Just say No to low-hanging fruit
Right now I’m reading Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth about Bullshit, by Laura Penny. It’s a rollicking good read in which she takes aim at public-relations types and the particularly noxious brand of obfuscatory language they spew out. These are the same people who talk about “providing opportunities to participate” (which I discussed in “It’s a Daycare World,” earlier this year) and who love nothing better than calling long, long meetings during which they blather at length about low-hanging fruit (which always puts me in mind of testicles), drilling down and blue-skying.
My own personal remedy for PR bullshit and Douche-Speak (as my friend Karen and I like to call it) is to avoid meetings altogether. This really is the best solution and I do recommend you try it if at all possible, even if it means faking your own obituary or using the word “Ebola” in a phone call to HR.
If I’m trapped in a boardroom, however, I do a pretty passable job of making my eyeballs face forward and looking attentive, but actually being somewhere in a galaxy far, far away when the Douche-Speak inevitably begins. I keep a couple of Sudoku puzzles concealed in my notebook for just these occasions, and am a master at furrowing my brow and scribbling meaningfully with a pencil, when push comes to shove.
If you can’t drown out the noise, however, one tactic that works amazingly well is to just blandly inform the Douche-Speaker, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you mean by that expression.” Ask loudly and ask often. If nothing else, it takes up time and distracts them from their monologue long enough that you can get some Sudoku done.
The prize for PR Avoidance, however, goes to a curmudgeonly old colleague named Larry, whom I knew years ago when I worked at the CBC. He was a columnist of some repute and PR people from all over were after him like mad to have him appear on their shows or write a column for their papers.
One day a particularly obnoxious PR girl got her claws on him in our lobby and was herding him busily towards her little camera area. She was dressed to the nines, with expensive nails, expensive suit & high heels, expensive hair and a twee little clipboard (presumably to hold her list of expensive catch-phrases).
As she steered our hapless hero towards the lights, gabbling and smiling and carrying on about “action items” and “hitting the ground running,” he turned towards her with a deeply weary look, sighed gustily and intoned, “I… have had….the WORST case… of diarrhea… all this goddamned week.”
You could have heard a pin drop. My guess is this girl probably handed in her clipboard & opted for a life of herding yaks in Mongolia.
Now, I like to think I’m too well-bred to talk about my Personal Functions in public. (Seriously, the Smiter family are notoriously just this side of Victorian: my grandpa died of testicular cancer — or cancer of the low-hanging fruits, I suppose I should say — and till he breathed his last, my father would intone, sotto voce, that his dad had “a tumour between his legs,” which meant I kept looking for a pony.)
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and if Meeting Avoidance doesn’t work, if Surreptitious Sudoku Completion fails and Constant Questioning is to no avail, there really is no telling when I may have to resort to the Dreaded Diarrhea Bomb. Whatever works.
So there you have it, the full optics on the situation. I hope the suggestions I’ve given you are future-proof and that, now that I’ve been provided with the opportunity to commonplate these issues, we’re all on the same page and can enjoy some more face time, going forward.