“We mustn’t disturb the delicate genius!”
August 20, 2010

A cutting comeback to make of those people you must deal with because they have a specialty (medicine, law, etc.), and they go and do something that reminds you they’re not that special.

A pain in George’s arm led him to seek the medical attention of Elaine’s physical therapist friend, Wendy. When he missed an appointment without cancelling within 24 hours, Wendy charged him. Then when George showed up for another appointment and she wasn’t in—the whole thing had become a pain in George’s butt. And this was how he mitigated that pain.

Their degrees hang on their walls like windows out into the rarefied air of some higher-intelligence climate. But you see through them: yes, you’re standing in their ivory tower, but these people have two feet like the rest of us—feet they trip over now and then. Cases in point: you’ve had to move your appointment, pay more money, suffer phone calls to reconcile their errors…. The insufferable list goes on; they remain high and mighty. And now, thanks to George, you’ve a line to bring them down to earth.

Telling them this would fall on deaf ears, of course—dizzy as they are from all the pressure exerted on their heads at that egotistical altitude. So you lob your comment like a roll of toilet paper at the people who serve these professionals—the people of the front offices, on the phone lines, etc. You, for example, move another appointment (“Will that work for the delicate genius?”) and they won’t mind your missive—because they are as down to earth as you are, and so will get where you’re coming from: you’re just tee-peeing the ivory tower (and you’re not sparing a square).

From “The Kiss Hello”
Episode 17, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecodes for the scenes: 3:15, 12:00, 19:15

“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

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