CHANGE FOR CHANGE SAKE

Somewhere in the top ranks of every corporation there is a vice president, probably the CEO’s son-in-law, whose official title is “Director of Confusing System Changes”. He doesn’t correct them or eliminate them, he invents them.

At an insurance company’s board of directors meeting there are glowing reports of profit gains, increased efficiency and a sizable leap in customer satisfaction according to the latest survey.

The meeting has gone on for over three hours. It’s nearing the two-martini lunch hour and the directors are eager to wind things up. That’s when the DCSC veep raises his hand and gets the floor. “I think we ought to change our 800 number for reporting claims. The present one has no zip to it. And we should change from having live receptionists answering claim calls to something robotic with a dozen button selections to help customers eventually reach the proper party. Also, I’ve redesigned the claims form increasing it from two to fifteen pages which will be a big help for us in gathering statistics.”

The directors have been looking at their Rolexes as the meddlesome exec drones on. A few have nodded off and empty stomachs have begun to give audible alarm signals. “End it, end it!  Let’s get the heck out of here NOW! is the general attitude.  A vote is called for and the roll call indicates unanimous approval.  Otherwise the DCSC would spend another hour defending his proposed changes that will most likely confuse, anger and alienate policy holders and increase adjusters’ response time.

Computer users have been known to lose touch with reality when they’re advised the complicated operational instructions they’ve finally managed to figure out have been  replaced  with a whole new set that are even more perplexing.

This disruptive policy of change for change sake is spreading. Once or twice a month, supermarket managers relocate a dozen frozen and canned goods items from shelves they’ve occupied for years to unknown faraway places without leaving clues to their new locations.  We’ll soon need GPS devices on our shopping carts.

Unemployment might be the reason for this, the unemployment of executives’ son-in-laws who have to be put back into the loop, and on the bonus list, regardless of consequences.

TYING UP A TELEMARKETER

If you hang up on a telemarketer who ignores your Do Not Call listing he can quickly begin to search for other prey.  It would be better to waste his time, reduce the number of illegal calls he can make that day, and have a little fun while you’re at it.

“Jimminy Chimney Corp.?  Yes, we’ve had good reports on your operation. In fact my wife intended to call you.  Unfortunately she’s in the north wing at the moment and can’t be reached quickly.  I’d send the butler to fetch her, but Basil is on sabbatical now, boning up for his doctoral thesis.  However, I can give you a quick rundown on the type of service we’ll require.

“We have 14 fireplace chimneys, 15 if you count the one in the gardener’s cottage. I’m ashamed to say they’ve been neglected for several years and will need extensive repairs besides your routine cleaning.  I’d guess you’d need a ten-man crew working full time for three months to complete the job.  Of course the expense has to be considered, but we have a sizable infrastructure repair budget.”

I rattled on for 30 minutes until I thought I detected the sound of drooling on the other end.  Then I delivered the coup de grace.

“I hope you don’t find my speaker phone annoying, but it’s difficult to use our regular phone while I’m wearing this awkward straitjacket and the fellow who unties it won’t be here for an hour.  Dreadful chap. He insists on referring to our ancestral mansion as ‘the studio apartment’ “.

“If you accept the job I’d like a full report on the condition of our roofs.  Flying saucers have been landing there regularly and I’m sure there’s damage. Those Martians are so careless.  Hello, hello?”

MY BLURRY CAREER AS A PHOTOG

After all these years of struggle with photography I’m still undeveloped.  I started when I was 8 years old with a Kodak Baby Brownie camera I’d won in a soapbox derby.  My father said he’d pay for the first roll of film and developing, but after that I should be earning enough with the camera to cover expenses.  I don’t blame Dad for that little fib. It was during the Great Depression and 50 cents was a significant amount of money.  It would buy a gallon of milk, five gallons of gas or five loaves of Wonder Bread.

I thought if anything exciting took place in my neighborhood I’d take a few shots to sell to a newspaper and maybe become famous.  The closest thing to an exciting event was when old Mrs. Bockman, a rather stout lady, got wedged in her chicken coop doorway one morning when she went out to gather eggs. She raised a howl and the chickens went berserk.

When I arrived with my Brownie Mrs. Bockman’s frantic struggle had left her house dress a bit askew and she begged me not to take her picture, so I didn’t.  I realized then I’d never make it as a paparazzo, but I’ll bet she would have paid me a whole dollar for the film or the picture would have made the front page with the caption: “Trapped housewife threatened by crazed roosters rescued by a young photog.”

Years later I became a freelance reporter and editors soon learned to limit me to reporting and send  pros to shoot pictures.  Now and then, however, I was handed a reflex camera, given confusing f-stop and shutter speed instructions and told to do my best.  My best wasn’t always up to par.

“Explain this picture!” my editor growled after examining one of my shots.

“It’s plain enough, isn’t it chief?  That’s fire fighters climbing a ladder at the warehouse fire you sent me to.”

“They look like they’re climbing over each other’s backs and the highest man seems to have two heads while the lowest has four legs. I think I’m looking at a double exposure here.”

“That’s okay, Chief. I’ll only charge you for a single.”

GETTING HIS RIGHTS WRONG

The mail boy arrived at the office wearing a colorful T-shirt and it wasn’t a dress down day.  The office manager was beginning to bawl him out when he interrupted.  “Sir, you cannot  deny me my constitutional right.”

“Your constitutional right?”

“Yes, I just heard about it on the TV news last night. The 2nd Amendment gives me the right to bare arms.”

HAMMURABI WASN’T COMPLETELY WRONG

I mostly agree with the 8th Amendment of our Constitution which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment,  but I really don’t understand the ban on unusual punishment if it isn’t cruel.

Say an 18-year old boy is caught shoplifting a couple of neato fishing lures he just couldn’t afford at the time. A kindly judge might give him the law and order lecture and then add, “I could fine you much more than the cost of those lures and you’d have a record, but since this is your first offense and you’re so young, I want you to go into my chambers now and stand in the corner for an hour and think about that. Then we’ll call it even and you can go home.”

Now that’s unusual punishment, but the kid should really appreciate it. Community service sentences are a good idea for light offenses, but if anyone finds out the guy sweeping the courthouse steps isn’t a do-gooder volunteer, he’s branded.

Other types of unusual punishment could be something like the “eye for an eye” kind created almost 4,000 years ago by Hammurabi, a Babylonian king.  The punishment would have some similarity to the offense, but there would be no mutilation involved.

I would join a class action suit against the packaging guy who invented those clear, hard plastic bubble containers that are almost impenetrable.  They might extend the shelf life of merchandise, but they have shortened the tempers and fingernails of millions of consumers.

I don’t know the official name of those annoying packages, but I’ve used a few unprintable ones while experiencing bubble trouble.   I watched my friend Larry try to breach one to get at his new watch band and heard him mutter a few colorful names I hadn’t heard since I got out of the army.

We class action people shouldn’t try to pauperize the inventor. He probably meant well and didn’t realize how much frustration and anger he was inflicting on the public.  We could just sue for our attorney fees and one added provision.  Every day for a year the inventor’s dinners would be delivered in one of his bubbles and the only allowable tools would be a butter knife and a spoon.

If they had that kind of troublesome packaging in Hammurabi’s time the inventor would probably have been imbubbled.

 

TOE-TAPPING SIDE EFFECT

I recently bought a newly developed salve to deal with an annoying rash on both elbows. It seems to be working, but it’s going to take time and I’m worried about that because last night I watched the product’s TV commercial. It started with some fellow scratching his abdomen vigorously and his wife looking concerned.

In the next scene he was applying the salve and was soon frolicking on the beach in a bathing suit with no sign of any skin problems.  I found this encouraging, but then they started reporting the possible side effects.  I can deal with a temporary lack of appetite and energy, but then, and I thought they were kidding when they said, “In very rare cases, after prolonged use,  the patient will experience an uncontrollable urge to dance the fandango.”.

I checked their website and there was that same strange warning, and I’d been using the salve for a week. I mentioned this to my friend Larry and he was stunned. “I’ve been putting that stuff on my ankles for two weeks now, and would you believe it, every now and then I think I hear a guitar playing someplace.”  Poor Larry. He’s got two left feet. He’s an Arthur Miller dropout and he won’t be able to do the fandango without falling on his face.

I did some Google research and found this odd symptom is not so far-fetched.  Starting in the 13th century and lasting over 300 years there were widespread epidemics of the dancing plague or choreomania across Europe with hundreds of victims suddenly dancing erratically in the countryside, two-stepping from one town to another until they dropped from exhaustion.  There were some fatalities.

The modern Italian dance, the tarantella, began as a type of choreomania.  The victims blamed their irrepressible urge to trip the light fantastic on perceived tarantula bites that had poisoned their blood and hysterical dancing with trailing musicians was the only antidote.

Larry and I decided to quit using the salve. Fortunately he learned that the kid next door had just started taking guitar lessons, so he’s probably going to be okay. But we’ll stay close and if the worst comes to worst, we’ll do the fandango together.  I’ll have to lead.

MULTIPLE MOMS

As a young boy I approached my father with an important question. “Dad, am I being raised by a single mother?”

“Yes, my son,” he replied, “and you’re very fortunate. In later years you will have double mothers and probably triple. Your life will become much more complicated I’m afraid.”

“I don’t understand, Dad.”

“Well, Son, while you’re very young your life is pretty much in the hands of your mom, your birth mother.  I am your birth father and you can always come to me for advice on important matters like selecting fishing lures and kite flying, and with requests for allowance advances and, much later, for the car keys.  Eventually you will be asking me to explain women to you and I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. I am not qualified.

“Then one eventful day, probably the most important day in your life, you will fall in love. If you’re lucky the young lady will have the same tender feelings about you and you will marry and your wife will become your second mother.  Your mom, your birth mother,  will never let go and your wife’s mother will rightly assume she has gained a son.

“This triumvirate will have opinions and give you advice, sometimes conflicting, on many important aspects of your life from then on.  Fortunately,  you will retain complete freedom of action in some areas like selecting fishing lures and kite flying.”