Monday, August 11, 2003

A brief interruption as we ponder the meaning of the word "tool"...

A debate erupted over e-mail concerning a question of great import to all snarky snipers out there. The question is this: what's the difference between a tool and your run-of-the-mill dork or geek?

From SlangSite:
Tool: One who is useless AND idiotic in all aspects at any given time.

By that definition, the tool is demonstrably a lower form in any taxonomy of losers. The dork may be socially inept, but s/he can be endearingly so and not necessarily useless in other respects. The geek is simply obsessive about uncool things. Not especially offensive in and of itself, it's actually kinda chic to be a geek these days. Or at least it's chic to wear your geekiness on your sleeve, especially if you aren't actually a total dork.

The tool is much more pernicious. Nobody will cop to being a tool. Nobody wants to associate with a tool. But as commonly used (or as used by me), the word tool isn't applied to just any harmless dumbass. For one thing, only guys can be called tools. And there's something actually malevolently off-putting about the tool; he just tries too hard. The tool wears too much gel. He's waving around way too many glowsticks. He smirks in an especially creepy way right after he tells some gauche off-color joke. In short, the tool isn't just useless, he's useless *and* unctious. (Alternatively, the tool is useless and too earnest, like Luke the farmboy at the beginning of Star Wars.)

Peter Gallagher's Real Estate King in American Beauty is a classic tool. Larry from Three's Company is something of a tool. The "devastating" Wallace Shawn from Woody Allen's Manhattan is probably the funniest example. The ultimate tool, though, is Ben Asslick, I mean, Affleck. Pretty much charisma-free and talentless, Asslick's stardom and way with the ladies have flummoxed all right-thinking men and women out there. One can't help but conclude, while watching Boring Ben summon that constipated brow-furrow look on screen, that this stiff frat-boy, this tool, just lucked into it.

That element of incomprehensible success, especially with women, is what makes a tool a tool. He's the witless boyfriend of the co-worker who's always "accidently" brushing her bosom against your arms. He's the neanderthal mate of your best female friend, the asshole about whom she whines for hours on end yet somehow maintains a magnetic hold on her. He's the super-earnest bumbler who your last girlfriend is now dating [ed. no, I'm really not alluding to anyone, J]. In short, he's the other guy. Not the other guy when he's Cary Grant, but the other guy when he's Ralph Bellamy. Sometimes, when confronted with a tool, all you can do is throw your hands up in the air and just declare, "man, that guy is such a tool."

Trust me, it's good therapy.