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December 17, 2007

The Bizarro World of Brutal Business Truth


The bank branch closes at noon on Saturdays. I walked in around 11:50 with a check to deposit. The assistant branch manager greeted me as follows:


“D.F., we’re technically open until noon, but we really don’t want anyone coming in after 11:45.”


At first I was taken aback, but then it occurred to me. I knew that. That last thing anyone wants just before quitting time is more work to do. They just don’t usually come right out and tell you.


Young T.F. Krause was with me, and he wanted me to take him to a certain fast-food establishment to get the leading staple of his diet. So we pulled up to the drive-through window.


“How are you?” asked the voice.


When I replied that I was fine, the voice continued:


“I don’t actually care how you are. They just tell us to say that. What do you want?”


I replied that I wanted a large order of fries.


“Is that all?”




“You know, we can’t make any money if people just drive up and order fries. Don’t you want a burger or anything? For crying out loud, we have all these sandwiches. You didn’t even order anything to drink.”


I explained that I am taking him right home and we have plenty of things to drink there.


“Great. Let the grocery store get all the beverage profits. Fine. Pull up and get your piddly little order.”


I had entered a bizarro business world in which everyone tells you exactly what they think – no matter how rude or unpleasant.


I kind of liked it. I had often suspected that many of these people were thinking these things, and it felt sort of good to dispense with the pretentiousness and just have them say so. I wondered where else we should go. The grocery store might be an interesting experience.


We were out of chicken gravy, which is a staple of Sunday dinner. Don’t ask me why I didn’t make it myself. This isn’t the Laughing Chef column. At any rate, I was having a hard time finding it. It’s not in soups. It’s not in canned meats. I was stumped, to the point where I finally had to break down and ask an employee.


“Well let’s see, Einstein. Where would you put the gravy?”


Next to the mashed potatoes?


“Did it ever occur to you to look in sauces?”


“Well,” I replied. “Is gravy really a sauce?”


“Oh for God’s sakes. All day long I have to deal with customers wanting to debate me on the semantics of how we label the aisles. You know, I should just let you keep searching. While you’re wandering around, your bratty kid would probably pester you to buy all kinds of things you wouldn’t buy if you could find your gravy right away. Consider yourself fortunate.”


I wondered if I could keep my business going if I treated my clients like this. I decided to call a long-time client and find out.


“Bob, this is D.F. I was just wondering, if I started acting all put out every time you wanted me to do something, would you still do business with me?”


“To be perfectly honest, D.F., I can hardly remember what you do for us or why we pay you. I suspect it’s probably just too much of a hassle to terminate the contract. At any rate, I just approved your latest invoice for payment. Probably a complete waste of my money, but whatever. Gotta go.”


This is a fascinating world, but I had a feeling it would start scaring the bejeezus out of me if I spent much more time in it.


“Come on, T.F. We’d better start finding a way to get back to reality.”


“Daddy,” he said. “The next time you come in contact with reality, it will be the first time.”


The mouth on that kid.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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