Thursday, July 10, 2014
Four decades ago, I was the manager of a corporate department that frequently needed temporary secretarial help. By far, the two best secretaries I ever hired were a young Mormon and a retired U.S. Marine. Since then, in the course of business, I’ve met other Mormons and Marines, all superior producers. I’m self-employed now, and that’s probably a good thing, because corporate types tell me that nowadays managers can be fired for noticing differences in productivity.
I used to patronize a certain long-established local printing company. One day in 2008 when I was picking up my letterhead and envelopes, the saleswoman announced, “We’re a green printer now.” This mature, practical, capable woman whom I had known for many years was disturbingly out of character; she was wearing a dreamy, cultish expression and her voice was ethereal and creepy. A few months later, the owner suddenly laid everyone off, closed the business and sold the presses. Coincidence? I don’t know; nobody from the company would talk publicly about anything.
Do you remember this? Customer service reps who asked you for your telephone number would read it back to you, to check whether they had typed it correctly. Well, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of reps don’t bother to do that any more. And the ones who do bother will read back only the last four digits. Sometimes, when I’m not in a hurry, I’ll experiment. I’ll say, “No, my number is not 2789. It’s 603-279-2789.” Usually, the rep will respond, “Right. 2789.” Or sometimes, “2789. Right.” I call these people “The Oblivitons” – short for “oblivious automatons.”
We writers are usually chagrined (I know I am) whenever we learn that we have committed a fallacy – that is to say, whenever we make a mistake that’s so common it actually has a name. The fact is, we don’t want to be common in any way. Like Luisa in The Fantasticks, we pray, “Please, God, please, don’t let me be normal!”
The Takeaway: Be here now.