Doug types too much...
October 31, 2019
I am not good at impressions. My wife Judy, however, is a master. Back when she endured office jobs, she would often come home and act out scenarios that had played out at work. She was spot on with her characters, both male and female. She made me roll in hysterics. One of the best impressions she does is of me.
I am an open target for mimicry. Indeed, I have more than one mannerism to capitalize on. I’ve seen a fair amount of impressions of what I’m like. I don’t shy away from them. Quite the opposite. There’s nothing that slays me more than someone acting me out in front of me. Trust me, I see why you laugh.
If you really want to nail a good Doug Bari, you have to master the physical. This is where Judy kills. She crooks her arms back, hunches forward, and speeds off in a frustrated huff.
Recently at work, a co-worker and I were huddled together and my teammate did a hilarious impersonation of another person we work with. I laughed and said, “That was really good. I’d love to see how you make fun of me when I’m not around.”
He chuckled. “I don’t feel like walking fast right now.”
I’ve been asked why I walk fast. People have commented on it often.
I work in an IT world. IT people can be funny about communication. They don’t always respond like they should in social situations. But I get like that sometimes. It’s not all on them. There have been people I’ve passed for years in the hallways where I work and I still don’t know their names. I could certainly introduce myself. And sometimes I do.
Not too long ago, I was standing still filling up on water in a break room and this woman I’d seen hundreds of times in passing ended up standing at the sink next to me. I did my best effort to shed my IT self. I looked over at her and said, “You know, I feel really terrible because I see you every day, but I’ve never stopped to say hello.”
I stuck out my hand. “Hi, my name is Doug.”
She shook my hand. “I’ve thought of introducing myself before, but you always look like you’re on a mission – on your way to something. Plus you usually have a look on your face.”
While it’s true the walking fast part is essential to making fun of me, you can always add the face. I’ve had more than one observer tell me I look like I’m mad when I’m walking. I’m not. Usually. But I know I have that etched look on my face. Judy reminds me all the time.
She’ll ask me why I’m mad.
“Well, you look like it. Relax your face. You look like you’re going to kill someone.”
In our movie FAUX PAWS when my partner Brian gets huge laughs telling me to “fix my face,” that comes directly from Judy’s admonitions.
So the secret is the mix of the face and the walk.
The face I think I just got from being pissed too much. Like I said, I’m not really pissed all the time, but I’ve been pissed enough in my past lives to leave heavy scarring. The emotion of being pissed is permanently etched into my crags.
There’s no particular incident I can point to that contributed to the lines in my face. There are too many. But my walk? Oh, I know exactly when that started.
You see, I used to saunter. Walk normal. But I was robbed at knife-point in Times Square when I was 16. I was an easy target in 1971.
Times Square was different in the early 70s. It’s cleaned up now. With the exception of the Naked Cowboy and his buds, Times Square these days is Disneyland compared to what it was in the Midnight Cowboy era. When I was a teenager, Times Square was pretty seedy, and at times, decidedly dangerous. The bad stuff came out mostly at night.
This was daytime. On a Friday at high noon. Lunch rush hour. I’m making a call, facing into a half-bubble public phone booth where the Plexiglass forms a three-quarter wrap around your body. If you were facing into the booth, your back was exposed. Mine was, with the lump of my wallet in my back pocket flashing a signal to any robbers that happened to be waltzing by. Behind me, a sea of scurrying business people swinging briefcases criss-crossed the open area where they drop the ball on New Year’s.
You’d think I’d be pretty safe in broad daylight at noon.
No. In New York City, now and certainly then, there was never a time when you were completely safe. Not that you ever are, anywhere, but NYC carries a different danger vibe. The inherent quotient is higher.
So I’m making my call. I become aware that I am surrounded. 3 young Hispanic youths have boxed me into my bubble phone booth.
Instead of yelling into the phone that I’m being threatened, I finish my call calmly and hang up. I turn to my assailants. Whaddup?
Like, okay, what was I thinking? I can tell you exactly what my 16-year-old self was thinking from my bird’s eye view at age 64. I was invincible. Indestructible. Superman with spindly arms.
Yeah. Whaddup, MFs? Always try to act tough when the odds are against you. What do you got to lose?
Well, your money for one thing.
The lead guy got nose to nose with me. Demanded any money I had in my pockets.
“I don’t have any money.”
I heard the distinctive click of a switchblade. Just like in the movies. And in an instant, that blade was resting heavily on my private parts.
“I’ll scream,” I heard myself warble.
I have a friend who was car-jacked once on his way home for Christmas. His vehicle was loaded with wrapped Christmas presents for his family. Looking at him, you’d think he was the burliest bad-ass in town. He told me how he came out of a motel that morning and a shady guy with a partly exposed gun was standing by his car. The weapon was brandished.
“Now, I know you’re gonna give me your motherfuckin’ keys.”
I was hopeful upon hearing his story. Maybe my friend had delivered some Kung-fu level of reaction. But the reveal was that my friend gave up his keys without further encouragement.
“I started crying like a little bitch,” he confessed.
So there I was telling a serious guy holding a knife to my stuff that I’d scream. Like a little bitch.
Serious guy smiled like the clown in It.
“Go ahead and scream. Ain’t nobody gonna care.”
Oh, really. Really? I’ll show you.
I screamed like a little bitch on steroids. Loud and shrill. “Help! I’m being robbed! Help me!”
Out of the literally thousands of commuters, not a single one did as much as turn a head in my direction. Not one.
You’re supposed to yell “fire,” but I didn’t know that at the time.
That was an eye-opening moment for me. A game changer that taught me a lot about humans. A massive lesson handed to me on a silver platter. And all in just a few scant seconds of my timeline.
The ringleader stared darkly at me and mocked my heartfelt pleas. He knew no one would help.
The knife pushed tighter against me.
“Gimme your money, man,” he grinned. “Or I’ll cut you.”
I gave him the money. The equivalent of acting like a little bitch, depending on how you look at it.
For me, it boiled down to math. I could sacrifice my at-the-time very young promise of a fertile future or I could hand over the money I had in my back pocket.
After I opened my wallet and handed him all of $10, the main dude’s smile etched down a notch.
I heard the switchblade retract. Just like in the movies.
They walked away.
And that was that.
From that moment, I pasted my best Charles Bronson face on and walked bent forward. Like I would mow you down if you got in my way.
In a number of ways, that’s worked for me. People have a tendency to not engage when I’m in forward roll.
Fingers crossed, I’ve never been robbed since I started walking fast.
But it’s also taken me years to befriend people I see in the hall every day.
Depending on the day, it’s a delicate balance for Doug.
When we’re holding hands and walking somewhere, Judy often has to yank my hand back to curb me. It’s all I can do to slow down.
Judy gets exasperated. “What are you rushing for? Relax.”
I have to admit that when I do slow down and stop to smell the roses, I feel better.
Slowness continues to be a struggle.
But there is a reason I walk fast.
I just wanted you to know.