This week, Reg has tasked me with examining the conclusions of a British study that claimed that swearing at work can help improve teamwork.
I begin by entering Edvard’s office and discovering that he is not there. So I give him a call in the Netherlands.
“Hey Edvard. It’s Amber Lynn.”
“God dammit! What the hell time is it? It’s 01:13 here!”
“Do you think swearing to your coworkers helps you stay calm?”
“You’d better hope it does, you little bitch. Because if it doesn’t, I’m getting on the next flight to LA and kicking your ass.”
In Edvard’s case, a definite maybe.
The next day, I enter the meeting room of the GoobNet Special Projects Enhancement and Enforcement Division [SPEED], which seems to be empty. So I wander around their work area and eventually find Rich, Gaby, Wen, and Nina sitting in another room with cups of coffee.
Wen says, “Hey Amber Lynn.”
“Hi,” I say.
Nina says, “So what minor task is Reg too lazy to do himself this time?”
“Actually, I’m writing this week’s Whine.”
Rich says, “Actually, that is a minor task.”
Wen replies, “Not if we get to do it this week.”
I say, “No. It’s about whether swearing at work can relieve stress, help people work together, that sort of thing.”
“So what do you want from us?” Rich asks.
Nina says, “Do you want us to start swearing at each other? Because we could totally do that.”
“You mean you don’t already?” I ask.
Rich says, “That’s none of your fucking business.”
I say, “So you do swear at each other already. That’s good.”
Gaby says, “I see. You’re enforcing the new company policy.”
Wen holds her hands up as though conjuring a document. “From the desk of Reginald J Goober. Effective immediately, all employees of GoobNet Enterprises, Inc [which doesn’t actually exist however] are to swear at each other at least once every hour.”
Gaby adds, “Attached is a list of acceptable swear words. This should not be construed as a full and complete list; in particular, swear words in other languages are also acceptable and in fact encouraged.”
“One: fuck,” Rich says. “Two: shit. Three: damn. Four: ass.”
“Five: pussy,” Nina adds.
“Not always,” Rich adds.
“You’re right,” Nina says. “Five: pussy, depending upon context.”
“Six: cunt,” Gaby says.
“Seven: cock, depending upon context,” Nina says.
“Eight: Semprini,” Rich says.
All of us look at him, puzzled.
“Remember that Monty Python sketch?” he says.
Nina shakes her head whilst I shrug.
“‘The following words are not to be used again on this programme’? Michael Palin shows, like, botty, knockers, and stuff, and then Semprini comes up?”
We are still unaware.
Rich continues, “And then this chick comes in and goes, ‘Semprini?’ And Michael kicks her out?”
More vacant stares.
He continues, “And then they go back to John Cleese the chemist, and he goes, ‘All right, who’s got a boil on his Semprini?’ And the cops come in and take him away?”
More vacant stares.
“Nobody remembers that sketch?”
We continue to stare vacantly.
Finally, Wen says, “Nine: Cheney.”
We all laugh.
Nina shouts, “Cheney off, you cheneying mothercheneyer!”
I conclude that the GoobNet SPEED benefits by being able to swear at each other.
I call Debbie in London.
“Hello, you’ve reached Debbie. If you would like to interact, please announce your identity and a telephone number that I could dial if I actually want to speak with you.”
“Hey Debbie. Amber Lynn here. Do you like to swear at your coworkers?”
A couple of hours later, I receive an SMS message from her: You bet your lesbian ass I do.
I reply: My ass is bi.
A bit later, she calls me and asks, “What was that all about?”
I tell her about the study and Reg’s experiment.
She says, “Oh. I thought maybe it was from Whose Line or something.”
“You know. They’re doing Infomercial, and Colin says, ‘Do you like to swear at your coworkers?’ And Ryan says, ‘Who doesn’t?’”
“You mean they actually did that?”
“No,” she says, “but that’s what your voice mail sounded like.”
Apparently, Debbie is willing to swear at her coworkers in text messages, but it is unclear whether it helps her relieve stress.
I walk into Deb’s office and ask her, “Do you swear at your coworkers?”
She stares at me for a moment. Then she says, “You sound like you’re selling Tourette’s medication.”
“That’s not funny,” I reply. “Tourette’s is a serious medical condition, and you shouldn’t be making light of it.”
“Lick my cunt,” she snaps.
There is an awkward silence.
“Sorry,” she says.
“That’s okay,” I say. “So you do swear at your coworkers.”
“Yes,” she says. “And I wholly enjoy it.”
I approach the one remaining GoobNet team member.
“Reg, do you swear at your coworkers?”
“Not during critical meetings with potential investors who could take us to the next level, no,” he says, pointing to the person sitting across his desk from him.
I nearly shit myself when I see who it is.
After the potential investor leaves, Reg comes to me and says, “Well, that was almost a train wreck.”
“Sorry,” I say.
“That’s okay. But don’t tell anyone that that person was here. We have to keep it secret.”
“I can’t mention it in the Whine?”
“No,” he says. “As Bob Saget put it, ‘Because then you will be fucked!’”
The conclusion is that for most GoobNet team members, swearing is effective at building teamwork and calming nerves. But being sworn at can be a different matter sometimes.
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