Leadership / Respect
West Virginia Jokes
Once upon a time, the Army sent me to grad school at The Ohio State University. While I was there, they were doing a major excavation outside my building and I stopped to watch for a minute (hey, work fascinates me!). I struck up a conversation with one of the workers and when I mentioned where I was from, he responded with the toothbrush question.
Always excited to learn something positive about my home state, I leaned in and took the bait. “Yeah, anywhere else they would’ve called it the teethbrush!”
I went silent as I calculated the odds of getting caught after I pushed him into the mammoth hole, whether he would or would not be buried when they filled it, and finally, how it might impact my Army career. Determining the odds were not in my favor, I turned away and went about my business. Yet another Buckeye lives to insult another day.
I grew up in West Virginia and rarely left the state until after high school. I then headed north to West Point, New York to pursue my dream of becoming an Army officer. Made it through the Academy and served for twenty-two years with some success.
I don’t remember where it started, but I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about being a West Virginian. I’ve heard all the jokes. My response as a younger man was to step up to the joke-teller with clenched fists and clenched teeth with some witty comment like, “oh yeah?”
It never really came to blows but I was oh-so-close so many times. Usually the person would take a step back, put their hands up palms out, and say, “hey, no offense, it was just a joke.” It wasn’t to me. Probably should have been, but I’ve written before about hot buttons. West Virginia jokes are definitely one of mine.
Sometimes people witnessing the scene will say things like, “lighten up, man, it was only a joke,” or “dude, don’t be so thin-skinned.” I get it and those people are right to some degree. I DO need to lighten up a little bit and rarely has the “offender” meant the joke mean-spiritedly.
Those thoughts and comments are logical. And that’s the thing about hot buttons: they’re not logical, they’re…