John Joseph Hammel: May He Rest in Peace
Well, here it is, 9:05 AM on a Thursday morning and my friend and colleague, John Hammel (of Random_Squeegee fame), has not yet shown up for work. He knows our office hours are from 9 to 5. Either one of two things have happened: he has either become incapacitated due to a severe injury, or, what is more likely, he is dead. Folks, the full force of this terrible news has yet to sink in. John was only 27 years old and had so much to live for. Excuse me, dear reader, as I attempt to assuage my grief — to make sense of this tragic loss — by sifting through some fond memories of our dear, departed, blogger brother.
It was I who hired him to work for this graphic design studio some five years ago. T’was a wee, shy lad who I let through the door that day, clutching his portfolio case as if he’d never let it go and tripping over a corner of the rug midway though his introduction. He mainly showed me cartoons he had drawn, which indicated the boy had talent. However, I was looking for an intern, not some damned cartoonist, a lackey to answer the phones, run errands and generally pick up after us while keeping out of our way. He was likable, sure, but not very socially skilled. Could I trust this quaking ragamuffin to answer the phones? To be the voice of our company? I gave the matter a half a minute of serious thought after we ended the interview. I then made my firm decision.
However, when no one else applied for the position, I called John up and offered him the job anyway. This was how the conversation went:
ME: Hi, this is Johann Sebastian Schprock of Screaming Cow Meat Processing and Design, Inc. Is this John Hammel?
ME: Oh, hey John. Um, this is about that intern position you applied for?
HAMMEL: Uh huh.
ME: Well, I’m just calling to let you know you got the job.
HAMMEL: Uh huh.
ME: Soooooo . . . can you start Thursday at 9:00 am sharp?
ME: Well, okay. Good. Yeah, well . . . I’ll see you then. Then. I mean, when you get there, I’ll see you. Then.
HAMMEL: Good bye. (click) (dial tone)
An inauspicious start to be sure. And, a week after he started, I had the satisfaction of being proven right: my boss had him taken off the phones and I found myself obliged once again to answer the phone myself.
History will show, however, that John was not a total wash-out. No, far from it. Not only was he a good intern, but he was good entertainment as well. The first time I could see the young fellow had a sense of humor occurred within his first week while I was watching an online cartoon about two college roommates. One roommate was just an average schlub like you and me, but the other was a superhero; he could transform himself into this giant, blue, muscular being who could fly anywhere he wanted and perform amazing feats. When he wasn’t a superhero, he looked just like an average human being, and I mean a total dick of a human being, everybody’s idea of the worst roommate imaginable. Has anybody seen this cartoon? I’ve completely forgotten the name of it. No matter. Anyway, I was showing an episode to John, and he said, yeah, he was acquainted with the series (John, by the way, was acquainted with EVERYTHING on the internet). Then he told me to wait until I got to the later episodes — it was like everybody in the show got hit with a “forget ray,” because things that were true for the beginning episodes, the rules that were followed, were forgotten in the later ones. In other words, there was a continuity problem with the series. But his way of expressing it, calling it a “forget ray,” stuck with me.
Random_Squeegee readers, it turned out that what you’ve read in his blog, those witty, off-beat posts, was really how he thought and talked. I used to tell him he should be a writer for The Tonight Show or David Letterman. I suggested he should have his own stand-up act. Being so shy, he said that if he ever gave such a thing a try, he’d have to do his entire comedy routine with his back to the audience — which, of course, would have been funny! There are many examples of his humor, but right now I’m so torn up emotionally I can’t think of them all. I’ll just give you John’s two standard pick-up lines:
PICK-UP LINE 1: Will you accept my seed?
PICK-UP LINE 2: Drunk yet? No? Okay, I’ll be back later.
That, my friends, is comedy gold. But it is gold that has lost it’s luster, because John Hammel will never (sniff) make us laugh again…
Oh, wait a minute — here he is. I guess he was just late. Never mind.