Friday, July 13, 2007


I promised a while back that I'd go into details about a certain HyperForce 3000 trait, and now seems as good a time as any.

Several months back, PigPen and I watched an obscure, but hilarious, film entitled Unconditional Love; a few days later we forced it upon Cap'n Shack-Fu, Li'l Random, and Maverick. Now, this was during a week which was very HyperForce intensive, and we had already co-opted several phrases and gestures from other movies we had viewed as part of our group vernacular. While watching UL, there was one sequence which really clicked with us. In it, the snooty sisters of the recently deceased singer Victor Fox are trying to maintain the pretense that, despite great evidence to the contrary, Victor was a full-blooded, heterosexual male. As the sisters explains that Victor was perfectly normal, Victor's brother-in-law immediately chirps out in a nervous voice"Normal!" This happens a couple more times, with the eldest sister talking about a "perfectly normal family" and the brother-in-law shouting out "Normal!" A very small section of the film, and it only happened three times, but we latched onto it with gusto, deciding that, the next day at church, we would all chime out "normal" every time the word was used during class, even if one of us had to instigate the "normal" cascade each time. At first we were cagey about why we were doing it, much to Squiggly's consternation, but we eventually let on that it was from a movie. And so, having had our fun, it was only a matter of time before we tired of the gag and moved on to other things. Or so you might expect; however, here we are over 5 months later, and still the Pavlovian "normal" response is running strong and true in the group. How to explain its longevity? I think there are a couple of different factors at play here.

First of all, within a few weeks of our starting the "normal" gag, while it was still relatively fresh, Cap'n Shack-Fu got sent off to New Orleans. During the 5 weeks he was stuck out of state, anytime I'd talk to him -- often putting him on speaker if other HyperForcers were around -- at at least one point during our conversation one of us intentionally would spark the "normal" trigger, as a sort of touchstone to help stave off his homesickness. In fact, one night Fluffy organized a group of us to get together and pose for pictures to send to him in a care package; one of the first pictures we took was of all the guys holding signs that said "normal," while Trouble held up one that said "abnormal." So, by the time the Shack man was able to come home, the power of "normal" was firmly entrenched thanks to our efforts to keep our pal feeling connected, and would become even more-so when he was almost immediately sent off to New Mexico and had to endure long distance "normal" calls once again.

The second big factor is the"normal" enabler Squiggly, who holds a love/hate relationship with the word. You see, there's one part of Squiggly which delights in the power she holds over HyperForce 3000, prompting her to purposefully place the trigger word into her sentences and then giggle with diabolical glee as she watches her puppets dance; but, there's also the part of Squiggly which will use the word unwittingly and then stomp her feet in frustration as a chorus of "normal" interrupts the flow of whatever conversation she was having. And yet, she still continues to pull our strings, sometimes repeating the word a few times when we're distracted and don't pick up on it -- which is a rarity.

You see, after 5 months, it's practically automatic. Even those who steadfastly refuse to say the word, such as Squiggly, find themselves thinking it to themselves every time they hear it; poor Squiggly works in a field where the word "normal" is a common term, and so she is haunted by it day and night. Her younger sister, who has been staying with Squiggly for the last month or so, has already grown to megaloathe the word. And those of us who have been responding verbally since day one will often find ourselves saying it to ourselves while watching TV, or going to the store, or talking to our co-workers . . .

Loathe as I am to admit it, I must: such behavior is not normal.*

*I opted not to echo the word constantly through the post, weighing the comedic potential against the horribly long and ultimately needless footnotes it would require, and in the end, my lazy side won out, just like normal.**