15 August 2008

I Should Be In Jail Etc. Part 3: The Kreamening

Better products for better kreaming, through science.
Fig 1: A white lab-coated scientist, not unlike those who
create our favorite food products every day.


With full knowledge that all I have told you thus far will undoubtedly be used against me in a court of law, a strange mix of pride, guilt and glee urges me on. I must tell you the Karnation Kem-Kreme story.

The year is 1986. I am working as an executive secretary for Carnation Corporation in Los Angeles, California. They hired me because I type 85WPM and I can answer the shit out of a telephone. Just you try and stop me.

Correction - I did type that fast until I effed up my right hand by jamming it into a mason jar and cutting the hell out of my right radial distal nerve. I didn't even know what a right radial distal nerve was until I severed the sumbitch. Now I have one good hand - the left hand, the evil hand , die hand die verletzt - and another one that is as numb as a churchgoer's ass. But that's another story.

I feel all jibbity-jibbity suddenly. Are there weasels in my duodenum?

Wait - you know what' s going on? They put sugar in my smoothie. Those guys. The ones at the Alki Cafe. The carburetor on my pancreas is stuck wide open. That's why I can't track and I'm mildly paranoid. Make sure you have the padded bar pulled down and tight across your lap. This may get bumpy. SUGAR MAFIA, HEAR ME! From hell's heart I stab at the- WHOAH! CHECK IT OUT, A FIRE TRUCK! Just FEAST YOUR BABY BLUES ON THAT BIG SHINY BEEYOOOT-

Where was I? Oh yeah. Carnation. I worked in the Contadina tomato products division. It was on the seventh floor across from the Coffee Mate division. It freaked many people out to have a male secretary in the company (seriously - they couldn't handle a man's baritone coming across the line when they'd call looking for some executive's secretary and some people would just hang up). So they bumped me up to marketing assistant.

Then the news media got their little pulp-stained paws on a study from the National Institute of Whatever The Hell Is Bad For You This Week that proved that tropical oils worked like Kwik-Krete in your arteries. Plus, they said all excited-like, eating tropical oils will give you man-teats. Chicks, they warned us gravely, will no longer dig you. And that is some cold, cold shit.

The folks in the Coffee Mate division did not receive this news gladly. In fact, they were apoplectic. Y'see, back then, Coffee Mate was made with plenty of tropical oils. (It's not any more.) They were convinced that Coffee Mate was going down. Some figured - wrongly - that the only way to circumvent disaster was to come up with an even more gruesome chemical brew that had no tropical oils but would taste like real cream. (Thankfully, they did not do that. Actually, something good happened and now you can get Coffee Mate in just about any flavor of the rainbow including Blueberry Cheesecake which, while I will never sully my morning doppio with it, I will chug it straight from the bottle. It's that good. And I am that effed in the head.)

And then a prank was born.

I had access to all the marketing materials for all the divisions because many of the executives I worked for didn't wanna learn the new Alias computer system so they let me go learn it for them. That was mistake #1: giving Pranky McPrankington the keys to the fun box.

I got into the graphics files for the Coffee Mate labels and just had a gay olde tyme "re-interpreting" them. I changed the product name to Karnation Kem-Kreme and added the tag line, "It'll Have Ya Trippin'!" I rewrote the ingredient label to include hog jowls, dog mucus, and influenza. Then I forwarded the files to the factory with the instructions to label up a test batch and send it over to the head of Coffee Mate (who I'll call Rick).

Did Rick get the joke? Oh he goddamn well did. And it pissed him off grand royal. He stormed over to my desk. "I guess you just don't have enough to do!" he spat at me, hard enough to blow the eraser crumbs out of my Smith-Corona. Then he stomped over to the office of my boss (who I'll call Steve).

I peeked through the window. Rick stood there, raging at Steve with the anger of a Titan. When the catharsis was over, Rick stomped by my desk again, giving me the requisite glare on the way by. Steve walked over to his window and wearily waved me into his office.

"Thaddeus," he said with a sigh of resignation, "That...was really, really, really funny."

"Seriously?" I said.

"Mm hmm." He said.

"OK. Should I just...go back...to work now?"

"Sure. Oh - one thing."

"What's that?"

"Don't do that again."

"Okay I won't."

"Yeah. Do something different. You gotta stay sharp. Test your limits and abilities. Know what I mean?"

"Yes I do."

And the moral of the story is - well, I don't have a moral. I just didn't get fired. I think I moved to Seattle about a week later just to avoid it.

Let me just end this epistle with this unsolicited endorsement: Coffee Mate is fuckin' delicious. Shake it up with some Scotch and pour it over ice. You'll see what I mean.

It'll have ya trippin'!



12 August 2008

I Should Be In Jail By Now, Part 2: Choking The Chicken

Careful. That shit can get you fired.


K. So. Like I was saying about stuff I did that prolly shoulda landed me in jail. Remember back last time when I told you that bit about getting fired for 'malicious compliance'? Here's how that went down:

Chilly the Weather Chicken

Way back before there was a radio format called 'Alternative' (which is now anything but), there were teeny tiny little AM radio stations that held the torch for such gittar-pickin' surrealist enclaves as The Church, Alien Sex Fiend, Robyn Hitchcock, and Midnight Oil (as well as Johnnycomelatelys Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and fuckin' Nearvanna). And since these wee little alt.alt.alternative stations were usually the poor relation of some FM AOR juggernaut (because no one can have enough Skynyrd), they got the snotty end of the stick day in and out until they were sold for chump change to televangelists.

In the case of the late KJET-AM, (which thanks to the immortalizing power of the InterWebs you can still listen to on Live365 and MySpace) it was sold to a bunch of chumps with a wad of change who thought that b-side oldies was the format of the future.
This was way back in nineteen-ought-eighty-nine. Never mind that these tracks sucked too hard to be on the a-side forty years ago, and that the intervening decades had not redeemed them. The folks who bought the station thought they had some sort of statement to make and that they were all going to be able to purchase at least one solid gold rocket car apiece.

Here's a spoiler: If you're not listening to b-side oldies right now, it means the experiment failed.

Now 'tis a little-known fact that if you work in radio, you can expect to get fired about every twenty minutes or every time a station changes format, whichever comes first. But the upside of this was that since this was happening everywhere in the industry, you could always migrate elsewhere. Plus you always got a big fat severance check.

So we're sitting there in this meeting, THE meeting, the one where they tell you that the station is changing format and boo hoo hoo and here's your big fat severance check, when I'll be go to hell if they didn't say, "...and we'd like to keep you all on." You could've knocked us all over with a mangy feather plucked from the soiled pillow of Kurt Cobain. It meant we would get no big fat severance check. And that would not do. We had all promised ourselves that we were going to binge drink, and there's no way we could do that on regular salary. There was only one way to get the big fat severance check and that was to get fired.

So we hatched a plan - a plan that would fix us good. We were all going to change our air names and do the worst puking boss-jock horseshit radio we could possibly do. (See also: The Real Don Steele. -Ed.) They would have to fire us. And then we'd get our big fat severance checks. And then we could get all get fried to the hat and stay that way, at least for the afternoon. I changed my air name to Big Rick Hardy.

Since the new station's call letters were KQUL (Cool Oldies!), I figured we needed a mascot with an arctic theme, so I created Chilly the Weather Chicken. Then I put together some outrageously bullshit contest centered around him. To wit, if you out-guessed Chilly on what the next day's high temperature would be, you got to 'choke the chicken' on the air. This meant that I mentioned your name and played a
cart of a chicken buh-gawking along with some wild sound of me gagging, perhaps captured during one of my drunken afternoons at the Five Point.

So along comes my new boss Danny Holiday one day and throws the cart down in front of me. "Can't do this anymore," he says. "Whyforhowcome not?" I says. "Because 'choking the chicken' is a euphemism for masturbation," he says. "Nooooooo waaaaaayy!" I says. "Yep. S'a'fact," he says. "Can't bleeve you dinnint know that."

So I came back the next Monday with a new on-air quiz called "Beating the Bishop". I got crap-canned hyper-quick, and I got a little triplicate form showing that I was terminated for 'malicious compliance'. HOW SWEET IS THAT?!!

Oh yeah, I got a big fat severance check.

Next time: On a whim, I create "Karnation Kem-Kreme" on the job and get a large piece of my ass chewed off for my trouble.