Picture it: summer, 1996. I was heading up to New Jersey from Raleigh, NC to visit my friends. I was still driving the PAFmobile, a blue, 1987 Toyota Corolla whose only engine temperature was "overheat", that I had allowed my friends in high school to tag the upholstery with sharpies, and that I had to duct tape the stereo's detachable face to the dashboard in order for it to work.
Early in the nine-hour trip, I was listening to the local morning bozo radio show, and they broke into what appeared to be a Friday-morning habit of singing the "Big Rig" song. It went as follows: Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeres's one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-n
Somewhere around Rocky Mount, my stereo stopped working. I tried resticking the tape, adding more tape, nothing. And so I sat, facing seven more hours of I95, musicless. The long road stretched before me and it wasn't long before my mind wandered to the Big Rig song. By the time I got to New Jersey, I had mastered it, roman numerals and all.
For nearly eleven years, it was what it was: a silly little talent that whose origin story would arise from time to time, but would otherwise never see the light of day. When ever would I need to sing from one to eighteen in roman numerals? Never, apparently, until this past Thursday night.
At the Napoleon Bar in the Paris Casino, the folks in my division and I went to this dinner/party function thing sponsored by one of our partner groups. Great time: good food, open bar - and I mean open, none of this Heineken or Corona/Rail Drinks shit, the guys were going down the line of scotches at the bar and I was drinking apple martinis – and for the entertainment, dueling pianos. The party was fun, but sort of surreal; it was like a wedding, except instead of watching drunken distant relatives embarrass themselves publicly, we watched drunken distant work associates embarrass themselves publicly. Then, a familiar tune started playing. I thought to myself, today's the day.
The piano guys started everyone off easy, singing the entire Big Rig song for everyone to learn. Then they asked the audience to sing along. I looked at my work buddy, and while everyone was singing the numbers, I sang the roman numerals. He blinked at me, confused, and I said it was coming. The piano guys split the room in half, having one side sing odds and one sing evens. I moved up closer to them, where some other friends were sitting. Then they asked if someone could sing it in Spanish. Someone came up and did. Then they asked if someone could sing it in French, and someone did.
Then they started joking around, and said for the finale, they wanted someone to sing it in Italian. I started walking up to the stage. "And not just regular Italian, we're talking oldskool Italian." My walk became a strut, and as he was saying he wanted someone to sing the roman numerals, I tapped him on the shoulder. He snapped around, not expecting anyone to be behind him. I told him I could do it. "You can't do it," he said into the mic, "nobody can do it." I gave him the "fork it over" hand motion, and said again, I can do it. "Awright," he conceded, and gave me the mic with what appeared to be a worry that I would say something completely out of the blue.
I waited for them to play the intro, and on cue sang. Theeeeeeeeere's ei-eiei-eieiei-eivee-vee-veeei-veeeiei-v