ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 08, 2014

Join us next Tuesday to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Connect on Twitter: @PostLive | @petridishes

You are up against two competing chats today: Boswell and Squirrel Week. Which one worries you more?

Squirrel week, naturally! Squirrels are a vital and noble foe. 

Let's talk about the whole Awkward kaboodle, if The Boodle hasn't copyrighted that term. 

I think, of the final two, the best one is winning, but I'm stunned by the restroom conversation upset. Among other stunners. 

I saw someone who looked a lot like you sound asleep on the Metro. Was it you? Did you get to your stop without missing it? (I am a dude so I am wary of touching a strange woman even if it's to help her out by waking her up. Not to call you "strange" or anything.... but what should I do next time?)

I don't think it was I! I haven't slept on the Metro in a long time! Buses, maybe. Trains, possibly. But the Metro, I don't think so. 

I think etiquette is to make loud noises at a distance, but I always think that's etiquette.

Previously on ComPost, I wrote in about the long-lost Metaphorical Candyland update! Though the, uh (what do you call ComPost chat participants? Decomposed organic matter? Not quite catchy enough) "chatters" were unable to identify it, research at Loganberry Books' Stump the Bookseller page was enough to find it on the second try. The book is "The Big Joke Game", by Scott Corbett, and I still find it delightful. (The first try, with "The Battle of Zorn", by Lurlene McDaniel, was only so delightful if you believe in indoctrinating children with traditional gender roles culminating in a terrible retelling of David and Goliath. IN RELATED NEWS IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO BUY THE BATTLE OF ZORN I HAVE IT AVAILABLE.)


We should do some kind of Group Cringe Reading festival. 

obey the 5 second rule?

Yes, but the floor doesn't. 

I want to avoid the Angel of Death this Passover.

Please don't.

Now that Gene Weingarten has discovered that women are not aware of their "wardrobe malfunctions", I am wondering: are men also not aware of their wardrobe malefactions. Maybe all those men wearing their pants halfway down their hips are not aware of this. I bet they would be embarrassed to discover that. To think that no one told them about that. Next time I see that, I will tell him.

Can you elaborate on this? Which wardrobe malfunctions are we talking here? I'm trying to find the archive!

Have you seen the Blandings britcom? Or were you the one who told me about it? I'm really enjoying it despite its mixed reviews. Lady Constance gets all the good lines, but Jennifer Saunders can manage. I have a grammar question, however. When someone like Freddy Threepwood or Bertie Wooster says "dashed" in print, is one supposed to read this as if he actually said "dashed?" Or is one supposed to fill in the "dash" with the appropriate unprintable word (as in "d-----")?

I think it came up here, but I haven't seen it yet! I'm glad it's good! 

I think dashed is what he actually says, as opposed to the Hemingway tendency of saying "I obscenity in the milk." 

If they sell gas or food it's a restroom. If it has steak it's an Outhouse. Eat at Honest Vlad's Outhouse with fumin' onions.

Does someone know what's going on?

The monks decide to open a fish-and-chips restaurant. The establishment soon became very popular, attracting people from all over. One city fellow, thinking himself clever, asks one of the brothers standing nearby, "I suppose you're the fish friar?" "No," replied the brother "I'm the chip monk."

Oh booooo

This reminds me of the time I went up to a white-haired lady at the Whistling Convention who was sitting next to one of the contestants and politely asked her, "So, are you the Whistler's Mother?"

and she just gave me a blank look and said, "No, no, just a friend" and it was the minimum possible payoff and was terrible generally. 

You should always carry a few rubber bands to shoot for exactly this reason. No need to get up close, and they work every time.

Your aim must be considerably better than mine! 


I think that makes it an office. Why, when Ah were lass, we 'adn't no lintels. 'Ad to make do wi' cardboard to keep away Angel o' Death.

You sound like Amos in Cold Comfort Farm/all my vocal impressions of anyone, ever, which invariably start Faux British and wind up in Old-Timey Newsman. I hope that is your intention! 

Combining two awkwards, I sometimes find myself in the perfect situation. I am in an elevator with three or more exclusively women passengers (I am a squirrel-bopping male sort). None of them are talking together. We are going up more than a few floors. I will speak up and say "I'm sorry. I didn't realise I got into the ladies' elevator." It's good ~ unless nobody laughs. Then I want to pound on buttons until the elevator stops so I can flee.

That is a very high-stakes joke, because you're stuck in the elevator with them afterwards!

There used to be whole lists of elevator gags on the Old Badly Formatted Internet back in the day, including 

-introducing yourself to everyone as "the Admiral"

-carrying a big crate labeled 'human brain,' then leaving it (or some body part, I can't remember)

and you don't think "nobody laughs" should win?

It wasn't that awkward. 

Give us a password so we can know it's you. Like "Your mother is a hamster".

"And your father smelt of elderberries!"

Worst case scenario, you have made a rad new friend. 

Weingarten had been assuming that whenever he saw a woman in low-rider jeans revealing some, uh, dorsal cleavage, she was already aware of it and there was no need to warn her.

"Dorsal cleavage" is a great term that I intend to use the next time I speak to a dolphin, if not before. 

"You look just like Manet's Olympia" Hey, it might work at the Corcoran?

Or the National Gallery or the Portrait Gallery! 

Actually a friend of mine met her husband in the cafeteria there, although I don't think he tried the Manet line. 

"Total Manet" is nicer than "Total Monet," anyway. 

I was aiming for Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen, but Amos will do. That is one of my favorite movies ever, and my on-line avatar photo is the great Eileen Atkins as Judith, wild hair, mad glare, and all.

Hey! That's spiffy!

Oh, I thought of another art one:

"Hey, are you a Picasso? Because on the surface you look like you'd be easy to do but actually it would take years and a lot of late dinners."

"It's Dan Brown, dummkopf!"

Awww, too soon!

(Kidding, kidding!)

All the old McDonalds are now Honest Vlads Outhouse Steak joints. The food's crappy and we can invade Poland wearing the old McDonalds uniforms! Open Outhouses across Poland. Expanding is the key. Use a combination lock.

What? Honest Vlad? What?

What guests would you invite?

I would invite J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan and I would MAKE THEM TALK at all costs about what exactly is happening with SW:VII. 

And maybe Carrie Fisher, who could entertain the audience while I was extracting the information.

Speaking of pearls before swine, I flung one of those once. Two colleagues were arguing and one of them actually said that he hadn't expected the Spanish Inquisition. So naturally I leaped to my feet and delivered the punch line. And they both drew back in alarm and looked at me like I was crazy.

Well, next time we see each other on the Metro...

No, just unfussy about who gets woken up.

That too. 

Glad to see Lindsay Lohan has finally found work.



Perhaps we can introduce "cubic" as a substitute for rad, gnarly, etc. "Man, that was totally cubic."

I like it! Or we could even go a step further and call it "cubist."

And then when cubist gets played out we can switch into "futurist."

No, bit much, probably.  

Would you go all out and buy every Star Wars themed geegaw imaginable?

Not all. Just "some."


is a style, not a malfunction. Like codpieces or tights. The underwear is a part of the look.

Let's focus on bringing back the codpiece. 

Sorry, I'm in a blue period.

In a blue period? Try looking back: you should make a pointillist all the things you like about life or eat a sundae in the park. I'm Seurat'll help. 

"Wanna come in and see my tesseract?" -- space cadet

"Nice tesseract."

Open cone stands and serve cones with no ice cream. Low fat!

Speaking of cone stands, who's doing the free day?

I'd almost rather pay $3 for the privilege of not standing in a line. 

A guy's gotta advertize!

Somewhat related to both this and that:

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs

The homely hen lays one

The codfish never cackles

To tell you what she's done

And so we scorn the codfish

While the humble hen we prize

Which only goes to show you

That it pays to advertise. 

Are you following some of the many other March Madnesses on the interwebs, such as Lent Madness ( or Language March Madness ( In the latter, which tries to identify the most egregious sins against English, poor word choice eked out a narrow victory over it's/its confusion. I have been extraordinarily upset that some of the other sins against the language (wordiness, cliches, spellcheck errors) -- the ones rooted in carelessness -- were defeated in early rounds. But I'm happy with the victory of poor word choice.

Poor word choice is the one to beat. 

I have definitely been following Scrabble's new Choose A Word To Add To The Dictionary madness, because it is madness in every sense. Some of the words they are trying to inflict on us are really beyond the pale. "Ew" should win. That's that. Slate has said as much, but I might add my voice to the chorus. 

My wife knows if I'm stumbling on an introduction, she should bail me out. So if I say "Janet Wilson! Hi! This is... is...." She'll jump in and say "Hi. I'm Alice. His wife."

See, that is why it is important to walk around with another person at all times, just in case of situations like this!

Was that a squirrel that just ran by?

No, that was a Squirrel Chat. 

John Kelly's chat made me squirrelly so I came running back to you!

I see what you did there.

I used conditioner last night and don't want to appear too creamy.

Ahhh I think you're mistaking this chat for a chat where people have insight into this question.

I think you're supposed to always put the lotion on or else you get the hose?

I was once having dinner with some co-workers and a friend mentioned the doorposts of her office (we had actual offices back then) and indicated with her hands the top of the doorframe but could't quite get the word. I filled in "lintel" and another co-worker of ours got all upset that I knew the word. Like it was too obscure a thing to know. Mind you, we were associates at one of the top law firms in New York, so being educated was expected. I had a similar experience with Venn Diagram in another group setting. My vocabulary isolates me. It is a little depressing.

Oh no!

The trouble with learning and reading and acquiring words and vocabulary is that on the bright side you get to commune with the great minds of ages past, but on the down side, all your best friends that you commune with on a regular basis have been deceased since 1870 or so and everyone else is just upset that you didn't watch "House of Cards."

My middle, high, and college school years were all in a very arid climate. When I moved here, it took me years to realize that I don't have to put lotion on for at least half the year in D.C. It was a complete life-changer. But we're not quite to that point in the calendar. Soon.

Oh no, I've already used my one lotion-based joke! But at least it was topical!

Okay I'm sorry I'll go defenestrate myself. 

I can see it now: "I'm Henry the Eighth, I am..."

Well, that's an image.

These people are jealous a__h___s. Ignore them. They are their own punishment. (Yes, I get that reaction sometimes, too.)

"They are what William Archibald Spooner would call shining wits," as a friend of mine used to say. 

I knew a guy who sang in a punk band while wearing only an elephant-face codpiece that played music when you touched the end of the protruding trunk. In the middle of one song he tried to set off the codpiece music, not realizing it wasn't loud enough to be heard over the band. So he kept trying, eventually whacking the tip of his codpiece over and over with his microphone while the band kept playing and the audience stood dumbfounded.

It's tough to make it work, though- I once tried a duct tape codpiece. Unfortunately, I just couldn't pull it off.

Ten points, you!

No, no, no. The Angel of Death doesn't enter the workplace, only the home. The threatening character who stalks your cubicle is called The Boss, and she isn't put off by the blood of a lamb.

But I just coated the lintel!

the friend who gestured with her hands, just said thank you when I filled in lintel. It was a guy in my department who was nasty about it. Later on, I realized it was a Hebrew School word. I'm pretty sure I learned it when we were reading the Passover story from the Bible - in Hebrew. I only retained the English word, so I considered it something that I had forgotten, rather than something I had learned.

Oh good, no sense maligning two! Boo guy in your department. Huzzah your friend! People and lintels can live in harmony!

You don't need to be an Ivy-League-educated lawyer to know that word. It's standard in the construction industry -- yes, we still have lintels!

There's just no better word for it!

Ambrose Bierce kept making a big push for the fact that there are all kinds of lovely terms lying around that mean exactly what you want to say but that have fallen into disuse. I can't remember any of them right now, but they're out there. 

Another Post chatter fessed up that you are all in some sort of vast pool of desks with no walls at all. And you steal snacks from each other's drawers.

Invent one. There's just no better word for it!--Yet.

Aw, but the only word I want to invent is "boondoggle" and that's already been done.

es, but he was the same guy who insisted that "dilapidated" could ONLY mean "having been destroyed by having had the stones taken off." Which is just silly.

And lapidary's just for stonecutters. 

I will play a pibroch on my bagpipe.

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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