Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sitcom Détente

Sam and Fiona have a hate-hate relationship. But, not really hate. More simmering dislike. They are in Sitcom Détente. This is the situation where two people who, in real life, would never tolerate each other, do for the sole purpose of amusing our audience. Think of Niles and Roz during the early parts of Frasier; Lisa and Screech in Saved By the Bell, and so-on-so-forth. There is sometimes a patina of an excuse for why they get along with each other (shared friends, family, coworkers, etc.), but they end up in such close proximity so frequently, it is like a cosmic force is trying to concentrate their hate.

This leads to very unnatural and awkward moments where the audience will think that one of the two went too far, but the writers intended the slight to simply be another in a series of escalating put downs. Worse yet, sometimes the audience actually thinks the people genuinely like each other (though that is usually where the relationship ends up at the end of the story arc.) It's hard to do well, and I don't think I've done it well. But, we can always try. If nothing else, I hope that the phrase Sitcom Détente enters the comedy lexicon, even if it is just among the small group of people reading here. Fiction below the fold, check the previous links if you've missed anything.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.
13. He has a night job.
14. The title makes you think it'll be a different joke than it is.
15. Lucy's mind wanders.

* * *

“I can’t talk now Fiona. Why? Because I’m working your shift,” I said between tables. I had one of the best devices ever. A tiny, nearly invisible ear bud so I could take calls at work. The only down side is whoever I was talking with got to hear me repeat back people’s orders.

“You forgot to tell them the specials,” Fiona said in my ear. The other down side is you couldn’t talk back, no matter how much you wanted. Once I finished taking their orders, I was able to talk to her again.

“Now, it might seem like I’m talking to you, but that’s an illusion — order for table 17 — that I am carefully crafting for your benefit. I know Jerome, who is already on their second bottle of wine at this time of the afternoon? Are they at least a big tipper?”

“Jerome isn’t working today. You’re not even good at ignoring me. Why’d you pick up if you were going to be a dick?”

“I don’t know. Why’d you call if you were going to — well, you know,” I said as I gathered up someone’s lunch. Whoever came here for lunch made more money than they needed.

“I just need Lucy’s number.”

“In case you haven’t noticed Fi-fi,” I decided to start calling her Fi-fi this afternoon. I had tried calling Lucy Lu-Lu; that lasted until her friend came in to tell me she had broken down crying because that was what the mean girls teased her with in school. I hadn’t meant to bring up old, bad memories; I just thought it would be good to start handing out nicknames at the O.G. Kenny had asked to be called The Big K, but there was discussion whether people would think that he was being likened to Kmart or ketamine. In his defense, he needed me to explain what both of those were to him.

“No, man. Not drugs or thrift stores. Like, as in, I’ve got a big K. You know, like my—”

“Anyway Fi-fi,” I said snapping my mind out of that distraction. “You can ask Lucy for her number yourself.”

“I need to talk to her now.”

“Why don’t you just call her back on your phone?”

“I delete my incoming and outgoing calls after every call so no one can see who I’m talking to,” Fiona said. This seemed eminently practical. Much more practical than anything with sauce and a tie worth more than my car.

“You’re adorably paranoid,” I said on my way to fill up some drinks. “Whatever you need to talk to Lucy about can wait until you’re a big enough girl to get the number yourself.”

“I need advice. Like, now.”

“Lay it on me, I’m made of advice and sugar,” I said. “The ladies can’t get enough of either.”

“I need advice from someone I trust,” She said as I returned the drinks to the goodbye or welcome or retirement lunch. “Well, someone who when I say I trust, I don’t mean I trust to be a fuck up.”

“Your words wound me,” I said, scooping up a $10 tip. That made up for the fact that I was still talking to Fiona instead of getting to know the new girl. Who I was probably supposed to be training or something; Lucy usually did all that nonsense. I guess I kind of was Lucy for today; well, a male Lucy. “Look, shoot me your question, and if I can’t help, I’ll grab her number from the schedule in the back.”

“It’s a woman thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

“You said the same thing when you needed help picking out a couch,” I said. “That’s just a general purpose excuse to avoid talking to me.”

“No, it is a polite excuse. I could just tell you to fuck off, but I’m trying to be polite.”

“You were doing wonderfully. You know when you messed up?”

“Fuck off,” Fiona said and hung up. Well, she was right. That was about where she messed up. Still, let it never be said that Sam has ever left a woman in need. The next time I had a free moment, which was coincidentally right now, I went to the back and texted Lucy’s number to Fiona. I also stole a peak at the new girl’s name. As I meandered back out to the floor, I went over in my head the many different possible nicknames you could have for Heather.

1 comment:

  1. I also wonder if I'm the first to use the phrase. I'm too lazy to Google it, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone else described this phenomena this way.

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