Friday, April 06, 2007

Hell In A Handbasket


Bear with me on this, because it's going to ramble. And it has nothing to do with Freemasonry. It's one of those late-40s moments when you start pondering on the End Of Civilization As We Know It – proof that you're old, I guess.

Episode 1

I'm strolling through the grocery store, and at every other aisle I meet up with the same people walking ahead of me, with their backs to me. One is clearly a mom, and the sort of mom who obviously wanted to be her daughter's best friend, but got stuck with being a parent instead. Still, she's dressing young, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say she probably wears some of her daughter's clothes just to remain hip and young. Or young-ish.

Daughter is at most 16, if that. The girl is wearing a spaghetti-strap top that bares the industry-standard three inches of midriff all the way around, and she's got on a pair of low-riding sweat pants. The combination of the two is designed so that no one walking behind her can fail to miss the tattoo (known colloquially as a "tramp stamp") at the place where her spine and her rump are joined . Below that, in screaming hot pink that is bright enough to be spotted from low earth orbit, is the top edge of her thong underwear (known colloquially as a "whale tail") rising up from the edge of her sweat pants. And, just to make sure that every person in the place was looking at her butt, the sweat pants were adorned in 200 point type with the word "Juicy!" emblazoned across both cheeks.

In spite of the fact that the 40s are when women think it's their last chance to have children, while men think it's their last chance to date them, I'm no child molester. But catching myself reading suggestive messages on a teenaged girl's backside suddenly makes me feel like I'm the deviant here, instead of her mom clearly having no problem with her daughter's choice of outfit. Worse, there are more than a few middle schools and high schools in the area plastering their school or team name similarly across the butts of pre-adolescent girls, guaranteed to make sure all eyes stare at the swinging tail of a 12 or 13 year old girl.

Is this right?




Episode 2

Our lodge got tagged with graffiti last year and again a few weeks back. This time, it was right across the front of the building, so we had to repaint the stucco to get rid of it. Today, I get a message that the downtown Temple got tagged as well. This time, it's on limestone, and will undoubtedly be expensive to remove, and possibly destructive to the stone as well. So I go in search for graffiti removal specialists to call, and I hit a typically apologist article, "There's Mischief Afoot, But Also Talent Evident In Graffiti Art." No there isn't. There's no talent in spraying paint on the property of others, any more than there is artistry in breaking a window or rolling a drunk. But you wouldn't know it by reading the paper.

Is this right?




Episode 3

There's a scene in the show 1776 when John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson present the newly written Declaration of Independence to Congress. President of the Congress John Hancock reads the document aloud, and then looks up and asks if there are any changes or amendments anyone wishes to make. There is about a five second pause, and then the entire room is on its feet shouting out their objections.

Jefferson and Adams are in the corner, and the hotheaded Adams is fuming. Finally in disgust, he looks at Jefferson and shouts, "Well, dammit man, aren't you going to speak up? After all, you wrote the damned thing!"

Jefferson, sadly, looking off into space says, "I had thought the work spoke for itself."

I'm not going to name names. For 24 years, a local ad agency we have worked with has had one particular account, and has been phenomenally successful at building and maintaining the image of this client in good times and bad. That account is going away in the next few months, not because of anything the agency did, or failed to do., but because the company decided to put the account up for review.

The body of work done for this client would fill a warehouse. And after 24 years, if they didn't know the quality of the work this long standing team could do, shame on them. "I had thought the work spoke for itself."

Now this group of no less than 30 people - and probably more - have a few weeks to find a new direction for their lives. Some are retiring, some aren't so lucky, and some are truly up a creek with little warning. In particular, a core team of 16 people who I have worked with and come to love as much as any family, are all going our separate ways. The real reason why has nothing to do with the quality of the work, but with the bottom line of the company that everyone expects to be taken public. And like so many other companies that have followed the same pattern, it is probable that it will be swallowed up by a bigger fish and disappear altogether – in part, because its image that was created by these talented people has made it attractive to the circling sharks. So it will slash its costs, expand suddenly overnight, swell up, get bought, and finally disappear into the anonymous, hungry maw of consolidation, like the dozens of other clients we have served over the years. So eventually we can have one bank, one phone company, one drug store, and one big bargain warehouse.

I know it's happening all over. I know it's a little story in a world of much bigger heartbreak. I know it's "just business." But I also know it isn't right.

*sigh*

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