1. That is pretty nasty stuff. His staff must really hate him to want the police to “wellness check” (code for “murder”) him.

    Stuart isn’t the owner of the company, is he? Doesn’t he report to somebody?

  2. I think Singapore Bill is getting at the idea of “SWATting” someone. Though they all dislike his management style, I’m quite sure that isn’t the intended message behind the “wellness check”.

    There is perhaps a connection between his disappearance and the rumors of the Grumbel’s chain closing. Also wasn’t he acting oddly during his “work a day at the store” exercise?

  3. Not that I recall – he dressed up to match, then spent the day in the office avoiding work. Very Stuart.

    My impression of “wellness check” is “ask the police to go see if he’s dead (or at least fallen and can’t get up)”. When I was on the board of my condo we had to do (call the police to do) a couple of those – though the worst they found was someone with a bad cold who hadn’t left the house for four or five days.

    I don’t know about Winkerbean territory – you’re supposed to empathize with the people who die and those left behind grieving. I don’t think any of the regular characters would actually miss Stuart. I’m hoping he’s not on a leadership retreat meant to set him up for promotion (or something similar) – he’s only a district manager now, he could be even worse (though more distant) at a higher rank.

  4. jjmcgaffey, do you sympathize with anybody in the Winkerbean cast? I’d rather deal with Stuart than Les any day of the week.

  5. However many people get shot while responding to a wellness check with a weapon in hand, the vast, vast majority of such checks end without violence. It’s absurd to think that’s what the Retail characters are thinking.

  6. Yeah, a wellness check is SUPPOSED to be benevolent. Whether it works out that way or not is another matter.

    Stuart is the much (and deservedly) -hated district manager, as LazarusJohn notes. He calls and tells them things like “You have to make quota this month”, or shows up to “help” and does nothing. You know, a PHB.

    Few if any of this strip’s dailies are thigh-slappers, but the ongoing narrative isn’t bad; I follow it (thanks to someone here, I believe).

  7. I’ve never heard “wellness check” used in any other than a positive context, but the discussion does bring to mind the classic joke:

    Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says, “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, “OK, now what?”

  8. i wonder if Norm Feuti is planning to end Retail soon. Lately there have been hints of Grumbel’s going out of business. Now Stuart seems to have disappeared (fired, maybe?) It makes for an interesting storyline that mirrors what’s actually happening to department stores across the USA – but can the strip reinvent itself in the brave new shopping world? Or are its days numbered?

  9. DanV, Rumbles about grumbles closing? Or maybe he’s planning to have Marla jump ship to another store, only to find that’s where Stuart went.

  10. Re: CIDU Bill

    [blockquote]Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says, “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, “OK, now what?”[/blockquote]

    I believe that joke has the distinction of being voted the “World’s funniest joke”:

  11. IIRC, at one time the top joke in England was Holmes and Watson camping, and, in the middle of the night, Holmes asks Watson to look up and tell him what he sees. I’m American, but it’s one of my favorites.

  12. The funniest joke in the world starts out “Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer?”

    If I told you the rest of it I would get in trouble for murder.

  13. B.A. Where are you reading that already lets you see Friday’s strip? Or was that just a little bit of wishful thinking?

  14. Getting back to Retail: There have been hints in the strip that Grumbel’s is in financial trouble, and that Stuart may have already jumped ship. The strip may be headed not to Winkerbean territory, but Calvin and Hobbes territory.

  15. All this reminiscing about funny jokes without actually telling them reminds me of the joke about the prison inmates who had all long time gone told and retold all the jokes they knew so that they now just had numbers — when they reminisced, they just needed to say “number 13” for everyone to break out laughing…

    What did Watson see? And what about the blind man and his dog?

  16. lark: “What did Watson see?”

    Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and go to sleep.

    Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

    “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

    Watson replied, “I see millions of stars.”

    “What does that tell you?”

    Watson pondered for a minute.

    “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.”
    “Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.”
    “Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.”
    “Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant.”
    “Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.”
    “What does it tell you, Holmes?”

    Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke: “Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!”

  17. Simpler variant on the Holmes joke:
    “Watson, isn’t it rather early in the year to be wearing long woolen underwear?”
    “Astounding, Holmes! How did you deduce that?”
    “Elementary. You forgot your trousers.”

    “Retail”, in the time I’ve been reading it, is in perpetual brick and mortar twilight. On a regular basis over the years there have other stores closing, bad news about the rest of the mall and warnings of layoffs, but the axe never falls all the way. A bit like Dilbert’s company, which despite perpetual failures, probably illegal activities, hostile takeovers and ill-considered mergers, as well as profound changes in the workplace, still offers security to griping middle-aged engineers.

  18. WW, thanks for that posting. Now I don’t have to search for a good version of the Holmes and Watson joke on the web.

  19. Bill: Presumably there are different versions (my version was just copy-and-pasted from the web). But I think it works about equally well either way.

  20. I don’t remember ever hearing or seeing a version of the joke that mentioned a tent until the punchline.

  21. In my youth, I liked to camp in the winter. Often I would just sleep in the open by the fire. The only tent I allowed myself when needed was a pup tent made from a tarp.

  22. Bill: The joke is that Watson is so stupid that he missed the obvious – that the tent was stolen. That works OK for me even if the listener hasn’t been told that, so hasn’t had a chance to miss it.

    (Also, while “camping” perhaps doesn’t strictly imply “tent,” or some other shelter, like Arthur I would take it as usually implied.)

  23. WW, yes that’s the joke, and I don’t see that anybody was missing it. But that’s also why WE need to have a chance at seeing why his highfalutin attempts were so far off — while he is trying them, not just after that, with the punchline.

    I agree it might be better to not need the plant to involve the literal word “tent”. But just saying they’re camping is not really enough. Maybe a replacement synonym would work, but so far ideas like “shelter” feel even more awkward.

  24. I can’t get away from the thought, ‘Sherlock Holmes and Watson, CAMPING?’ Tent or no tent, I can’t get past the incongruity of that first thought.

  25. I can’t get away from the thought, ‘Sherlock Holmes and Watson, CAMPING?’

    Sure, camping — it up.

  26. It’s a joke, not a murder mystery, With a mystery, the reader or viewer tries to solve the crime given the clues that have been revealed during the story, and it’s considered cheating for the solution to be based on relevant facts that were withheld. The purpose of a joke is to be funny, and most jokes rely on an element of surprise that depends on something relevant being withheld until the end.

    That the reader is expected to backfill the story doesn’t make it less funny, and any early mention of the tent risks spoiling the punchline.

    A joke works best when the audience only “gets it” on the last syllable.

  27. I looked up the joke a few days ago and there was a comment in which someone said the better version of the joke was such and such and posted the same joke but with a bit at the beginning where Holmes and Watson go into a tent to sleep. The rest plays the same.

    That is not a better version. That is a joke made by someone who doesn’t know how to write a joke. A joke works by subverting expectations. When you say “Holmes and Watson”, we have an expectation of an interaction in which Watson, bless his heart, is shown up as a bright but stunted intellect, left in the mental dust by his genius companion. As Watson goes through his list of observations we are, as always, impressed by how much he has observed. We expect, however, that Holmes will show him up with an incredibly astute observation that makes intricate connections and draws conclusions that astound. That it is the most rudimentary observation, that the tent has been stolen, is BAM!, the shock, the unexpected, and that is the humour.

    To say at the beginning of the joke that they go into a tent to sleep is the equivalent of one of those people who botch a joke by saying the punchline first.

    Camping in no way requires a tent, though a tent can make it more comfortable/survivable.

    swazoo makes a great point in bringing up the rules around different types of storytelling. If it were a straight mystery story, leaving out the detail that a tent existed is a cheat. In the joke, it is essential for the story to have a proper impact.

  28. Interesting. I was just telling Mrs.SingaporeBill the joke, as it is written above by Winter Wallaby and as as soon as I read the line ‘Watson replied, “I see millions of stars.”’ she interrupted and asked “What about the tent?”

    Can this marriage be saved?

  29. Yeah, just don’t ever go camping. With or without tent.

    Hubby and I went camping once; after one night, we went home and sold all the camping equipment we’d purchased. Never again; after that, ‘camping’ meant staying at Holiday Inn instead of a nicer motel.

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