Thursday, December 22, 2005

Uncle So-and-so

The following story is sort of a sociological observation of something that any of my friends should be pretty familiar with.

So there’s a certain student named Frank out on the island. Over the summer a certain staff member he took to fishing as an afternoon repast. While talking about “the big one” they would hopefully catch and where might be the best place to do it, a story came up about Frank’s Great-uncle So-and-so who caught a record sized bass some years back. The staff member was incredulous and Frank suggested that some documentary evidence might convince him. So, some weeks later Frank brought out some newspaper clippings with photos reporting his Uncle So-and-so’s record bass catch.

A roughish story about how Uncle So-and-so caught the bass was told among the students. Because of his achievements he was referred to as a sort of hero. So, when Frank was lifting weights someone would jokingly say, “You need to channel Uncle So-and-so’s fishing powers into pressing that bar.” When serving the volleyball, Frank was told to call upon “the power of So-and-so”. At one point there was some discussion of strategies for dealing with crisis situations on the island and someone suggested asking, “What would Uncle So-and-so do?” Later a certain South Park song’s lyrics were changed. “What would Uncle So-and-so do if he were here today? He’d probably catch a bass or two. That’s what Uncle So-and-so would do.” Later people would do Uncle So-and-so impersonations as a comic way of encouraging people to do some thing or critique some behavior. These impersonations were rather odd because the voice would assume Hispanic, Irish, Chinese, or some other completely random and ineffable accents. Eventually people started writing up motivational quotes on the kitchen whiteboard attributed to Uncle So-and-so.

During the Thanksgiving break Frank talked to his great uncle and happened to mention what has been done with his name on the island. The response was an underwhelming confusion. I once attempted to explain it to one of Frank’s aunts and found myself at a loss of words for justifying the experience. There was eventually some talk about how as a group we might eventually interact with Uncle So-and-so should he for whatever reason visit the island, perhaps to go bass fishing. The conclusions have agreed that it would be awkward at the least and I believe this train of thought has led to some diminishing of the Uncle So-and-so comments…. though not an eradication.