by Lyle Lofgren

[To me, nothing’s more funny than something that’s not supposed to be funny, and the more serious it is, the more I laugh to myself. I have to laugh silently, though, because these events almost always take place in public. Usually, there are no names given for these quotes, either because I didn't know the people who said them, or because I did.]

This sort of thing has been thoroughly covered by the Dilbert comic strip, but I started carrying a notebook to meetings long before Dilbert was born. Everyone assumed I was taking notes on action items, but I was mainly waiting for someone (usually a manager) to say something worth writing down. Some examples from 37 years of meetings:

On the state of the company:
"We'd like to give you a look at what our outlook looks like."

“I think we are not tackling as many things that we should not as perhaps we were two years ago.”

"We have a lot on our plate, so we're not eager to throw another log on the fire."

"We were staring down the barrel of lost market share."

"The revitalization of our company is vital."

On the changing state of the world:
"Our world is getting more and more global."

A plea for contributions to the United Fund:
"There's nothing worse than a child who needs help."

On gender equity:
"If a person can handle a job, it shouldn't matter whether he's a man or a woman."

On Human Resource matters:
"The employee survey included a repeated complaint: you can't find your supervisors because they're always in meetings. In response, we are developing an eighty-hour training class for all supervisors."

"We feel the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the individuals."

"Their investigation covered the whole gambit."

On the Information Technology system:
"It's very difficult to keep such a big logistical thing up to date."


An engineer describing a destructive test he was going to conduct by squeezing a metal part in a press:
"I'm going to crush it, really disseminate it."
[I visualized the pieces flying all over the room.]

Noon in the lunchroom: someone was railing about the "Rev. Louis Tarragon."
[Now there's a prophet whose thyme has come.]

Also in the lunchroom, I heard about the behavior of another engineer having after-work drinks at a local bar on Friday afternoon:
"He was really mad about the low pay he's getting, and he went off on a tyrant about it."

Memo from a colleague:
“We all need to be in sink about this.”
[At least we’ll get clean together.]

How to write a sign: the company's Material Sciences Lab is located in another suburb, and we have private Shuttle Bus service between the two buildings. A sign in our building reads:
Although I couldn't maintain the nice symmetry of the original, I succumbed to the urge to add two more signs:

A handwritten sign in the tray pickup area of the company cafeteria:

From an internal engineering report:
"The unit was dissected, taking care to keep the tubes in tack."


Two house painters, an old one and a young one, eating lunch at a fast food restaurant:
Old Painter: “I hear your woman left you.“
Young Painter: “Yeah.“
OP: “What was the trouble?“
YP: “Religion. She's religious, and I'm not.“
OP: “Your trouble is that you want both a good woman and a bad woman.“
It sounded to me like a good theme for a country-western song, requiring only a tune and some words.

Two women in their late 20's in the next booth at a delicatessen; the louder of the two came up with two keepers during the course of their conversation:
"I can't stand theater people; they're too grammatic."
"If I'm going to have any friends at all, I'm going to have to lower my standards."


For years, I've been listening to male colleagues who are going through divorces tell me, "My wife is turning our children against me." It's been such a constant theme in the male divorce line that I sort of discounted it, figuring that surely not all those wives could be sitting around turning those children. So I wasn't prepared for this conversation, at a campground:
Child, about 3 years old, in classic waiflike voice: "I miss my Daddy."
Mother, angrily: "That Turdball! What do you miss him for?"
No answer from the child.

We were camping in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, and went into Buffalo for provisions and to wash our clothes at the laundromat. The only other people there were a cowboy type and a woman with her daughter, who I judged to be about 5 years old. The woman was obviously shopping for a man, as she had struck up a conversation with “Jim.” (I don’t remember his real name).
“Why don’t you talk to Jim?” the woman asked of her daughter.
“You told me never to talk to strangers,” said the girl.
“Well, if you’ve met him, he’s not a stranger,” replied the woman.


From an interview circa 1992 with Richard Secord about his new book on a Reagan era scandal called the Iran-Contra Affair:
Q: “Why do you think Bush (George Bush Sr.) insisted he was Out Of The Loop on arms sales to Iran?”
A: “All of them denied knowledge of the transactions, because they were afraid of being Tar-Babied.”
["Out Of The Loop" is one of those dumb modernisms that I always resolve never to use, but I had just finished re-reading Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus Stories, so I appreciated the reference to the Tar Baby, even if he had been changed from a noun to a verb. It was especially apt, since the Tar Baby is the epitome of the self-inflicted wound.]
And now to the second question, which I think nicely summarizes the bureaucratic mind at work:
Q: “Are you sorry now you went as far as you did with Ollie North?”
A: “I never did go as far as I did with Ollie.”

Minnesota politicians are very big on using ethanol in gasoline. Here’s a sound bite of one from one of our state legislators (I unfortunately missed his name):
"We're talking about Big Oil, here, the folks who gave you the Valdez oil spill disaster. And they try to tell you that ethanol is polluting! If you believe that, then you can't even see a facade when you see one."

A short interview with somebody who witnessed a couple of Minneapolis policemen who threw two Indians in the trunk of their police car to transport them to the police station. The interviewee said that the police were using "racial epitaphs."
["Oh," said Liz, "they must have said 'The only good Indian is a dead Indian'."]

A politician speaking of church burnings:
"We need to send a message that this is not acceptable, whether it's being done by racists or children or mimes."
[I always say that people who live in invisible glass cages shouldn't throw imaginary rocks.]

Interview with a lady who was punched out on a freeway entrance by a guy in a white BMW convertible:
"He pulled over in front of me and got out of the car. I rolled down the window and asked him if there was something in the road ahead that caused him to stop so fast. He let out a bunch of experlatives, then hit me in the face so hard my glasses flew off."
[Maybe the BMW guy was an English major who can't stand malapropisms?]

For 6 short years, Minnesota had Jesse Ventura for governor, a retired wrestler and priceless source of quotes. The following three are from a single radio interview:
"I do an average of 5 interviews a day. If you multiply that out by 5 days a week and 52 weeks a year, you get a pretty good idea of how many interviews I do on a daily basis."
"Myself and the legislature will look at that."
"I like a sales tax, because it's consumer-driven."

From All Things Considered, Nov. 30, 1992:
"A Government Study released today concludes that the main reason for homelessness among the poor is a lack of affordable housing."

Jan. 12, 1993: Terry Gross, interviewing Jimmy Carter, asked about Bill Clinton's ability to break up Capitol Gridlock. Jimmy's reply:
"Ah b'leeve that Clinton has the ability to reach out for hominy."
[If he can get some aigs with those grits, he'll have a great breakfast]

May 14, 2013: Local announcer: "Minnesota becomes the 12th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota."
[It seems obvious to me that Minnesota is the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.]


Advertisement for a public television program about backyard birds:
"Dinosaurs in your backyard? Well, not exactly, but the dinosaur's ancestors are out there right now, singing ... "
[They wonder why I don't send them any money -- they can't distinguish between ancestors and descendants.]

A business news commentator:
“Conventional food marketers are piggy-backing off the resurgence of interest in kosher foods.”
[Talk about gross insensitivity to religious dietary practices.]


Gary Suddeth, president of the Minneapolis Urban League, quoted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 8/5/1992:
"Some people are making overtures to the effect that we've been an exclusive and distant organization."
[Maybe they're those people from the Minnesota Composers Forum.]


One summer, Minnesota was plagued by odd types of well-water pollution:

A TV news story reported that the Rush City water supply (I went to high school there!!) contained "E. Cola," which must be a new type of soft drink.

Another TV newscaster talked about pollution by "chloroform" bacteria. They'd be useful in the operating room.

And, at Nerstrand Woods State Park in southern Minnesota, there was a sign telling us not to drink the water. I asked the park ranger about it, and she said it was due to "chlorophyll" in the drinking water. I mean to tell you, I just turned green.