Minimum John

What behaviors are your friends referencing when they snicker and mutter ‘Minimum John’ after you turn your back and head to the bathroom every time the check comes? Cheap, lazy, friends are kind of awesome in their brazenness. One of Ali‘s closest friends — his former roommate — was our template for Minimum John. I spent my teen years and much of my 20s in the vicinity of John. This is the list compiled on a now ancient laptop, years ago, of characteristic examples of the minimal effort John expends in life.

A) He would never offer to pay for anything but he would always ask that you spot him for lunch because I don’t want to break a ten.’

B) His excuse for not putting the toilet seat down when Ali’s wife would request it: “It’s not my fault. There’s something about this house that makes me forget to put the toilet seat down.”

C) Even though he was broke, he once quit a temp job ‘on principle‘ after being ordered not to wear headphones while on the job.

D) During his late twenties, when his girlfriend would broach the subject of having a child together, he would answer “I don’t want to have a child. I am a child.” When he was in his late thirties, he would declare “I don’t want to have children. I’m too much of an artist. Artists can’t have children.”

E) When he and my cousin were roommates, he wouldn’t buy toilet paper or paper towels. Finally, he did shell out for them once and never let anyone forget about those six rolls, behaving as if he had purchased a year’s supply.

F) Often reminded people of the time he once worked out in high school. “If I bothered to work out, I’d be really strong.”

G) When John would “borrow”Ali’s shampoo, he would replace it with water so the shampoo bottle seemed just as full as it was before. He didn’t think anyone would notice the diluted watery shampoo.

H) Self-pity at maximum, refers to self as “Poor John.”

I mentioned the concept of Minimum John at work the other day, and a hush fell over the bullpen. Suddenly everyone started talking at once about their friends (often referring to one another), spitting out vitriolic accounts of the other’s cheapness. Some of them lost it so completely that they couldn’t speak in complete sentences and their sputtering stories made no sense. I emailed a few friends to ask about their Minimum John experiences and I received long accounts about people who do nothing for themselves yet who expect their friends to pick up the slack. I will say this: pretty much everyone I asked copped to some Minimum John behavior, though no one I know really compares to the original. Dat and I discussed some infamous ‘Minimum John’ behavior this weekend, however, I’m afraid that were I to relate those anecdotes to the public I would permanently alienate some of my regular readers.

I always liked the original Minimum John who is out there temping somewhere (New Jersey or some similar hell, I think). We’d go to bookstores together and he’d give me definitive opinions on authors he’d never read; opinions based on what he’d read about in the Weekly or based on the back covers of their books. I recall that he was once breathtakingly eloquent about (the back covers of) Edward Said’s books. He did master a musical instrument, which was the keyboard — not too complicated. Still, he is a talented keyboardist. Wherever John is now, I wish him well and hope he’s got a solid ten stashed in his pocket.

‘Minimum John’ needs to enter the American lexicon, so please include it in your active vocabulary. If you have any ‘Minimum John’ stories, post them in the comments. Stories about the original John are especially welcome.


9 Responses to “Minimum John”

  1. Mi Kyung Says:

    Do you remember WW? Whenever we went out, she would estimate the number of hours the outing would “suck up” and multiply them by her hourly wage at Rieber. Just to point out how much “having fun” was costing her. Or how much she could’ve made if she’d worked instead.My limit was reached one night when the group was figuring out the bill after dinner. She insisted that we each pro-rate tax and tip. And promptly whipped out her tiny calculator to figure it all out. This was at the Old Spaghetti Factory, in front of the waiter. We all wanted to die.

  2. darknessatnoon Says:

    How could I forget her? Remember, I worked alongside her and I had never before met anyone so satisfied with her unnecessary cheapness. I do remember that little calculator. I only needed to see it come out once and that was the last time I went out to dinner with her.

  3. Zed Says:

    I think Joe Matt’s The Poor Bastard might be the definitive self-portrait of the Minimum John.

  4. darknessatnoon Says:

    So true. Painful, but true.

  5. Husky Pearl Says:

    DAN, You just made me almost pee my own pants. I recall a sinister behavior of MJ. Once he grabbed and twisted my Gap sweater (that I was wearing) til it pinched me and hurt me because I was taunting him with a photo of your cousin and his ex-girlfriend. And once, during a tender moment, he cried and told me that it was too late for him to have love and relationship. At 34 (or whatever) the poor dear had already expired. Poor dear…”Poor John,” in his own words.

  6. darknessatnoon Says:

    “Poor John”… beautiful. I have to add that to the list of Minimum John qualities.

  7. Victoria J. van Dijk Says:

    I’m not sure if this counts as Minimum Johnism, but I think in its thorough perverseness it does. When my late and severely demented sister–remember the one who wrote me a hate e-mail because I used a semi-colon in a message?–was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, she refused chemotherapy. It was not because she just wanted to die peacefully, but rather because the regimen the doctors prescribed involved steroids, and she wasn’t about to take any drugs that could damage her health.

  8. Victoria J. van Dijk Says:

    By the way, I think the story about my sister was the repressed memory that momentarily surfaced but vanished before I could tell you during our conversation earlier this week.

  9. darknessatnoon Says:

    victoria, I’m not sure if it count, but major points to it counting if she felt sorry for herself because she had chosen to die. Husky Pearl made me feel a little sorry for John (“Poor John”) for a second, until I thought about him hurting her with her own shirt.

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