A Brief Tale

14 Sep 2006

Returning from vacation always sucks the big one, doesn't it? You get away for a while, clear your head, consume all sorts of things you'd only ever eat while traveling -- and then you return to 512 emails. That's what I had in my work inbox yesterday morning, not counting the 150 or so emails already identified by Norton as spam. Forty-one of the emails required some sort of action on my part; the rest were all various other forms of spam that the great and powerful Norton has not yet learned to identify. And then there's my personal boxes on Yahoo, Gmail, and Verizon -- 120-some-odd more messages. Less spam there, but at least two weeks worth of Get Fuzzy to catch up on, two weeks of Garrison Keillor's daily and always fascinating "Writer's Almanac" to read, scores of eBay "favorite search" notifications, and a pile of misc.

If I'm boring you with these details, I apologize. When I read mundane paragraphs like the one above written by others, I yawn and click on something else. In fact, I was so bored even writing the above graph, I returned to the web and clicked on some regular blogosphere haunts of mine to see what everyone else has been up to. This wasn't such a great idea, as catching up on those seems overwhelming as well. Grant Miller, for example, has penned numerous additional chapters of his award-winning "Worst Things That Have Ever Happened To Me" series. He's up to Volume 90 so far and shows no signs of slowing down. That's one unlucky fellow. If you don't laugh out loud at every single one of those, I think there's something wrong with you. Anyway, I checked another blog ...

Simon has written so unfuckingbelievably much, I simply gave up manually scrolling down to find where I left off two weeks back and actually did one of those rare engagings of the mouse wheel button. And most of the others on my blogroll have been similarly prolific. Of course, it only makes sense everyone wrote so much during the last couple of weeks. The Katrina anniversary passed, Steve Irwin finally made that lethal error that many figured was coming; the five-year anniversary of 9-11 came and went, and now it's rumored that Jay-Z is emerging from his rap retirement -- four events that would make anyone wax philosophical. Thank God I have a job where I can screw off for hours on end, as it's going to take quite an investment of time to catch up and belatedly weigh in on a few things myself.

Before I catch up on reading everyone else's stuff, though, I have a little installment of my own to write up. I've seen some incredible things over the past two weeks. While my goal is not to turn this into a travel blog, I'll nonetheless share a few of the more interesting photos once I go through them. (Give me a few days ... We took 1,100 pictures!)

For now, the most interesting observation I brought back is simply a rumination on "knowing" others. When is it, exactly, that one can claim to really know another person? Have you ever considered that question? It's damn interesting, when you think about it -- and I'm sure I'm not the first to do so, but I have no good ideas about how to research what others have already written on the topic.

Well, that's not entirely true. One thing that comes to mind is an old-school sales concept known as The Mackay 66. If you've ever been unfortunate enough to work in a sales or sales-related career, maybe you've heard of this already. At the root of all sales jobs is a particular brand of evil known as manipulation. That's what sales is essentially about, when you really get down to it -- manipulating others. The most revered gurus of the profession (and, they ARE revered -- glorified as "rainmakers" etc.) are, by logical extension, probably many of the biggest assholes to have ever walked the earth. (On the other hand, it's also true that the rainmakers provide work for those of us within an organization who do not sell for a living. So, I'm actually of two minds about the whole thing, if you must know.)

Right now, I'm more disgusted by it than appreciative. So, I'll state it this way: Mackay is one such guruasshole. He devised a system known as the Mackay 66. In a nutshell, it's a list of 66 things that you need to know about your clients. "It's critical to have information about your clients," he writes. "Armed with the right knowledge, we can outsell, outmanage, outmotivate and outnegotiate our competitors." Out-manipulate is what he means, of course. The list includes the basics (contact info, etc), personal data (birthday, physical attributes), educational background, family information, business background, special interests (religion, politics, fraternal associations, etc.), and lifestyle information.

The goal is to build up a detailed dossier on each client and then exploit this information during your dealings with the client. So, you call up your target Joe Smith one day ... You know he's a Penguins fan, a heavy drinker, and is recently divorced. "Hi Joe ... Patrick calling from XYZ Inc. How's it going? ... Say, I have a couple of premium center-ice tickets to the Pens vs. Buffalo next week -- parking passes, free booze, and a perfect box for scouting babes in the stands. Whaddayasay?"

Of course it works. Why wouldn't it? It's tempting to go off on an anti-sales rant here, as I've done in the past. But, I'll keep focused for now. (Lunch is coming up soon, and I don't want to miss that important part of my day.) Aside from the sales purpose of the Mackay 66, it's probably not a bad place to start if one wants to know how well one knows another person. But, even armed with these 66 character attributes, I'm not sure I'd have seen a particular event coming during my vacation.

Keep in mind, I had a l-o-n-g vacation -- almost two full weeks. We went from the excitement of New York to the serenity of Nova Scotia. New York's still unbelievable ... (Hang on while I dig into my photos.) Where else can you view a Picasso ...


... shop in stores that dazzle the senses ...


... and of course, do Chinatown:


But, for all its reputation for fast-paced excitement, I encountered mostly patient people. When we checked out of the Park Central Hotel (my wife found a cheap deal on the Internet), I tipped the doorman a fiver and asked if I could wait outside for a few minutes before leaving, as my wife and daughter were still on their way down from the room.

"Take your time," he said. I thought that was pretty good of him. There I was, parked directly outside the revolving front doors of one of the busier hotels in the city (taxis rushing by, people everywhere, and the doorman attending to at least five different parties), and I'm not rushed at all. That's fucking service.

That was essentially one moment from the beginning of our trip. Now let's fast forward more than a week to the very end of our stay in Nova Scotia.

We'd rented a farm for the week in a small town called Tatamagouche (pronounced "tattama-gush) -- not quite Brigadoon, but certainly idyllic. The owner would visit twice each day to feed the goats, sheep, mini horses, and other livestock. Talking to this man, you got the sense that he had no concept of the high blood pressure problems plaguing people in larger cities. Life was blueberry fields, raising pheasants, and a small herd of gently bleating goats that eat three coffee cans of corn and sweet mix twice daily.

By the sixth day, I'd have sworn I knew the man, you know? We'd have these great evening conversations ... "So, what'dyou do today?" he'd ask, the faintest highlander accent still present in his voice.

"Oh, we spent the day rockhoundingdown in Parrsboro," I'd say.

"Fantastic!" he'd answer. "Did you make it to the fossil cliffs at Joggins?"

"Not yet. Hopefully tomorrow."

"Oh, be sure to do it if you can. If you like geology, you'll love that place. No one ever returns disappointed."

That kind of communication -- pleasant, helpful conversation. He'd pause every so often to explain some farming concept to my daughter, who'd simply fallen in love with the goats. If I'd have written a character sketch of the man at that point in time, I'm sure I'd have used to word "patient" somewhere within the text.

And then the morning of our departure arrived. He'd said earlier that checkout was at 9:00 a.m., which was fine by us, as we wanted to get an early start back to Maine. I had the car packed as of 8:45 a.m. and was futzing around outside while my wife finished showering. It was a typical Nova Scotia morning -- misty and reminiscent, I suppose, of the homeland. (Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland.")

He pulled up at 8:55 a.m. -- no "hello" "good morning" or anything. He simply rolled down his window and glared angrily at me. "Nine A.M.!" he growled. "I clearly told you checkout is nine sharp!"

That's odd, I thought. Why should he be so angry? Maybe he just needs some reassurance that we're hitting the road any minute now. I mean -- who knows? -- maybe he'd had a bad experience once or something where he'd shown up in the morning and his guests had not even begun packing. So, I tried offering a few words, crafted to set him at ease. "We're all packed up and ready," I said. "We'll be on the road in five minutes, I expect. My wife's just finishing her shower and we'll be off."

That didn't help, apparently. He jumped out of his SUV and began huffing and puffing, carrying cleaning supplies from his trunk to the front porch, all the while angrily repeating, "Out by NINE ... That's ALL I ask of you." He said that about three times, and I just stood there in a state of confusion. Was this the same gentleman who'd stopped by the night before with a parting gift (a small bottle of locally made maple syrup)?

"We're all packed, Graham," I repeated. "We'll be on the road in less than five minutes -- just as soon as my wife gets out of the shower. We're completely ready to leave."

"It's TWO minutes till nine!," he yelled. "The cleaning ladies will be here in two minutes! Go and tell your wife to finish now. Tell her to take a towel with her and finish drying off in the car if she has to. It's ALL I ASK of you, ALL I ASK ... " He was muttering incompreheisibly at this point.

So, go figure ... I tip a doorman in NewYorkCitya fiver and I get the friendliest "Take your time" I've ever heard (right on 7th Avenue off Central Park, no less!) and Mr. Gentleman Farmer's idea of Nova Scotian hospitality is directing me to order my wife to rush out of the farmhouse naked (a farmouse we paid about $1,300 for the week for, mind you) and finish dressing in the car?!

Say it with me, people: WTF???!!! And so I return to my original question: When is it that you can say you know someone? Prior to that final morning, I genuinely liked that guy. I'd probably reached a critical point on Mackay's "66" list, you know? I'll have to revisit that sometime, though, as Im unsure whether Mackay thought to include mental instability as a key character attribute. Of course, getting business and keeping it are two different skill sets; it's easy to hide being an asshole while acquiring business, but sooner or later your true nature will show and you'll either retain your client or he'll blog about what a fucking dick you are.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On September 14, 2006, Sons of Eastie wrote:

Hey - the guy is an instable asshole.

Welcome back from vacation. Note - I have been unable to post comments to Wormstooth. What gives with blogger.com?

On September 16, 2006, Vica wrote:

Welcome back! At least you can ignore the testy farmer and never go back to the costly farmhouse. It sounds as though you had a great time. Right up until you had to load your wife into the car wearing nothing but her towel. Geeze, that guy became crabby.

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