Sorry to interrupt, but

by Amandeep Jutla

Sorry to interrupt, but I think I just heard you say that, quote, “Hooked on Phonics worked for me.” Can I get a confirmation? Did you, in fact, say this? You did. I see. But I’m afraid I’m not done yet. Indulge me for a moment, would you? All of you. Thank you.

You know, this has been a difficult night for me. I don’t like parties. I don’t like any of you. Nonetheless I endured. I grinned an idiot grin. I echoed your inane remarks. I drank your disgusting beer. You cannot imagine how difficult this was.

So now, to hear you, whoever you are, whatever your name is — and no, don’t tell me, because I don’t care — say that Hooked on Phonics, quote, “worked for me,” I think I’ve had enough.

Is it rude for me to say all this? Sure. But what you said is ruder. I can’t believe you don’t seem to recognize that. Not one of you so much as raised an eyebrow. Does no one share my outrage?

Hooked on Phonics “worked” for you. This was a joke, correct? You were making an amusing reference that you knew your fellow millennials here would understand. Hashtag just nineties kids things, yes? Languid summer afternoons in front of the television. It’s a funny thing: somehow you don’t remember the shows, but you remember the ads. You remember that child actor’s delighted voice. “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” And who were you to object?

You grew up. You became the mediocrity you are now. You work in quantitative finance. You wear ironic t-shirts. You drink putrid microbrews. Your idea of a joke is a reference to a commercial you used to see years ago, and tonight you trotted out a good one. You laughed, because that’s what you do, you laugh at your own jokes, and so did your interlocutors, because they too are mediocrities.

Hooked on Phonics worked for you. You say that because you don’t understand the dangers of addiction.

You don’t know what happened to those kids. They listened to those Hooked on Phonics tapes, and something happened to their brains. They lost the capacity for language. They read, wrote, and spoke in isolated syllables. They could no longer parse words, much less sentences. They could not comprehend or create meaning. Day and night, they talked to themselves in an incomprehensible babble. There were millions of cases, because this happened to every child who used the product. I can’t believe you don’t remember this.

I suppose you don’t remember the lawsuits, either. The congressional hearings. The angry parents. The murders. The suicides. The memoirs. The supergroup and the charity single they recorded. The failed clinical trials. The wasted research dollars. The sanitoriums. None of those kids recovered. Most are still alive. And you would mock them? Disrespect them with your glib little references? “Hooked on Phonics worked for me.” No. I can’t let that stand. Hooked on Phonics never worked for anyone.