I learn all kinds of things when I am researching an Office episode for “Scrantonicity,” and “Work Bus” is no exception. For instance, I was not at all aware of the “Shabooya Roll Call,” used in the 1996 Spike Lee movie “Get On The Bus.” How embarrassing, because apparently the entire Dunder-Mifflin staff from li’l ol’ Scranton, Pa was familiar with the “Shabooya Roll Call.” Well, I’m aware of it now. So… (ahem)… “My name is Bobby… and with simplicity… I bring y’all… this Scrantonicity… roll call!” (never mind roll call… roll eyes)
Well, now that I’ve established my, uh… “street cred,” let’s get down to it… Is there any Scrantonicity to be found in “Work Bus?” As usual lately, there’s a little… and a lot of missed opportunities. For starters, Jim sketches out a romantic scenario to Pam, where he will drive her up to “the lake.” And then the name of the lake is never mentioned. Existing area lakes that have been name-dropped on previous Office episodes include “Lake Wallenpaupack,” where the “Booze Cruise” was supposed to have taken place; and Lake Scranton, where the “Beach Games” would have been played if indeed there was a public beach at that private reservoir. Lake Scranton is also where Michael Scott drove his car, following his GPS system in “Dunder Mifflin Infinity.” But this “romantic getaway” lake is a mystery. Could it be Crystal Lake? Promised Land? Gouldsboro? Harvey’s Lake? Goose Pond? At least they could have thrown us a bone, and given us a highway route number to work with!
I’m going to offer an educated guess, and say this mystery lake is in the Poconos; mostly because that seems like the likely location of a charmingly hokey roadside stand such as “Laverne’s Pies… Tires Fixed Also.” My memories of family car trips through the winding roads of the Poconos include lots of those family-owned roadside stands, with hand-painted signs with misplaced apostrophe’s. (like that one) Not surprisingly, a Google search of “Laverne’s Pies” does not reveal any businesses in Scranton. It does reveal a catchy song by that title, by a hammered dulcimer player named Sam Rizzeta. (The dulcimer is hammered, not Sam… uh, at least, I don’t think.) Anyway, a Google search also brings up “pies in Laverne, California.” Laverne is a town not that far from Van Nuys, where the Office originates from. That could very well be a shout-out from one of the writers, or an “inside joke” that (like Michael Scott) I’ve always wished I could be part of.
Another memory of those long-ago family road trips through the Poconos involves quirky roadside statuary; oddball attractions, such as the big chicken featured in “Work Bus.” On a weird hunch, I Googled “roadside chicken statue,” and this very same poultry-geist appeared! This one is located in Duncannon, Pa, a town I’d never heard of. It’s about 100 miles southwest of Scranton, outside of Harrisburg; far enough so that it must be just a coincidence as far as the show is concerned. And oddly enough, this chicken is listed as being “for sale” on the website. Did “The Office” buy it and have it transported to California? Or are there several copies of this particular model of chicken on the market? They are “birds of a feather,” aren’t they?
Speaking of oddball roadside attractions, here’s a related one from Western Washington. Several times a year, my wife and I take the Amtrak train from Seattle to visit Portland, Oregon. The tracks run right by the “largest egg in the world,” in Winlock, Wa. Which begs the question: which came first? The Duncannon, Pa chicken, or the Winlock, Wa egg?
Anytime The Office takes place outdoors, the surrounding scenery is a factor. The show usually does an OK job of making southern California stand in for the much more verdant northeastern Pennsylvania. It will never look really authentic, but they do take the trouble to set the camera angles “just right,” and to at least edit out the palm trees. The views from the bus and at the pie stand were somewhat “acceptable.” But the absolute lack of any fall color in the trees is jarring. C’mon guys… it’s October! Some stock footage, a special effect or two, maybe a colored filter on the camera… Is that askin’ too much?
Finally, we’ve got some local product placement to point out. That’s good ol’ Wegman’s Popcorn that Jim uses as a prop. And since it is in the blue box, that means it is lightly buttered and lightly salted; Way to go, Jim, in your attempts to control your high blood pressure! Also, on Dwight’s desk is a dark red coffee cup with a white logo. It took me a while to figure this out, but it is from a Sheetz convenience store. Andy has a beige coffee cup on his desk, but I can’t make out the tiny print, which tends to go out-of-focus when I freeze the frame. There are several boxes of Bigelow Tea arranged on top of the break room microwave, which were’t there previously. And then, to wrap this up, there is the “work bus” itself. The bus is clearly marked as “Mobil-Exec.” This is a great name for a company that provides “work buses” to the masses, but I haven’t been able to find any Google listings as such, either in the Scranton area, or California… or anywhere. So that name “Mobil-Exec” must be made up specifically for the show. Another “inside joke?” If so, like Michael Scott, I think we’d all love to be part of one, someday.
Oh, and here’s one final final oddity. To research “Scrantonicity,” I often go to the “Scranton Times” news website. Today’s headline in the Times refers to the logo that is seen above Daryl’s head back at Dunder Mifflin in “Work Bus.” That would be the Snö Mountain Ski Resort, just outside of Scranton. They, uh… are just about to file for bankruptcy. So… I do believe that’s it’s all downhill from here.
~ Bobby … Roll call!