The Anti-Sarcasm Diaries

I, Scooter Burch, on this day of Friday, April 19th 2002 vow to (at least for one week) not be sarcastic in any way. This includes being sarcastic in both spoken and written word. I will not pepper my speech or writing with blatant sarcasm, nor will I add sarcastic over- or undertones to anything I do or say. Every time I am sarcastic, I will add 5 cents to the Sarcastic Kitty.

But "WHY?!?!?", you ask...

Well...where to begin? I have a tremendously crappy administrative job at Harvard University, a job that entails babysitting 300 undergrads and 50 professors. On this particular time of the year, I have to schedule the seniors' honors oral exams. This entails finding times when one student can meet with 2-3 professors in a 4-week time frame for 2 hours. There are 80 students this year and 160 professors. "So?" you ask. This doesn't sound that difficult. Add to the mix that EVERYONE thinks he or she is special, and deserves special treatment. Everyone's schedule is more important than everyone else's, so basically I am scheduling egos, rather than time. Why the swearing off sarcasm? Because I have OD'd on it. Here is a sample conversation I had with a student's roommate the other day (all names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Me: Hello? Is Buford Eldridge Higginbottom the 17th there?
: Well, I don't know. I'm not sure.
: This is Brunhilda from the Navel-Gazing Department. I need to talk to Buford about scheduling his oral exam.
: *exasperated sigh* Well, I suppose I could see if he's around.

It was downhill from there.

One professor with whom I talked didn't want to tell me what days he was free to schedule an exam. "Do you realize what a busy person I am?" he said to drove home the point. It's going to be a long 4 weeks. 


DAY ONE: I already slipped once. I was informing a professor which professor she would be giving an exam with. It turns out she (the nice one) was going to be pared with Prof. Fishbaum, one of the most sarcastic, irritating souls ever to teach at this university. Sure, he may be a brilliant scholar or something, but when it comes to interacting with humans, he fails to receive honors. I couldn't help ending the announcement of the nice prof's pairing with a hearty "that should be fun." Perhaps I should raise the fine to 25 cents.

DAY TWO: My boyfriend is a bad  influence on me. He always speaks in a pronounced sarcastic tone, and I feel that I have to be sarcastic back. He thinks I abuse my cat because I feed her dry catfood, rather than the smooshy kind that's bad for their teeth. I feed her the tinned kind once in a while as a special treat! It's just that it's like crack to her, once she gets it, she turns into this insane dope fiend and begs and begs until she gets another Fancy Feast hit. So Andrei said, "you should use the money to feed your poor, starving cat." "Oh, she's really deprived," I answered. *sigh* there goes another hard-earned nickel.

DAY THREE: I tried to break up with Andrei, and the resulting argument resulted in much temptation to sarcasm. However, I think I overcame these temptations really well! The only sarcasm I caught myself at was when I was watching the Simpsons with my friend Pete later that night. he had complimented me on the Rise Krispie Treats I had made, and I said "they're my great-grandmother's recipe." Is that sarcasm? Probably. There goes another 5 cents. At least it was a vaguely humorous statement (and I stress vaguely).

DAY FOUR: NO sarcasm yet today!! OK, it's only 6:30, I still have a few hours until bedtime, but I don't see any sarcasm on the horizon! Have I finally cured myself? I even had this letter from my stepdad:
I'm having trouble picturing you as a non-ironic non-sarcastic individual. You mean to tell me that you will soon be resembling the openly affectionate vegetarian spiritual seekers who inhabited Annie Burns'  "Singing from the Heart" vocal workshop all weekend?   Annie hired me to be the 'staff accompanist'  for the workshop and I had to join in with all the Sufi chanting and songs about universal peace and love.   Well,  I did it,  and I actually enjoyed it.  Maybe I was only getting off on all those cute women being instructed to look into my eyes and sing about how we're all brothers and sisters,  but whatever.     If I can do it,  so can you.   OK,  so now we're both going to be post-ironic neo-romantic people.  I'll try not to be an "enabler" of your sarcastic side,  while knowing full well that neither of us will be any fun anymore.

The temptation to answer sarcastically to this letter was indeed great, yet I refrained from any snide comments! I want to clarify, though, I didn't say I was going to cut irony out of my life, just sarcasm! There's a difference!


DAY FIVE: No sarcasm! I had NOTHING to be sarcastic about!!!

DAY SIX: I only paid 10 cents to Sarcasma, the Sarcastic kitty. Fitting, too, because the being that I exerted sarcasm towards was my cat. My poor, innocent cat! What kind of monster am I, that is sarcastic to a cat? Well, it was early this morning, and she was attempting to drink the milk out of my cereal I was eating. "Does that look like cat food?" I asked her. Then I answered, "No. I think it looks like human food." I will make a better effort to be non-sarcastic to both humans and other beings alike.


DAY SEVEN: OK, I couldn't help myself today! I received this e-mail:
Your HTML in the "What Geek are you?" Quiz is rather horrid.
Might I suggest that the following (changed appropriately) might be a
bit better:

<table align="center">
<tr><td><a href="">
  <img src=""
       alt="Old School Geek" height="216" width="360">

Note that your capitalization of the basename of the images is also

Finally, if you're going to use Frontpage, you could at least save
yourself the embarrassment by deleting the headers involved.

<><> <><>
Darren Stalder/2608 Second Ave, @282/Seattle, WA 98121-1212/USA/+1-206-ELF-LIPZ

I couldn't help making snide comments about this! I mean, come on, who has enough time on his or her hands to write snippy e-mails criticizing other peoples' 
HTML skills? I didn't even write the code myself; I stole it from someone who stole it from someone who stole it from someone else! Oy vey! Does "Darren" see 
the apparent irony in critiquing the HTML on the GEEK QUIZ? Perhaps he felt this was the very reason to send the comments. Anyway, Darren, you have just 
caused me to add 10cents to Sarcasma, the Sarcastic Kitty. So, it's been one whole week of non-sarcasm. It ended with quite a bang, but I've only amassed 35 
cents. I think I'll try this experiment for one more week, and check in then...

DAY FOURTEEN: I was able to exert will power over my natural sarcastic tendencies for an entire week. However, I think that my will is not strong enough to make the leap to non-sarcasm forever. Although I am markedly less sarcastic than I used to be, I couldn't go off sarcasm cold-turkey. Alas, having to pay attention to everything I say is really really hard! I have flashbacks of childhood, when my picky mom and grandfather would constantly dissect my grammar, diction, and semantics. I really don't need to be paranoid of everything that comes out of my mouth any longer! Freedom! Free Speech! ...allowing me to say whatever I want. What a great idea.