So…The Tattoo

Probably the most talked about thing at Cisco Live, at least from my perspective, was this little joke that took on a life of its own.  Since a lot of people asked about it, and since it still keeps popping up all over the place, I figured I’d take the time to say something about it.

In the World of Solutions (WoS), Cisco usually has a lounge for any Cisco Certified individuals to come in and chat and hang out.  A couple of years ago, they started making the CCIEs go into this lounge to get their silver CCIE ribbon for their badge holder.  This usually means there is a long line of CCIEs waiting to pick up their shinies.  This year, Cisco hired an airbrush artist to put fake CCIE logo tattoos on any CCIE that wanted one.  You could get the basic new CCIE logo, or a specific logo with any track name, such as Routing and Switching or ISP Dial.  People started getting tattoos put on their arms and calves right away.  Some people, like Marko Milivojevic, got two tattoos on each arm for his dual CCIE accomplishments.  I skipped getting at tattoo on Monday night, due to the long line and the desire to get as many codes as I could for the Destination Collaboration game (which I ended up winning on day one).

The next day (Tuesday), I was just getting out of a class and decided to go back to the WoS to pick up a few t-shirts and other pieces of swag.  Along the way, I saw a tweet from Mr. Tugs aimed at the Learning@Cisco people asking if anyone had gotten the “tramp stamp” CCIE tattoo yet.  From Wikipedia:

lower back tattoo is a body decoration, sometimes intended to emphasize sexual attractiveness. Such tattoos have become popular since the late 1990s. They are sometimes derided as suggestive of promiscuity and often referred to as “tramp stamps”[1] and other slang terms.[2] The German term Arschgeweih can be translated as ‘ass antlers’. Such tattoos are primarily seen on women, although a small but increasing number of men have them as well.

While the lower back is not the widest area of the human back, it has abundant space for a large design and horizontal tattoo designs can be worked easily. In contrast to the abdomen, which is otherwise a similar location, the lower back does not stretch significantly during pregnancy or other weight gains, thus providing a more stable site for a design. Lower back tattoos are often left uncovered by individuals wearing crop tops that are designed to expose the midriff and low-rise jeans that are worn low around the hips.

For those that might not be too familiar with the term “tramp stamp”.  At first it appeared to be a joke in good fun, pointing out that since the majority of attendees are male, the possibility of someone getting a tattoo in an area usually associated with someone feminine was out of the question.  The Cisco Learning folks decided to up the ante by offering a free t-shirt to the first person to get said tattoo in the lower back region.  As I walked into the Certification Lounge, I asked if anyone had gotten it yet, and I was told that no one had.  Julia, the Certification lady, asked if I was thinking about going for it.

To take a moment here to explain my thinking…I was pretty sure this would be a funny little joke for everyone.  I couldn’t care less about the position of the tattoo.  I figured Learning@Cisco would tweet about it and my name would get attached to it somehow.  My friends would have a good laugh about it and I’d be on the receiving end of some good-natured ribbing about it for the next couple of days.  I’ve been known to do silly things before, so this wasn’t entirely out of character for me.  However, the confluence of events rose to make this somewhat of the Perfect Tramp Stamp Storm.

Once I had committed to getting said tattoo, Marko walked over and said that if I would get it, he would get it too, provided there was a t-shirt in it for him as well.  Once he got the green light for his t-shirt, we went about the business of getting stamped.  When I looked up halfway through the process, I noticed a bunch of my friends sitting on the couches in the Certification Lounge.  What was originally going to be a bit of a shock to them turned into them crowding around to see and start taking pictures.  I was doomed from the moment I stood up.  A couple of quick photos followed while Marko got his matching tattoo.  Once we had completed the process, Julia asked us for a quick picture so she could tweet it out to the world to show that two CCIEs had stepped up and sacrificed a little dignity for a t-shirt.  When she posted the pic to twitter, she not only used the conference hashtag of #cl11, but she also appended the hashtag #CCIE2011, which was to be used for pictures taken at the CCIE party that night.  This was the beginning of the end.

As word spread about the tattoo, the picture kept getting retweeted over and over again.  Because the hashtag for the CCIE party pictures was embedded in the original tweet (and subsequent retweets), the picture kept popping up on the monitors at the party.  It wasn’t all that uncommon to see the picture three or four times in a row while walking around the party.  It ended up being so popular that Carlos Dominguez put it up on the big screen during his introduction at the Wednesday keynote by Padmassree Warrior.  He said it was his favorite picture at Cisco Live so far and he called Marko and I “two of our brightest CCIEs”.  For Marko and I, this was praise enough to make it worth it.

The picture keeps cropping up even a week later, as people find it and retweet it or my friends keep bringing it back up as a punchline in a joke.  Frankly, I’m more than amused.  If my jovial behavior during Cisco Live didn’t already make me popular, going to the lengths that I did to get my backside up on a giant screen in front of 15,000 live guests and who knows how many thousand around the world virtually sealed the deal.  I’ll always be known as the “Tramp Stamp CCIE”.  And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Tom’s Take

Never be afraid to make an ass out of yourself.  It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there and to be ready to weather the storm of criticism and jeers.  I’m pale and a little chunkier than I could stand to be.  I’m also not afraid to have fun and use some self deprecation to accomplish good humor.  If all I’m ever known for is one famous tattoo, I can die a happy man.

Should you really want to see the evidence of my little bit of humor, I’ll link to it rather than putting the pictures in this post.  Be aware, though, that what has been seen cannot be unseen.  Do not observe my paleness while under the influence of medication or while operating heavy machinery.  My back has been known to cause blindness and discomfort in test subjects and small children.  Do not expose yourself to these pictures for more than a few minutes.  Should your find yourself with blindness lasting for more than four hours, please consult a physician.

With that out of the way, check out my tattoo HERE (thanks Amy and Greg) and HERE (Thanks Learning@Cisco).

14 thoughts on “So…The Tattoo

  1. Glad you had fun with it.

    There are too many engineers who take themselves too seriously.

    If I had been there, you most likely would have had another partner in crime.

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  3. What happens in Vegas stays… on Facebook and Twitter 🙂

    I’m just like Tom – when we did it, I expected some fuss avout it, but I had no idea this would turn us into Live celebrities.

    Again, being calked “one of the smartest CCIEs” wa worth a bit of my pride 😉


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