My health problems are mostly cleared up — thanks to everyone for the kind thoughts! But now I’m going out of town to visit friends for the holiday weekend. I’ll try to blog when I’m away, but I can’t promise anything: this blasted blog break may have to go on a couple/few more days. (Driving me up a tree, I tell you. I hate not blogging.)
So in the meantime, let’s play a game! There’s a trope in popular songs that’s been tickling me recently, and I’m trying to come up with more examples of it. It’s the “Inappropriate Disclosure to Service or Retail Personnel” trope, in which the singer of the song tells the sad/ hopeful story of his or her love life to postal carriers, airline ticketing agents, telephone operators, and other government or commercial representatives who almost certainly care not about the singer’s love life, even in the slightest amount.
The quintessential example may be Please Mr. Postman, originally by The Marvelettes, covered by The Carpenters, The Beatles, and probably everyone else on Loki’s green earth, including Captain Beefheart and Snoop Dogg:
Please Mister Postman, look and see
If there’s a letter in your bag for me
(Please, Please Mister Postman)
Why’s it takin’ such a long time
For me to hear from that boy of mine
There must be some word today
From my boyfriend so far away
Pleas Mister Postman, look and see
If there’s a letter, a letter for me
I’ve been standin’ here waitin’ Mister Postman
For just a card, or just a letter
Sayin’ he’s returnin’ home to me
Adding to the entertaining inappropriateness of the disclosure, we have the bonus inappropriateness of blaming the service personnel for the emotional distress (“So many days you passed me by/ See the tears standin’ in my eyes/ You didn’t stop to make me feel better/ By leavin’ me a card or a letter”). Giving the song, from the postal carrier’s viewpoint, that extra piquant touch of annoyance.
Then we have The Letter, originally by the Box Tops, covered by Joe Cocker:
Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain’t got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home,
‘Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter.
Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no mo’.
Listen mister can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once a-mo’–anyway…
Dude: The agent at the airline ticket counter doesn’t care why you want the ticket. They just need to know what city you’re going to, and if you have any baggage to check, and if any people unknown to you have given you items to carry.
I can’t go on about this trope without mentioning Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree —
Bus driver, please look for me
‘Cause I couldn’t bear to see what I might see
I’m really still in prison, and my love she holds the key
A simple yellow ribbon’s what I need to set me free
I wrote and told her please:
— in which the singer seeks a sympathetic ear from, of all people, the prison bus driver.
And when I mentioned this trope to Ingrid, she immediately came up with one of the very best: Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels), by Jim Croce:
Operator, oh could you help me place this call
You see the number on the matchbook is old and faded
She’s livin’ in L.A.
With my best old ex-friend Ray
A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated
Isn’t that the way they say it goes
But let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So i can call just to tell them I’m fine and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels
This one wins some sort of prize for “Highest Ratio of Inappropriate Disclosure to Actual Request for Service.” And Croce definitely gets bonus points for spending two verses and two choruses telling the operator all about his sad love life… and then changing his mind and deciding he doesn’t want to place the phone call after all.
So what other ones am I missing? I know I’m forgetting some important and obvious ones: I know, for instance, that there have got to be songs about inappropriate disclosure to train conductors and other railway personnel. Help me out, y’all!
BTW, I’m going to impose an arbitrary limit here, and rule out disclosures to bartenders. In theory because it could be argued that listening to people drone on about their love lives is an implicit part of a bartender’s job; but mostly for the practical reason that if we don’t rule out bartenders, we’ll be here all day. Let’s play!