“Wearing a turtleneck is like getting strangled by a really weak guy all day.”
- Mitch Hedberg
I feel the same way about neckties. Kind of silly if you think about it – why do we feel the need to wrap a patterned piece of fabric around our necks as a display of our professionalism or respect? Fortunately I work for a company that doesn’t require me to shop at the local haberdashery regularly or spend a fortune on dry cleaning. Our dress code seems to fall somewhere in between generic white guy businessman casual and hipster internet start-up. That means I mix in a pair of Levi’s with my Dockers and save the assless chaps and hilarious I’m With Stupid t-shirts for the weekend, and I’m on the fast track to associate. If I were to shave and get the right haircut I bet I could make assistant to the senior associate in no time. But I digress.
Unfortunately, about once a month they ill-advisedly send me out in public to represent our firm at various networking lunches, happy hours, soapbox derbies, church carnivals, conferences or trade shows. I’ve already made a living selling out so I dutifully put on my cheap suit and Jerry Garcia tie and trudge off begrudgingly to these events.
The room is typically filled with a bunch of guys who all look the same (graying hair, parted on the side, and about 40 pounds overweight) and have chosen to work in a very unexciting industry but seem to be sticking it out because they have to pay for their kid’s college tuition and their next round of golf.
In addition to my avoidant personality, I don’t have much to say to this group even if I did want to talk to them. I don’t have any kids of my own, so why do I give a crap about yours? No, I didn’t see Tiger’s shot on the 17th hole last Sunday. Yes, I’m very concerned about the worker’s comp premiums going up this year. No, I didn’t see Tiger’s shot on 12 last Sunday. Of course I’d love to help, who wouldn’t want to spend their Saturday with the Community Service committee sorting shoes for the homeless. Will it count toward my court-ordered hours stemming from the disorderly conduct charge after I got caught pissing in an alley after the Supersuckers show?
But I’m a sellout to the highest degree. I make sure I wear a clean shirt, trim my beard, pop a piece of WinterFreshMcSpearmint gum, and shake hands and pretend I want to be there. I bring my business cards and listen politely to what they do. Or more correctly, how they earn a living. We’ve already established that they play golf and talk about their kids. Then I grab a fried wonton or three from the appetizer platter and move on.
There’s usually a presentation which I find somewhat interesting for about five minutes, but people feel the need to stretch that useful five minutes of information into an hour plus. About midway though these presentations I have an existential crisis, in which I question why we’re all here and, more specifically, why I’m choosing to devote any of my gift of life to events like this. But I’m a sellout. So I pretend to read each poorly constructed Power Point slide while masking my pain and thinking about all the other stuff in the world I could be doing if I just grew a pair and somehow got myself a lifetime ban from rented hotel meeting rooms.
Recently I was talking about the upcoming Elton John / Billy Joel concert at Wrigley Field this summer with the staff in our office, and how I can’t understand why anyone would pay more than $12 for a crappy seat at a stadium show to see two guys way past their prime. Elton hasn’t been the same since he started hanging out with Princess Di and got adopted by the royal family, and it took all my effort to give Billy the benefit of the doubt even before he started crashing cars as a hobby. Turns out the same subject came up at a trade association lunch that day – several people at my table were talking about what a great show it was going to be and how they hoped to score tickets. Instead of playing a round of Duck Duck Goose with my steak knife on their heads, I just smiled and asked them to pass the ranch dressing. I’m such a sellout I probably started humming Candle In The Wind to serenade them during their meal.
Back at the office, I’d been requested to dial-in to a conference call with our marketing firm. On each of these, an overly enthusiastic account rep discusses the next phase of our plan during which we’re supposed to oooh and aaaah over their brilliance, but it’s nothing that Moist Rub and I couldn’t have come up with if you just gave us some cheese fries and a couple hours. However, Leper Pop doesn’t have a hip loft office in a trendy neighborhood with a dog roaming around, so don’t mind us.
Their latest idea was to have us put banner ads on the web version of a trade publication. The conversation went something like this:
Brilliant Marketing Firm: So if you go to the website www.boringtradepublication.com and look on the right side of the page you should see an ad for Large Conglomerate, Inc. Is everybody there?
BMF: Are you on the page?
BMF: Then you should see the ad on the right.
Sid: No, I have ad-blocking software so I don’t have to see annoying banner ads.
Sid: Fine, let me disable it.
BMF: So we could design a similar ad for your firm.
Group: Ooooh, aaaaahhh.
BMF: And then we can design a landing page for when they click on the ad.
Group: Won’t it just go to the website we already paid you all that money to design for us?
BMF: No, the ad will tell a story and then the landing page will be a continuation of the story when they click on it.
Sid: Assuming that anyone clicks on it or doesn’t have it blocked.
BMF: We get metrics showing the number of clicks.
Group: Ooooh, aaaaaahhh.
Sid (thinking to self): I give up. The only people clicking the ad are marketing firms to analyze the design, employees after we send them the link to check out, and competitors to see what our marketing firm is doing for us. Yes, the marketing firm that asked me what kind of tree I would use to describe myself.
Sid (aloud): Oooooh, aaaaaahhh.
So to Led Zeppelin (Cadillac), The Who (Cisco, Hummer), Rolling Stones (Microsoft)… I forgive you.