Monday, October 1, 2012


I haven’t written anything in my blog for the past few days because I’ve been busy doing ordinary chores and don’t have much new to write about. Hoping to entertain my readers at least a little bit, I’ll tell an old story.

When I first finished business school, I went to work as a financial planner for a company that owned a few department stores. Every Thursday I had to interview the vice president of marketing to get his opinion about the potential impact of that week’s advertising. Then I would develop a comprehensive forecast to put onto the president’s desk by the end of the day. I’m not sure what he did with it, and doubt that it made any real difference, but I certainly had no choice but to get the report to the head guy on time every week.

Walter, the vice president of marketing, didn’t always want to give me his numbers. He occasionally tried to talk me into making up my own numbers, but my boss taught me the benefits of CYA and I never failed to get Walter’s official estimates. One Thursday, however, Walter kept putting me off and finally just wouldn’t answer his phone. He had told me that he’d be ready for me by five o’clock, however, so I put on my suit coat at 4:55 and went over to the other building, where he had furnished a large office with inventory from the store. He had a little refrigerator, a big sofa, a little conference table and a big desk. The sofa sat in the center of the room, facing away from the door.

I knocked on the door, certain that Walter was hiding in his office. Receiving no answer I knocked again, more loudly, and this time Walter tried to send me away. I tried the knob, which he had locked, and demanded through the door that he fulfill his promise. Finally, Walter relented. He opened the door and scuttled over to the back of his couch, where he sat casually drinking a soft drink. When I say that he scuttled, I mean that he walked crabbed over so the bulge in his pants might be less noticeable. His efforts gained no effect, and the bulge decreased only slowly as he sat there staring at me, sipping his Seven-Up. On the other side of the couch sat the lovely assistant buyer for small appliances, who looked at me with pink cheeks and magnified innocence as she sipped a Coca Cola.

Walter made up some numbers in a big hurry and threw me out. I went back and wrote up my forecast while he considered the subtleties of blenders and ice breakers. I don’t think that week’s forecast proved to be highly accurate, but for a moment anyway I’d made Walter do his job.

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