“Hey! Do you know the one about...?”
More often than not, these words uttered on the playground meant that I was about to learn a new, potentially lewd but always exciting, rhyme or song. The idea was thrilling.
“Miss Suzie” provided the excitement of almost saying “hell” without any guilt:
Miss Suzie had a steamboat The steamboat had a bell Miss Suzie when to heaven The steamboat went to — HELL-o operator…
The “Fart Song” was always a hit, with its fast clip and customizable lyrics:
Goin’ down the highwayGoin’ sixty-four(Insert name of friend) let a big oneAnd blew us out the door!
Taking bathroom humor to a new level, the “Diarrhea Song” was decidedly more graphic, yet we didn't have much past the first verse, as nothing really rhymed successfully with “second:”
When you’re sliding into firstAnd your pants begin to burstDiarrhea (noise noise)Diarrhea (noise noise)
And the epitome of the gross-out songs, “Gopher Guts,” usually surfaced around lunchtime as someone peeled open a sandwich bag, quieted only when the lunch duty teacher happened to pass by our seats:
Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher gutsMutilated monkey meatLittle birdy’s dirty feet…
Enough silliness, but the list goes on, and chances are, you have your own versions.
I've found the same thrill returns as an adult when I know I’m about to hear a new story from a co-worker or peer. The subject matter is decidedly different, but the idea of learning about something somewhat secretive—maybe insider info that'll make me better at what I do, or a story of failure that I can learn from —remains just as exciting.
As we move between clients, companies, projects, and teams, there's still a teeming subculture of stories and secrets that pass between us. We tell our tales to show that we’ve been there, we made it, and we’ve lived to pass it on, and if an element of shock helps us remember it and want to share it, so be it.
I won’t claim to be a scholar in the folklore of childhood, but I do know what these little chants and songs meant when we’d recite them. Once you knew the words, and could repeat them to someone else, you were in on something.
Keep telling the stories, keep sharing the ugly details. When necessary, whisper ‘em. But keep these stories moving between us —it’s the only way we’ll all learn and grow. Because we’re all singing the same song, really, if with slightly different lyrics.