whiteys at them. This will confuse them, initially, as to where you’re going, but they’ll come around: no, you’re not going “commando” on them; you’re commanding their attention by giving an illustration to make a point.

Just be sure you have a point, or their reply is likely to be the equivalent of a “wedgie”–suddenly and unexpectedly yanking you into a laughable-yet-uncomfortable position.

From “The Sniffing Accountant”
Episode 4, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 3:40

“He’s bebopping and scatting…!”
January 17, 2011

A music-critic kind of observation for a subtle bit of conversation: playing down someone who just played you (e.g., mocking your head as “rather bulbous”).

George bumped into an old acquaintance who had once made fun of him. Learning that the recovering alcoholic was now apologizing to people he’d hurt, George waited for his like a man who knows that Publisher’s Clearing House is headed to his house. When George’s “jackpot” turned “crackpot”–making even more fun of George–George got a little riled up. (And this was him giving Jerry the lowdown.)

So someone called you a name. Call them out with this line–loudly, hitting those syllables like you’re banging drums. The allusion to jazz music will have you saying several possible things about that jokester’s punchline–one of which is, no one gets it. And you don’t have to be a conversational “musician” to know a well-played number when you hear it, so if there is something to get in what they said, then you’re saying this about their “jazz”: it ain’t all that.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 12:30, 22:20

“It’s a Festivus miracle!”
December 23, 2010

A yuletide observation for making something down-to-earth sound out-of-this-world. Not because it’s actually miraculous (it might even be ridiculous) but because ’tis the season.

On hearing that George’s father, Frank, had invented a holiday alternative for those on the outs with Christmas–a “Festivus for the rest of us”–Kramer was in. When an unlikely host of characters gathered at the Costanzas for the Festiv-ity (the metal pole, the feats of strength, etc.), Frank was, to Kramer, the star who’d led them there. And Kramer rejoiced.

A festive us–to drown out the rest of us–this is what we look forward to each December, like snow blanketing the daily grime. Our festivities come from these little activities (e.g., trading gifts) we don’t do at any other time of year.

It’s astonishing that this whole gig still works year after year, given the humanity–oh, the humanity–of it all. Laughing at your uncle’s jokes, finally speaking to that cousin, and so on…and doing so without clinical psychological help when it’s all done…now that’s a miracle.

Announce such “miracles” with holly jolly crispness by singing Kramer’s joy to the world.

From “The Strike”
Episode 10, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 19:27

“I don’t like this thing! And here’s what I’m doing with it!”
November 29, 2010

A scolding observation to let someone know they made a wrong choice…but the bigger wrong would be for you to not do anything about it.

George’s depression over losing his hair finally ended in his gaining a toupee–and dividing his friends in their reaction. Kramer approved; Jerry demurred. Elaine decided to take the matter into her own two hands: one to yank the “little hair hat” (Jerry’s words) off George’s head, and the other to open the nearest window in Jerry’s apartment.

No subject–or object–is sacred here if you proceed with caution. Could you get away with tossing a loved one’s hair piece out the window? Only you know. Do something they can undo, if they want to. The point is for them to understand that they shouldn’t have done what they did in the first place–not look at you as the angel of death. Take your aunt’s tummy tuck, for example: you could point it out (“I don’t like this..!”) and then, with a smile (“And here’s what I’m doing…!”), plunk down a few Drake’s Coffee Cakes right in front of her face.

That’s giving someone the “It’s not me, it’s you” to get them to see that this thing…it’s not you!

From “The Beard”
Episode 16, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 15:13

“These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
October 20, 2010

An optimistic observation to make when faced with a problem so puzzling that, even after picking at it, you’re still not sure what to do–except maybe to get something to drink.

Kramer landed a small part in a Woody Allen movie, and this was his line. Unsure as he was about how to say the line, Jerry, Elaine, and George each played the acting coach…then soon began acting out using this line–not as art imitating life, but art commenting on life.

Look closely at many of the books, movies, and TV shows we enjoy and you’ll find in those stories a pretzel to untwist–a conundrum or mystery to solve. We love problem-solving…as long as it’s someone else’s problem we’re solving. This is why a comment like What’s the problem? is so prevalent–and sounds so different, depending on where you’re directing it: a helpful, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life sound when addressing someone else’s “pretzels” (“Sooo…what seems to be the problem?”); a harried, sometimes insane sound over the pretzels affecting you (“What is the PROBLEM?”).

Kramer’s famous line can be just as prevalent a comment–for the pretzel-y politics of workplace or family, for example–and a far funner comment to deliver, to boot. For one thing, you’re practically laughing at the problem, which mixes comedy with your bravery–yes, brave, as you are, to still be wrestling with a problem, not letting it get you down.

Which is what you’re announcing loudly, through this comment, with a come-one-come-all kind of cheer–so others might join you for a cup of courage.

From “The Alternate Side”
Episode 10, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 2
Timecodes for the scenes: 9:25 (Kramer), 9:52 (Elaine), 9:55 (Jerry), 10:03, 10:30 (George), 11:13, 11:19 (Kramer again), 18:03 (Jerry), 20:20 (Elaine), 21:12 (Kramer et al.)

“It’s gonna be rough.”
September 24, 2010

A deadpan observation to use when someone you know gets all worked up about something, and you take it upon yourself to bring them down.

A car radio preset for a Christian rock station had revealed to Elaine that boyfriend David Puddy was not only a man who loved him some Arby’s–he was also a man of some piety. After his silly condemnation of her (“You’re the one who’s going to hell”) and her silly resignation over it all (“The heat–my God, the heat!“), Elaine tried to change the conversational tune: a little less “Highway to Hell,” a little more “How’s It Going to Be.” So Puddy obliged her.

If you obliged all the people in your life who needed to bend your ear over their insufferable situations, things would get bent, all right: your mind, for one thing, and eventually your entire life. Think of all the woe-is-me chatter you’ve endured from relatives, for example, how they bent you out of shape. This is why you need a little something to end their suffering in your ear–a little channel-changing comment. You need a little Puddy.

And here it is. To the Elaines in your life who turn up the heat of discussion–wanting to get on with a real conversation–you bring up Puddy’s line to dismiss it and get on with an Arby’s night.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 17:36

“Well, now we’re gettin’ somewhere!”
September 20, 2010

A buoyant observation to make when someone or something moves you forward several spaces in the game of Life, and that just makes you feel like high-five-ing yourself.

Sitting on the couch in front of the TV one night, Jerry and Elaine shifted from gabbing about random things to strategizing about how they might hit the bedroom…then hit the couch again for more TV or hit the road or whatever–so long as it didn’t require being with each other. And Jerry rejoiced.

I’ve arrived. This is what we’re shooting for–arriving Somewhere, whether that’s a status, a location, a collection of toys, etc. We start the journey early in life, throwing it out there like a roll of the dice: “I’m really going Somewhere someday.” Then we spend years getting up each day, trying to get ahead…to get Somewhere. And now, here we are, we’re gettin’ there

The little joys that come your way, along the way–mark them with Jerry’s line, nice and loud, with a childish lilt in your voice. Not because you might spend your whole life getting there, which is true (and better than going Nowhere fast). But because, more importantly…whoever dies with the most joys wins.

From “The Deal”
Episode 13, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 5:29

“Something’s missing alright.”
August 25, 2010

An under-the-breath observation to make when confronted with someone who doesn’t understand why the pieces of the puzzle before them don’t fit. But you understand.

When George’s parents joined him and his fiancee, Susan Ross, for dinner with Susan’s parents, the cornish game hen they were eating set Mr. Costanza to pondering aloud which bird—the chicken or the rooster?—procreates with the hen. “Something’s missing!” he effused, and Mrs. Ross, just as she sipped her wine, amused everyone with this reply.

A penchant for puzzles is a part of human nature, hence the great range of things that come in pieces for us to try to put together: the epic picture on soft cardboard, the plot points of a mystery movie, the instructions for a new household appliance. Emphasis on the word try. To try is human, and to solve—that’s not divine; that’s human too. Some people just require a little encouragement–and maybe a glass of wine for anyone standing around watching them–until they arrive at the solution.

Which brings us to Mrs. Ross’s brilliant reply, a commentary on Mr. Costanza’s shortcomings without bringing him up short—like the famed nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty. Ole Humpty might’ve been too complex for anyone to reassemble, but all the king’s horses and men might’ve also just been idiots.

From “The Rye”
Episode 11, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 6:56

“Is it alright if I go to the bathroom now?!”
August 18, 2010

An illustrative observation to use on married couples who’ve taken the “We’re two people who’ve become one” so far that they need to be taken to school on a few subjects—like biology.

Jerry and George made a pact to grow up, which included getting married: George would look up a former flame who still dazzled him; Jerry would look closer at a woman who still puzzled him (she ate her peas one at a time). When Jerry told Kramer, Kramer taught Jerry about married life: no TV during dinner, etc. When Kramer mimicked what it would be like even trying to use the restroom when betrothed, Jerry’s thoughts of growing up turned to thoughts of throwing up.

Kramer’s mockery of marriage as stifling actually reveals how liberating marriage can be: a couple of individuals, a blissful co-existence. This is the lesson to give those you know whose marriage is one of awful codependenceMake your next chat with them a class, with you at the lectern, and Kramer’s line a ring of the bell to begin (e.g., “Is it alright if he goes to the bathroom now?”). With their attention at that point, cover any one of a number of subjects to illustrate: politics (e.g., “Marriage is like two nation-states…”); geography (e.g., “…settling on mutual territory…”); literature (e.g., “…the two-headed monster being, of course, a myth”); etc.

You want them to see their commitment as the institution that it is–not as an institution they commit themselves to.

From “The Engagement”
Episode 1, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 4:45

“That seems about right.”
August 16, 2010

A hard-hitting observation to use when someone brings up a personal subject–assuming everyone will keep their distance–and you decide to hit that thing like a pinata.

Kramer’s acting gig at a local hospital–portraying different ailments for medical students to diagnose–soon landed him a role he thought was beneath him. When he later walked into Jerry’s apartment and announced “Well…I got gonorrhea,” Elaine admitted outright that she didn’t see anything wrong with this picture.

People sometimes reveal something about themselves, inviting you to comment in a discriminate way: do you juggle the subject (“Are you sure?”)?; deflect it (“You need to talk to…”)?; duck it (“I’m hungry–let’s get something to eat”)? These are the times that try men’s souls, because what you’d like to say is the truth–except most people can’t handle the truth.

Which is why, sometimes, you must speak the truth, even if it has all the effect of pulling out a bat. People may furrow their brow and stand back a little because they’re not sure what you’re going to do next. “I really dorked that up,” your cousin says; and with the four words of Elaine’s line you say not only “Yes, you dorked that up” but also “Because you are in fact a dork.”

Imagine the more meaningful conversation that would follow that.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 7:52

“You’re Schmoopie!”
August 13, 2010

A chameleon-like comment (observation, put-down, etc., depending on the context) to use on people who’ve really opened their hearts for their loved ones, and–Moses smell the roses–it’s one of those heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Soon after Jerry and Shiela, his latest love interest, took up this sugary manner of addressing one another, they strolled unwittingly down their Candy Land lane until George and Elaine nearly vomited from all the gumdrop comments that kept falling on their heads. When Jerry clued them in that he and Shiela might be on the outs, George couldn’t help upchucking all over the schmoopie-ness: “People who do that should be arrested!”

People who do that (i.e., the die-hard romantics) demand that others tolerate their greeting card life–where words rhyme but have no reason–and schmoopie is their piece de resistance. People who can’t stand that (i.e., the saccharine-intolerant) can learn from George and Elaine’s derision: call out the schmoopie. You witness a couple locking lips like their ship is going down and you interrupt: “Hey–Schmoopies. Would you mind….”

Just be careful not to overextend yourself in calling out the schmoopie–and don’t focus so much on any one person or couple that your calling-out becomes a “death to schmoopie” campaign. You may end up dating or even marrying one of these people someday.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 00:45, 1:10, 15:15, ad nauseam

“You know we’re LIVING in a SOCIETY…”
August 11, 2010

A grandstanding observation to use on someone who flouts Order, and rather than confront the person, you prefer to make a scene (and you just might win an Oscar while you’re doing it).

George tried to use the pay phone at the Chinese restaurant where he, Jerry, and Elaine were waiting to be seated. The man already on the phone ignored George’s request to use it, and when he got off, a woman got on and she wouldn’t get off–much to George’s ire. Rather than use brinkmanship in chastising the woman, George chose showmanship and chastised the World.

Take the stage with this line when you take umbrage at someone’s unruly behavior. Take the stage. This is “go to the mattresses” (minus any Godfather-ish confrontation) or “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (minus the Network cameras)—a line that may not endear people to your character or even move them by your message, but it’ll be entertaining to them…and cathartic for you. Few things are more entertaining and cathartic than a scene from a good movie.

And that’s all you can hope for, really, in situations like this: the good that can come out of it for you, without bringing the bad out of somebody else. You don’t ask a friend to watch your back while you dress down some stranger. You ask a friend to kick back with you over dinner while you recount your scene then wash it down—that’s how people normally act when airing their grievances.

And a particular person’s rudeness followed by your rebuttal to no one in particular—that’s entertainment.

From “The Chinese Restaurant”
Episode 6, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 8:03

“Maybe I can get an extension cord and hang myself.”
August 9, 2010

A lighthearted observation to drop on those close to you, during those times when you’ve had enough of them standing so close to you.

Jerry’s weekend getaway with a woman he’d recently started dating turned quickly into a weekend he wanted to get away from. Jerry had thought it would take their relationship to “Phase 2,” never mind that George had warned him it was a “phaser” set to stun (“…you’re going to be with her 72 hours? That’s a dating decathlon“). Talking to his date at one point during the Lost Weekend, Jerry began talking to himself–thoughts we get to hear–when this bright idea arose.

Forget saying this one to yourself during, say, your Lost Week with the family for that annual summer vacation. Keep it to yourself, but on your tongue, ready to drop at the moment you feel like you’ve had enough. Subtlety born of peace at any cost–so common to many families–is not good for anybody at this point. Don’t even bother trying to be funny (e.g., “When you said ‘Beach-front sort of hamlet for the weekend RSVP,’ I didn’t know you meant ‘Near the ocean this year for all the Shakespearean drama, BYOB'”). Just let it all hang out there with this line.

No house is big enough for two (or more) families, they say–what you might call a precursor to this observation of Jerry’s. We don’t know who “they” are, but we’re betting they’re not hanging around with family that much anymore…and they’re probably happier for it.

From “The Stock Tip”
Episode 5, Season 1
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 17:42

“You’re quite breathtaking.”
August 4, 2010

A flat-out put-down (disguised as a flattering observation) to use in lieu of what you really want to say…which would take the listener’s breath away–huffing at the horrible insensitivity of your comment, that is.

Vacationing with friends who had a baby, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer finally got a good look at that baby and–Gehhh. Evidently the baby (which we never see) would have made some of the world’s ugliest leaders (de Gaulle, Golda Meir, etc.) run up a tree. Enter the handsome family doctor, Ben, who refers to Elaine as “breathtaking” and now she really likes him. When Ben then pays the baby the same compliment–Errr?–confusion builds in Elaine until Ben later explains, “Well, you know, Elaine, sometimes you say a thing like that just to be nice.”

The initial reactions of Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer to the baby–in front of the baby’s parents–said it all, about the predicament most of us face when telling others what we really think about them: Jerry and Elaine masked their repulsion; Kramer’s reaction, witnessed in another episode that included this baby, was to snap his head back as if he’d just been hit, literally, with an ugly stick.

Wish for it though we might, we can’t all be Kramer, whose life was, as George once put it, a “fantasy camp”—weekly activities that included mooching off neighbors, sex without dating…and giving opinions without repercussion. We can’t, for example, tell that micromanaging boss what Kramer once told an actor friend of Elaine’s, “Why don’t you just give up?

Dealing with people’s feelings involves a number of reactions that typically fall between two options: you might suck the air out of the room (e.g., “No soup for you!”) or you might blow smoke into it—using “breathtaking” at will, to describe what you will.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 7:20

“They’re the worst.”
August 3, 2010

A curt observation for categorically dismissing all of humanity, not because you’re having a bad day or even a “moment”–you just felt like doing it. Because they deserved it.

Jerry was small-talking with Elaine about nitwits who get on a plane and start talking to you because they’ve got nothing else to do. Elaine understood: “I will never understand people,” she said, articulating the word never like hers was the last word on the subject–and it was a good one. Jerry one-upped her–and it was the stuff of a Dickens novel.

Humanity is inherently good, they say, but we know that’s up for debate. Look no further than Newman (“He’s pure evil,” Jerry once said) to see why. Yet we also know that Newmans are few and far between (“He’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie,” Jerry also said) so that thickens the debate.

What should settle the debate is what we know from our interactions with people, which tend to leave one of two general impressions: It was the best of this personIt was the worst of that person. And in this Tale of Two Personalities we see in every person we meet, the best may be yet to come. But until then…it’s the worst.

You go to a movie theater–they’re there, loud and obnoxious. You’re driving down the road, minding all traffic regulations–they’re there, and they’re not minding. Even when they’re not there, they’re the worst. You head to the checkout lane and discover new meaning to the word checkout: the register clerk apparently did just that when she saw the line forming. You dart into an open lane–the lane light is on–but no register clerk is home.

Who are these people? “What is with these people?” People! Why? These are some of life’s most (de)pressing questions.

And now you have an answer.

From “The Face Painter”
Episode 23, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 3:00

“Because I was goood.”
July 30, 2010

A smiling comeback–or observation, if you like–to use on those so dumbfounded by your talented performance, you can’t help but draw even more attention to it.

Jerry thought he knew one particular thing about Elaine from their dating times of yesteryears. At one admission from Elaine, however–in a conversation with Jerry and George about that “thing”–Jerry realized that all he’d known was jack. “How could a guy not know that?” was Jerry’s unwitting introduction to Elaine’s revelation. 

Waiting for the How could _____? from, say, a co-worker is fine, if being pulled onstage at a concert is analogous to how you like your opportunity to brag. If, however, you prefer your own show–the constant touring, the waiting crowds, the “ooo”-“ahh” pyrotechnics–then set the stage by putting up your own rhetorical question: You know why I _____?

The wide-eyed smile on your face when you play the funky muuusic of this line should make your audience fear that you’re about to start dancing too.

From “The Mango”
Episode 1, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 3:05

“What is this salty discharge?”
July 29, 2010

A befuddled observation to make when life forces are compelling you to be an Emoticon–but you will remain a Vulcan.

Jerry’s girlfriend goaded him to get really mad, because she hadn’t seen Jerry show such emotion. When Jerry finally did—ranting something about having had enough flan—Jerry’s girlfriend decided she’d had enough. She departed, and Jerry started wiping his eyes. “Oh my God, you’re crying,” Elaine chimed in. “This is horrible,” Jerry replied–and discovered the context for this phenomenon: “I care.”

You may be otherworldly in your ability to hide your feelings, but even you, like Jerry, have to keep a thing or two in that glass-faced box marked “Break in Case of Emotion”–just like the rest of humankind. That bumper sticker on your vehicle that says People say I don’t care…but I don’t care is no better than the polish on that vehicle: it’s rubbish, ultimately, in the face of time and circumstance. So when those teary moments come up, rare as they may be, reach for this observation.

The sterile wording will override whatever your tears are communicating, leaving those around you with this context: OMG…he doesn’t care!

From “The Serenity Now”
Episode 3, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 11:05

“I must be at the nexus of the universe.”
July 28, 2010

An awestruck observation for those times when you don’t know where you are, but you’re not lost. Nooo. Because that’s not how you see it.

Kramer ventured beyond his little world in New York City to maintain his “long-distance relationship” with a girlfriend who lived downtown. Eventually losing his way, he called Jerry, who told him to look for a street sign. And there it was: 1st and 1st. His epiphany at the sight sounded less like he’d found his place and more like he’d found spacethe final frontier.

Watching the voyage of the Starship Kramerica Enterprise from I’m walkin’ here! to I need a little help here! should bring an encouraging signpost into view: we’ve all been here. It’s what you do when you get there, though–that makes all the difference. You might resign yourself to being lost and ask for help. Or you might say “Get lost” to those who tell you to ask for help.

But if you really want to get your bearings–and keep them–look at all the world around you as your little world. By taking such a Kosmo-politan view, you’ll never be lost because you’re always at the center of things…always seeing signs, not stars. Your every wrong turn will be a revelation; every misstep a chance to map that site and move on.

From “The Maid”
Episode 19, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 18:05

“And the heat—my God, the heat!”
July 27, 2010

An upbeat observation to make when someone makes you feel like it’s the end of your world as you know it…but no, you feel fine.

When Elaine confronted boyfriend David Puddy about his religiosity, he waved it in her face like a giant foam finger that said “John 3:16” and “We’re #1!” Taking a line from Puddy’s canon (“Don’t boss me! This is why you’re going to hell”), Elaine went finger-for-a-finger and poked him right back: “You should care that I’m going to hell even though I am not.” She even finger-painted a picture of how rough it was going to be (devils, ragged clothing, etc.)…just to be sure her enlightened man saw her light.

Use Elaine’s frantically silly comment when the heat is on—from the abyss of your job, the purgatory of a relationship, the living hell of that family reunion, etc.—and you will paint this picture: of course you can take it. Yours may be the only laughter here, but since laughter does good like a medicine, that means you’re saving your soul—and they should be losing their religion.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 17:36

“Vile weed!”
July 23, 2010

A theatrical observation for those times when you’re served a dish you despise, and you must sound a barbaric yawp about it over the tabletop of your world.

Kramer had to hide from Jerry his addiction to the delectable offerings of the nearby chicken roaster restaurant, so Kramer enlisted Newman to pick up food from the restaurant without Jerry knowing it. When Jerry happened to pass Newman with an armful of takeout, a container of broccoli–something Newman despised–caught Jerry’s eye. Jerry asked Newman to take a bite. Newman’s attempt to maintain the Newman/Kramer subterfuge led to this little ode to the sprout…as it ejected, half-masticated, from his mouth.

Unlike Newman himself, there’s more here than meets the eye–more to this observation than excoriating what sprouts out of the ground. With these two words, the sky is the limit: you can trash whole eateries (“Vile bistro!”), dump on culture (“Vile movie!”), and even categorically castigate people (“Vile celebrity!”). Brush off any accusation that you’re exaggerating to make a point; exaggeration is the point. Announcing your repulsion, at the moment you are repulsed, is to seize the day as Newman did. In carpe newman, subtlety is not a good quality.

From “The Chicken Roaster”
Episode 8, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 17:09

“George is gettin’ upset!”
July 20, 2010

A self-explanatory observation for those times when circumstances cause you to talk in an abnormal way—referring to yourself in the third person, for example.

When George’s good friend Elaine struck up a friendship with his girlfriend Susan, George’s worlds collided. Hapless, he could only watch. Speechless he was not, however, and one of George’s replies was to take a page from an old basketball-playing friend who loved to talk about himself—“Jimmy likes Elaine”; “Jimmy’s down!”—and rewrite it to address his own pathetic situation.

Rewrite at will to make it your own: the Jimmy-George inspiration behind this observation also begat “George is losing it!”, “George is gettin’ frustrated!”, and even expressions for situations that were the opposite of pathetic (e.g., “George likes his chicken spicy!”). All of these excel at self-improvement—and make a decent contribution to society, to boot. Announcing aloud just how beside yourself you are is a courtesy to anyone within earshot. You’re just letting them know where you stand.

From “The Pool Guy”
Episode 8, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 11:10

“Thin ice, George, very thin ice.”
July 16, 2010

A clever observation to make–insinuating a warning–to those who don’t need you to tell them bluntly “Don’t go there” or “Retreat!” They need you to paint a picture for them of the idiocy of the move they are about to make.

George wandered into hazardous territory with Elaine–the subject: a woman Elaine had set him up with–and his good friend Jerry was there to warn him. Jerry had been there before. Indeed, the Warning was one of the primary functions of Jerry’s part of the George-Jerry friendship. The Observation and the Put-Down were two other functions, one of which usually came on the heels of George not heeding the Warning.

This warning works wonders even in a strange crowd, because the people who have no idea what it is you’re waving your friend away from–they will still get the image you’re conveying of your friend’s unfortunate position: arms flailing, legs akimbo as he or she wobbles out onto the conversational ice. If that friend is any true friend of yours, he or she will probably ignore your Warning and fall through, leaving you in a most fortunate position–no Observation or Put-Down required.

Laughing with others at another’s expense because of something you said–that’s about as good as an “icebreaker” gets.

From “The Baby Shower”
Episode 4, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:00

“Boutros-Boutros ‘Golly.’”
July 15, 2010

A brilliant observation to express childlike wonderment when you’re faced with something so stunning that coherence escapes you.

When Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine encountered a half-naked woman on the beach where they were vacationing, the first words out of Jerry’s mouth were “Boutros-Boutros Ghali.” (The last word pronounced “golly.”) Momentarily awed, like a schoolboy peeking into a beautiful neighbor’s bedroom window in a 1980s’ movie, Jerry didn’t say, “Wow, look at those….” No “Hubba hubba.” Not even a “Breathtaking.” Just the name of the Egyptian man who served as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992 to 1997.

Golly evokes the younger days of talking for hours on end—“What do you think of this?”; “What about that?!”—but your vocabulary only filled five minutes with original material. Translated from the adolescent tongue, it means “I don’t know what to say but I’m working on it.” Boutros-Boutros “Golly,the adult version of golly, will leave people around you nodding. If they are as smart as you, the name drop will also leave them thinking, “That reminds me of a Trivial Pursuit question I once had….” This is a win-win situation either way.

You don’t know what to say but you’ll come off sounding like you do.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 4:00

“The fabric of society is very complex, George.”
July 13, 2010

An encouraging observation to offer those around you who are obviously in over their heads, and the best thing for you to do under the circumstances is to give them a palm-smack to the forehead disguised as a pat on the back.

Elaine suggested that she, Jerry, George, and Kramer bring vino to the dinner party they were headed to. “Why?” George retorted, his blockish expectations thunking up against the wine bottle-shaped entrance to this little social scene. Jerry’s observation about society helped get George–puffy coat, puffing cheeks, and all–through the door.

The pleasant tone softens the coarse insight: you’re not telling your friend that he or she is out of touch with the world; you’re observing that the World is untouchable to us all–no one can get a grip! The tack works because the fabric of friendship is very simple, one thread of which is this: pulling one over on a friend every once in a while is for his or her own good, if only because it makes you both feel good.

From “The Dinner Party”
Episode 14, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 1:56

“You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world ‘I give up.'”
July 9, 2010

A plain observation to make to those for whom the show What Not to Wear was invented. They go on with their carelessly-clothed lifestyle then wonder why people are staring at them as if contemplating pulling out a twenty and giving it to the homeless-looking sap in the pajama-looking pants.

George showed up at Jerry’s apartment wearing sweat pants, and Jerry let him have it. This was one of Jerry’s favorite angles of friendly attack: the Costanza sense of style. In the Seinfeld saga, George was derided for a too-puffy coat, a too-small tux, and a winter parka with a snow-skiing lift ticket still attached to it, among other fashion faux pas. Jerry was not surprised.

And neither should you be if you encounter a George wearing his misery on his cheap velvet sleeve. Simply lower your voice to a taken-aback tone and register an indifferent look. Substitute the targeted clothing article for “sweat pants” in this line and let it fly. The only surprise here for you is not that this person did this—the surprise is what he or she is wearing.

“The Pilot (Part 1)”
Episode 23, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 4:35

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