Awkward Moments with Movie Quotes
Using movie quotes in conversation can be a great ice breaker, but sometimes the quotes can put people into awkward situations. Saying “Use the force, Luke”(Star Wars) is safe because even people who have never seen a Star Wars movie know what you’re talking about. 30 years ago, everybody liked to say “Go ahead, make my day” (Sudden Impact) or “Welcome to the party, pal” (Die Hard).
But last week, a co-worker got in trouble for using a movie quote at the wrong time. First of all, this guy likes to insert quotes into a lot of conversations, and it gets annoying sometimes. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t like getting upstaged by a guy who quotes a line from a movie when I work really hard to come up with (my few) original thoughts.
Anyway, this guy has a reputation for being late to meetings, and he showed up about 20 minutes late to this particular meeting and walked in with a cheese-eating grin. Looking back, a little facial humility might have helped him.
The boss said, “Have a seat. We thought you were going to miss this today.”
The coworker said, “Well, I wouldn’t have really MISSED it, Bob.”
This was a loose paraphrase of a quote from Office Space, and if there’s a movie to quote from, it would be Office Space. But this was the wrong time and the wrong place and the wrong boss. The boss’s name isn’t even Bob.
I don’t think our boss has ever seen Office Space. “You don’t have to be here,” he said harshly.
The co-worker’s grin disappeared. “No, I didn’t mean it like…”
“If you don’t want to grace us with your presence…”
“It’s okay, I…
“If all you have to contribute is snide comments…”
The coworker didn’t have any movie quotes in his repertoire to bail him out, and he got kicked out of the meeting. We haven’t seen him since.
The uncomfortable silence lingered in the conference room for several minutes after the coworker left, and it was torture because I wanted to laugh. I really did, but I couldn’t show any signs of it, or I could have been called out too. I felt guilty for finding humor in my coworker’s misfortune. Plus, I’m too old to laugh at inappropriate situations.
I kind of understood what happened to my coworker though because something similar happened to me a few years ago during a boring meeting. It had gone on for too long, and it was the end of the day, and we were tired. After a couple hours of pointless idea exchanging (I’ve forgotten what the topic was), one co-worker said, “That’s it. We’re done.”
There was a silence because our boss (this was a different boss, a young Ivy League female) usually decided when we were done, not the co-worker.
“Did you say ‘done’?” I said in a mock animated voice.
My co-workers were surprised. I hardly ever talked (especially back then), and when I did, I had a monotone voice (I still do). I’m actually pretty good at impersonations, though, so my impression of an emotional guy must have been convincing.
“Nothing is done until we decide it is!” I continued in a fake outraged manner. “Was it done when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”
One co-worker (who was old enough to understand the reference) laughed.
Then my young boss said, “The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Jimmy. You should know that.”
And we brainstormed in drudgery for another hour.
I have to admit, that was a bad time for a brain glitch. I usually don’t quote movie lines in conversations, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. The meeting was probably about to be over due to exhaustion, and I inadvertently gave my boss a new momentum. Plus, she thought I was stupid because she believed I thought the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.
Maybe my boss’s generation was to blame because everybody should recognize the “Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” line. When the movie Animal House came out, I was too young to see it because it was rated R (pre-cable and pre-internet days), but the line was legendary. Everybody knew it. But not anymore. If young bosses from Ivy League schools don’t understand the context of “the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor,” then that generation is lost.
I hope my coworker learned a lesson from this experience. If you’re late for a meeting, don’t grin. Even more importantly, don’t quote from a movie, unless you’re 100% certain everybody will understand the context.
What do you think? What movie quote could get you into an awkward situation?