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Put ’em Away. Put ’em Away. Put ’em Away Now. August 30, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, Uncategorized.

Like most termites eating their way on the pillars of our society, it started out small.

It is what I will lovingly refer to as the “Backatcha” fingers. You’ve seen it. The double thumb pointed up and the two index fingers pointed ala some slow drawing Western dueler. It is usually accompanied by a sound effect,  either a clicking noise of the mouth (always paired with a wink and the sudden bending of the thumbs to represent a gun hammer firing) or a deep throated Oh Yeah. But in rare (and seemingly disastrous) cases, it is accompanied by the words “Right Back Atcha.” Thus branding it for life as the “Backatcha” fingers.

Many scientists (AND NONE OF THIS IS SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN) believe it’s routes lay in Civil War Times, when distressed Confederate soldiers, upset over countless defeats, merely waved their hands in loss. Others say it harkens back to the Revolutionary War when munitions starved Redcoats made sound effects and finger gestures to prove they still had something. Either way, it was born from a necessity to outwit your opponent. Almost an attempt to convince them you had more than you did, much the way Bugs Bunny tricked Elmer Fudd with the old “Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. No, I don’t want to shoot you” trick (which, coincidentally is still a major cornerstone of the Iraq war). And it’s merits were hailed throughout warfare, until the late 1920’s, when people realized you could just as easily fool your opponents by raising a spent gun and making loud “BLAM” noises with Whoopee Cushions.  So, the fingers disappeared and the tactic of fooling your enemies with hand gestures became a long dead art.

Its’ resurgence (and ultimate degradation of society) began in the late seventies when a fictional bartender named Isaac on a little boat full of “Love, exciting and new” brought it back. And they were expecting you. And it would soon be making another run.

Rumors have it that Ted Lange, AKA Isaac, brought them out to manifest his inner turmoil over being the only “brother” on board. He claimed they were a spur of the moment actor device, representing the struggle he went through on the ship. Out of Pina Colada mix? Here’s some fingers to let you know, “That you need to chill because I’m trying my best to keep you happy, Randolph Mantooth.”  Excited you got your Daiquiri? Here are the fingers to say, “Hey, just don’t bring that badness back around when you don’t score with Charo. Because I’ll be loaded and ready.” And the fingers took the nation by storm. Not because of the ease in which they could be deployed, but because they were an all encompassing remark. They could keep you relaxed, put you in your place or in rare occasions, direct you to the Upstairs deck where Vicki was organizing Full Contact Shuffleboard. Ted Lange claims their ownership and because he was always shown being the third most popular mack on the Love Boat (after Captain Stubing and First Mate Jm. J. Bullock), they were soon everywhere.

Hack bartenders began using them first. Trying to emulate the only bartending idol until 1988 (Thank you, Tom Cruise in Cocktail!), they figured it would give them instant cred. They were an easy way out of any situation. They were flirtatious, without being obvious. They were disciplinary, without having to jump over the bar and pummel someone. Most of all, though, they were a symbol of happiness. “Hey,” they seemed to say, “I could shoot you and end your night, but I’m not. Because you are special. Special enough that I risk carpal tunnel every day, so you can feel my chillness.”

And when the masses saw their diversity and almost infallible uses, they picked them up for every day adaptation. They became de rigueur in board meetings when placating the boss, angry at you for botching the new account. They became the perfect goodbye to the girl you picked up on a One Night Stand at Denny’s. And they even found their way back into TV, when the Fonz used them and replaced the extended index fingers with a vocal “Aaaaaaayyyy” that symbolized all that was cool.

Now, if they had ended their reign there, I would have been okay with that. Surely, one must think, finger gestures accompanied by winks cannot be a downfall, can they? But few of us were privy to the genesis of the “Backatcha” fingers. They first made their way up the East Coast, morphing with the “Hook ‘em Horns” sign and the propensity to stick out one’s tongue during a Slayer show to form the devil sign. They even made their way into South Central LA,  when rival gangs reconfigured them and re-established their original negative vibes and turned them into symbols that summed up their anti-establishment views.

And now they are slowly being used by everyone. They replace good old fashioned interaction. When people are faced with an awkward moment that requires them to end a conversation, they chicken out by deploying the fingers instead of internally figuring out just why the awkwardness is present. They’ve even accidentally led to many of our time’s conflicts. Many believe the wars currently ravaging the world began when one countrymen flashed the fingers. The opposing countrymen believed he was “Coming right back, so just stay there,” when the fingers really meant “Hey, stay cool. I gotta go and ride a camel or something.” Miscommunication: just another one of the fingers’ detriments.

In this day and age where we are attacking all forms of decency, even hotel room porn, we must work together to stop the fingers. Sure, it may hurt the bartending industry by making people actually have to take the time to say “Goodbye” and “I’ll be back shortly,” but if they remain, we could be a nation of people clicking and pointing our way to incohesiveness. So put the fingers back in your pockets and try talking.

Or maybe the half-hug, half back pat. That at least involves touch.



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