Here at Not My Desk, we pride ourselves in taking a democratic approach to answering mail.  Therefore, depending on current workloads, our helpful staff may take turns answering it, or sometimes we may even answer by committee!

(Please note:  Some e-mail will not be posted in its entirety, or may be edited or abbreviated or just plain invented.  So, forget what I just said about democracy.)

Mail for February 7, 2002

First, something that came up in our last sack 'o' mail, the definition of bennies as it relates to people commuting from New York to New Jersey.  Some thoughts from readers:

Bennies, or Shoebees, are people from out of state who go to the Jersey shore for the day. I'm not sure where bennie came from, but Shoebee was from New Yorkers coming to the beach with their lunch packed in a shoebox. Its derogatory, pretty much a local calling a day tourist names for using his beach.


One theory is that they come from the North Jersey areas of Bergen-Edison-Newark. B-E-N. But if that's the case, why are the majority of them from NYC? Another theory is that there was a guy named "Benny" in the '50s who had a thriving business renting out beach umbrellas, and if you walked along the boardwalk during the summer you saw large beach umbrellas with the word "BENNY'S" printed in block letters across them. But the truth is, nobody really KNOWS why the Hell we call them Bennies!! We just always have.


My guess is that it's a corruption of "B 'n T's" (say it out loud), short for "Bridge and Tunnel," an epithet Manhattanites use to describe the unwashed masses from Jersey.


"BENNY" is actually an acronym for Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, and New York . . . for the sake of anyone who might not know, Bayonne, Elizabeth, and Newark are cities in North Jersey.


Acronym: Be Extra Nasty to New Yorkers


Thanks, folks!  And, speaking of unanswered questions:

From:  Kommunist
Subject:  pirates/parrots?

I recently got a parrot, and I taught it to sit on my shoulder all the time, like the pirates in the movies and cartoons. This led me to thinking: Did real-life pirates often keep parrots with them? If so, where did they get the parrots? In the jungle? If not, where did this legend originate, and why?

I sent this question to Cecil Adams at the Straight Dope, and the fink never answered it! What a fink, huh? So I figure, you're a temp, you run a zany comedy website, you must know something about either pirates or parrots. By the way, great site!




Hey, thanks!  As for the pirate/parrot connection, I did a little research by typing some keywords into google.

This led me (as does every google search) directly to some STAR TREK SLASH FICTION, namely, a story about Chekov having weird BDSM sex with a few people, despite his "protests."  A sample:

She pushed his head to one side and planted kisses on his cheek while her fingers unfastened his collar. "Haven't you ever had sex while you were tied up before?"

"No," Chekov answered as she rapidly undid the fastenings down the right shoulder and side of the shirt then pulled the garment aside. "I have not."

"Oh, well, I can't guarantee you'll like it..." She started kissing him on the throat and worked her way slowly down. " least, not at first."

Eccchhhh.  Does anyone really want to think about Walter Koenig being ravaged?  I mean, really?  So, sorry, but I'm not looking any deeper into this parrot thing.  If anyone has any theories, lemme know!


Surfer Bob
I know a pirate/parrot joke:

A pirate and his parrot are marooned in a lifeboat after the pirate ship sinks.  The pirate finds a bottle in the provisions, and, hoping it's rum, he opens it.  A genie comes out, and grants him one wish.

The pirate, unhappy that the bottle didn't contain rum, says: "I wish the entire sea were rum!"  The genie waves his hand, and POOF the entire sea turns to rum.  Then the genie vanishes.

"Oh, good work, genius," says the parrot.  "Now we've gotta pee in the boat."


C. Thomas Howell
I have a pirate joke too!

Why did the parrot go to the R-rated movie?

Oh, wait, uh, why did the pirate go to the R-rated movie?

Because it was rated-- oh, crap.  No, let me start again.

Why did the... okay, this pirate wants to go to the movie, but... shoot.  Wait, it's a movie about a pirate!  Yeah, okay, I got it now.  Uh...


FaceBuilding Lady
Excuse me.

The joke is:

"Did you hear about the new pirate movie?  

It's rated ARRRRRRRR."



From:  Joel
Subject:  ambitious

Dear Chris, 

Iím working a crappy temp job keying dental claims at a large health insurance company. Several of my previous tedious temp jobs were destroyed by my tendency to do math when I get bored. 

There is an important field we have to key with every claim. Itís the document number, a twelve-digit ID that numbers each form consecutively. I have been doing some rough calculations, and Iíve realized something strange: 

- We key about 40 million claims per year
- The twelve-digit number allows for up to one trillion unique document IDs
- At our current rate, we will not run out of numbers for 25,000 years 

Now, consider that 25,000 years ago, humans:

*Had not invented writing
*Had not domesticated animals
*Had not mastered fire
*Possibly had not developed the ability to speak.

I think itís awfully presumptuous to imagine that we will still be using the same procedure to number our dental insurance forms 25,000 years from now.




Joel, I'd love to agree with you, but I can't.

See, it's this sort of short-sighted attitude you have that caused the whole Y2K bug thing.  I mean, 25,000 years from now, some future temp is gonna be sitting at some futuristic desk, staring glumly at the futuristic error message on his futuristic screen:


And you know it'll happen on a Monday morning.


From:  Edmund
Subject:  shaved head benefits

All right, so you shaved your head, but I think you may be overlooking a benefit that temping brings to this. I shave my head every so often (I'm too lazy to go get my hair cut), and every time my coworkers see me with a newly shaved head, each one will say to me: "So you joined the Marines, huh? HA! HA! HA!" 

Their laughter is extra loud because I am small and weak; the only way I could serve in the Marines would be as a sandbag to prop machine guns on. However, since the people in the companies you temp for have never seen you before, and for all they know you *always* have your head shaved, you probably won't get this "joke" all the time. That's a benefit. 

Also, you're clever and funny, and if you could think of a comeback to the damned Marines line, I'd sure appreciate it. I usually just chuckle weakly and mutter, which is not the stinging retort I'd like it to be.




Man.  Nothing worse than a completely unoriginal remark that you don't have a retort to.  Like: "Working hard or hardly working?"  What the hell do you say to that?

Sometimes, it's best to pretend to completely miss the "humor" and respond as blandly and seriously as possible, such as:

"Well... I'm working fairly hard, Frank.  I do work hard most days, but don't get me wrong, I'm no workaholic... still, I feel like I earn my paycheck.  Thanks for checking, though."

So, you might respond with something along the lines of:

"Hm?  No, no... haven't joined the Marines... don't get me wrong, I admire and respect those who serve this country in the armed forces, but I don't feel it's really my calling.  I fully support all branches of the military, though!  It's a tough life, but one quite worthwhile, in my opinion."

You might also try:

"Hey, why don't you blow me, asshole!"


FaceBuilding Lady
While we're on the topic, just a few tips.

Stretching the area around the mouth is very important to prevent wrinkles and lines from forming, but it must be done properly.  Ladies, if you're going to engage in oral sex on a regular basis, there are some-- 



Okay, no.  Stop!  No.  No.

No, we're not going there.


C. Thomas Howell
Dude, shut up!  I totally want to hear this.


Surfer Bob
Dude, yeah.  What the hell's the matter with you.


Um.  Yeah, what the hell is the matter with me?

Please continue.



FaceBuilding Lady
As I was saying.  The area around the mouth is prone to wrinkling, so the musculus mylohyideus must exercised, as well as the musculus platysma.

This is not to be confused with the musculus digastricus, which is the front portion at the inside of the lower jaw!  This is a common misconception, and people are always mixing them up.  While the mylohyideus and the digastricus do work in conjunction with each other, the--




Never mind.  Shut up.


C. Thomas Howell
Dude, what was the URL for that Chekov slash?




Shut up.


Thanks for the e-mail, folks!  Once again, I'm behind on my personal replies, but I will make some time for it this weekend.  Scout's honor!

Got something to say?  E-mail it to:!


Mail for January 23, 2002

From:  Amy
Subj:  benny/bennie?


I was looking at your banners today and I saw the one that reads "no bosses, no badges, no bennies." Interestingly enough, my husband and I were talking about "bennies" yesterday. 

Okay, you're from New York. My husband grew up in New Jersey (I'm a midwestern "gal" myself). The other day in the car, he called someone a benny and I said, "What's a benny?" And he said, "Someone who lives in New York but commutes to New Jersey" or something like that. I can't really remember what he said. But I asked him why they're called that, and he didn't know (so much for using words that you don't know the meaning of, despite the advice Mom gave you). 

He even called his mom, who used the term all the time when they were kids, and SHE didn't know. Do YOU know?




I sure don't, Amy!  I've never heard of a commuter being called a benny, and I don't know why they would be, but luckily, I've got the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G right here!  It lists several meanings for benny:
1) an overcoat (also upper Ben)
2) a straw hat (previously Benjy)
3) a fellow; chap; character
4) a capsule of Benzedrine or a similar amphetamine
5) benzine
6) tanning rays of the sun ('catch some bennies')
7) a benefit or good thing of any sort

Sadly, nothing related to commuting.  Maybe Jersey commuters are tanned, wear straw hats, and are constantly high?  Might explain some traffic patterns!

I also asked this guy, Joe, if he knew, and he didn't.

Speaking of bennies (medical benefits), does anyone do at-home *cheap* appendectomies?  Lemme know.  Quickly.


C. Thomas Howell
It might also interest you to know that 'Benny Boy' is slang for a young male Filipino transvestite.  So, maybe that's what he saw in the car?  Maybe he recognized a young male Filipino transvestite, and then tried to cover himself by inventing this story about commuters?  That's what I do.  Er.  Would do.  That's what I would do.


From:  Sara
Subj:  Christmas

Hello Chris 

I've been an avid reader of notmydesk for many moons - since before I was a temp, during my temping days, and now in my post-temp "retirement" (working for a large company where I have a desk!!!) 

I thought I had to drop you an e-mail to tell you about the Christmas present from my old temp agency. First - I must warn you that my agency is called 'Beavers' - which in itself is amusing! I'm not quite sure how I ended up with them, but Kelly's, Manpower and Blue Arrow were a bit crap.

Anyway - for Christmas they sent me a small package. I thought it would be chocolates or something - but no! They sent a Swiss Army-style knife! How cool was that. Precisesly what every temp needs. I have an implement for bending wire, a screwdriver, a saw, a knife, a corkscrew, some tweezers........what sort of assignments were they planning to send me on!!!!!???? Maybe I was going to have to build my desk?


Beavers... heh heh heh heh.
C. Thomas Howell
Beavers... heh heh heh heh.
Surfer Bob
Beavers... heh heh heh heh.
FaceBuilding Lady

We really need more women on the staff.

Staff... heh heh heh heh.

Er, sorry.  Seriously, though, that's a great gift to get from a temp agency!

The only thing I've ever gotten from an agency was a mug with the name of the temp agency on it.  And it wasn't even a gift, really.

My agent showed up at an assignment I was working, hoping to meet with the HR Manager.  I happened to be working for the HR Manager, who was at lunch at the time.  My agent said "Well, would you tell her I stopped by, and give her this mug with our logo on it, and this calendar with our logo on it, and this calculator with our logo on it, and this cell-phone, and this box of candy, and this free ticket to the opera, and this pile of cash, and these keys to the Porsche outside?"  (I paraphrase, but only slightly; they dropped off a ton of cool junk for the HR Manager.)

Then she kind of looked at me, and said, "Oh, um, you know, we've got an extra mug here... do, uh, you want it?"

I would have loved to have a knife right then.


C. Thomas Howell
Beavers... heh heh heh heh.
From:  Diane
Subj:  Meet the Staff

Hi Chris- 

First thing on the list, thank you very much for entertaining me daily at work. 

And now, the real reason I am writing: You are CUTE! I didn't think you were going to be cute! All those descriptions of your pasty-white-noodle-armed self kept the expectation bar so low that your readers, now seeing your photo, think you are attractive.




Aw, shucks.  Thanks for the compliment!  And for the second, er, compliment.

Yes, it's all been somewhat of a sham.  I'm incredibly gorgeous!  Let it finally be known!

Gosh, I'm attractive.  Damn!

I don't hide it to lower the expectation bar so much as to keep the screaming, adoring women at bay.  I mean, as much as I can.  Some of them still manage to get through, and then they use me for all sorts of incredibly exciting sexual purposes, then cast me aside like so much past-due lunchmeat.  And then I weep.  Well.  Chortle, anyway.

As far as noodly-armed and pasty-skinned goes, well, it's simply not true.  Here's a recent picture, and please be kind, as I've only been hitting the gym about 10 or 12 times a week lately:

I'm glad I can finally be honest about this.  It's as if a great weight has been lifted off my broad, rippling, rock-hard shoulders.  Perhaps by my incredibly strong and manly arms.


FaceBuilding Lady


Oh, please.  Nice try, noodle-boy.  Folks, the only time a woman even walks by him is by random chance, and when it happens, I have to help him lift his eyebrows.  That's how weak he is.

Speaking of which, lifting your eyebrows can cause unsightly wrinkles.  I'd avoid doing so unless it's absolutely necessary!

C. Thomas Howell
Beavers... heh heh heh heh.


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