The White Gripes

tumblr_m7l4guqtaQ1qb7m6wI just begrudgingly purchased Jack White’s new album, Lazaretto. This purchase was made exactly one year, nine months, and seven days since I went to see Jack White at Radio City Music Hall during his Blunderbuss tour. Lucky for me, I was at the show in which Mr. White stopped performing after 45-55 minutes (based on varying reports…but having been there I would say 45 is closer to accurate). I purchased a ticket on StubHub way over face value for the mezzanine. Was this price worth it to me. Oh yeah! Why? Because Jack White is a Rock and Roll God, and it was my first opportunity to see him in person. I was beyond excited. The show started, everyone was movin’ and groovin’ and then, just like a 16-year-old’s first time with the village prostitute, it was over before I knew what happened.

Jacky-Boy seemingly uttered the phrase “Kali Ma Shakti De” and then proceeded to rip-out my still beating heart (along with the hearts of 6,000+ other die-hard fans). I vowed never to listen to and/or purchase a lick of his music again. Not from the White Stripes. Not from the Raconteurs. Not from the Dead Weather. And especially nothing from his solo career. This boycott remained relatively intact until today, with the exception of hearing some of his music in bars when in which, for the most part, proprietors have refused my requests to never play Jack White. Whenever his music would creep into my life uninvited, I would immediately proclaim, “Ah…fuck this mother fucker!”

So, you may be asking yourself, “What changed?” I can honestly say, “Not a damn thing!” I’m still a Bitter Betty. If I were a cocktail mixer, I would be bitters. If I were a candy, I would be a Sour Patch Kid. If I were a…okay, you get the picture.

So why purchase this album? Because, despite all my wants and desires to relegate Mr. White to just a footnote in my personal music history, I cannot deny his sheer talent as a musician. I cannot deny that his band, The White Stripes, have been one of the most influential bands of my generation. I cannot deny my own past, which included his music during every high and low point of my young adult life. His music is a part of me, and no heart-wrenching walk-off stage can take that away.

I will most likely never pay to see him in person again. As my favorite president, George W. Bush once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well…you can’t fool a fooler.” That’s right George! You can’t fool a fooler!

My one wish would be for Mr. White to read this and personally apologize to me, but that’s about as likely to happen as winning the lottery, while simultaneously being struck by lightning and bitten by a shark.

So, how is Lazaretto? Honestly, I have no idea. I wrote this as the album was downloading. I’m (begrudgingly) excited to hear it.

(Update: I finally listened to the album, and it’s [sigh] really good. Why Jacky-Boy, why have you forsaken me! I’m patiently awaiting your apology.)

What Makes a “Mad Man”…Mad?

My illustrious career within the advertising field began on a cold winter’s day in March of 2004. I was young, single, and completely naive as to what I was getting myself into. That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my 10 years within this business, because I have. It can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, especially when you get to reference a website, print ad, or television commercial that your company was instrumental in producing (as long as it’s good, of course). But just like life, you have to take the bitter with the sweet, and when it’s bitter it’s like sucking down a thousand gallons of lemon concentrate.

My first gripe is with “agency speak.” For those of you within the industry, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, but for those of you that have never worked in a “Mad Men” environment, allow me to enlighten you on some key phrases you may hear every single day throughout your career:

  1. I’ll circle back with you…
  2. We just need to troubleshoot this…
  3. I’m starting to get concerned about…
  4. If we are following best practices, we should…
  5. This request is considered 0ut-of-scope…
  6. I can’t go back to the client because…
  7. Do you need me to attend this meeting…
  8. How late were you here last night working on…
  9. Is it necessary to abbreviate everything…
  10. Do you have any whiskey…

These are just a few examples, but the list is infinite. Obviously, this is just a minor gripe, but there are only so many times throughout the course of a day you want to hear about someone’s “concerns” regarding a specific project. Trust me on this…because at some point, you’ll start to consider trouble-shooting your co-workers as a best practice.

All these phrases do serve a purpose, since we are often required to circle back, attend 20 meetings per day, and drink copious amounts of whiskey. I believe the whiskey part is clearly stated in our Annual Employee Handbook.

“Agency speak” aside, I want to discuss my primary gripe, which is in regards to employee retention. It is a widely accepted practice within this industry for employees to “jump ship” and go to another agency to get the promotion and/or salary increase they feel they deserve. I’m guilty of this, having left organizations that I really enjoyed working for, because I knew I wasn’t earning what the market would bear in accordance with my experience and title. This, in my humble opinion, is the epitome of a worst practice.

With the insane amount of hours one spends at the office and/or traveling (60+ hours per week on average), you eventually develop a bond with your co-workers, which I don’t think another industry in the world can touch with a 10-foot cattle-prod. Through these bonds, you develop better work-flows, processes, and creative materials. You develop friendships and trust. You have deep conversations over breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all of which are spent at your desk and/or in a conference room. You put in all this effort, develop all these bonds, and then it happens…

Your best office mate comes over and says “BLADOOSH! Guess who’s got two thumbs and a new MF’ing job? This guy! Got me a new title and $20K more per year.” After you’re done gently drying the tears from your eyes, you slowly realize that all the progress you’ve made with your team is now in jeopardy, because who knows if the next guy or gal that comes in to replace them will be any good, laugh at your jokes, or have the proper work ethic. The replacement employee could have a host of terrible qualities like horrible halitosis, a burning passion for “The Big Bang Theory,” or worst of all, be a Sober Sally. This isn’t to say that I don’t like people who don’t drink. It’s people who NEVER drink I don’t understand. If you’re 12-stepping your way to a healthier you, I’m all for that. I’m Irish, and I’ve got plenty of family members that have needed to stop drinking. But if you’ve never used society’s social lubricant, you need not apply.

Other industries are starting to adopt better hiring and compensation models, which essentially state that they want the best person for the job, and will pay their employees top of market rates. This insulates them from people leaving simply to make more money elsewhere. Losing an employee that is unhappy or wants to move on for any host of reasons is beyond any company’s control, but losing someone who is considered a valuable asset to a competitor; because that competitor is willing to pay them what they deserve, is just plain dumb. I’m talking Sarah Palin/David Brooks dumb here people!

Another employer benefit within this model is that it allows them to quickly assess if this new hire is performing at the highest level. If this new employee fails to perform, they can quickly be replaced by another leader in their field, since they’ll attract the best and the brightest.

This is just one industry example, and I’m not convinced it would work within the advertising agency model, but the “jump ship” mentality needs to be addressed. I strongly believe we could better serve our clients if a core team of advertising professionals that understands their client’s brand and business objectives, as well as consistently providing the client with ROI (Return On Investment) data, doesn’t go through a sea change every 6-12 months.

Now, I need to go because I’ve got to circle back with some co-workers to troubleshoot their concerns in regards to best practices, whilst drinking whiskey and working into the wee, wee hours of the night.

Occupy Wall Street On The Move

What is Occupy Wall Street? Why are these people taking over Zucotti Park in New York City? In a few candid interviews, I’ve queried the protesters about their issues during an NYC rally and march to Times Square . On the street, I was bound and determined to get the gospel from the Occupy movement.

My very special thanks to Mr. Jason Wade Hammonds (JWH) of Open Door Productions for directing, producing, editing, and mixing this piece. I would also like to thank Mr. Ed Stern of Ed Stern Photography (www.edsternphoto.com) for taking these amazing photos and shooting all the video interviews. And finally, thanks to Mr. Alex Lynch for helping with the writing of this piece. All of you are amazingly talented and none of this would have been possible without you.

What To Do When Your Best Friend Has Crabs

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I recently started a rumor that my very best friend has crabs.  I’m not going to name names as to protect the innocent because, well, he actually is innocent.  I just thought it would be hilarious if I told everyone he knows that he contracted crabs (or pubic lice as it were).

This scenario started me on a path of self discovery because I immediately thought to myself, “What if one of my friends did have crabs? What would my/everyone’s reaction be?”  My initial reaction, I concluded, would most likely consist of pointing,laughing, all while quickly moving away from their general vicinity. Is this the most grown up or empathetic response?  Of course it isn’t, but then again, I wouldn’t be the one with “the crabs”  in this scenario (I will hence forth in this article refer to crabs as “the crabs” because of a conversation I had with my mother a few years ago. She said, and I quote, “I knew someone with ‘the crabs’ once.” I thought this was hysterical.  Why she refers to them as “the crabs” is still a mystery to me).

My next reaction, I decided, would be much more subdued. Once the laughter subsided, the next logical step (of course) would be to ask “How? How did this happen?” I assume if it was one of my friends they would immediately blame a toilet seat at a rest stop in Tallahassee, FL. As some of you may or may not know, it is possible to contract “the crabs” this way, but still highly unlikely. Upon discovering where they received a hefty dose of “the crabs,” I believe I would return once again to unabashed fits of laughter.

Embarrassment for the pubic lice plagued individual would probably be reaching its tomato faced boiling point around now, so it would be time to pull back and finally express a little dose of sympathy.  I would say something like, “Hey man, don’t worry about it. It could happen to anybody.” Then I would rattle off a list of STD’s that are much worse than “the crabs” in an effort to demonstrate to them that all in all, it’s not that big of a deal.

Now the hard part would be deciding whether to keep your friend’s secret. A good friend would not share something that could horribly damage another’s reputation. At the same time, you would need to consider how your friend got themselves into this situation to begin with.  Would a public shaming be beneficial to their future health? The answer is yes, yes it would. It would also be beneficial to the public at large to know there was a menace within their midst that was riddled with “the crabs.”

Initially, starting this unsubstantiated rumor was just something of a lark, but what it has taught me about myself is a gift greater than gold. Thank you nameless friend. Thank you.

(The nameless friend in this article is Jose-Luis Migoya.  He is 30 years old and lives in Miami, FL with his father.  What can I say, I’m a liar.)

Looking for Work?

by guest writer Christopher Thomas Dreyer

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I know in these unrelenting economic times, finding a job with a reasonable pay scale, chance for advancement, and benefits is virtually impossible. I will be the first to admit that I was more likely to believe in Unicorns then likely to believe in this sort of job, until my recent holiday travels. First, I must inform you honestly that the job that I’m referring to may not have a reasonable pay scale or chance for advancement, but the benefits are amazing, depending on your moral convictions and ability to take advantage of opportunity. The dream job I’m referring to is “baggage handler” at Northwest Airlines.

Before I let you in on the secret to success under Northwest employment, I think it would behoove you to know the story of how I came to such a, dare I say, life changing conclusion. I recently flew on Northwest Airlines for the Holidays from JFK to Ft. Lauderdale airport via Detroit. I took the reverse route back in early January. Over my years of travel I have learned to adapt to the increasing flight delays, cancellations, sky rocketing fares, and hidden charges. I have also found that, in spite of all that, the most impressive change of all is the lack of customer service. But I digress. This is not a forum for my musings of the well choreographed dance between the customer and customer service, or the part I play in handing over dollar after dollar to help fuel this absolutely impressive business model. This is a chance to do my part and inform you of a fantastically creative, far be it from glamorous, position in the Northwest Airlines baggage division.

As mention earlier, I was fortunate enough to travel Northwest Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale to JFK and although I was not there on time, I did arrive safe and sound. The same, sadly, could not be said for my baggage. An unfortunate turn of events, but one I was assured would be rectified quickly, painlessly, and with the utmost professionalism. I was put into the system, handed a form comprised of my reference number, the phone number of the baggage claim office, and sent on my way. Good. I was simply told that it look as though my bag went on a later flight, through Delta, and should arrive around 6:30PM. Fair enough. The evening came and went and I found myself still without a bag, but quite confident in the airlines ability to follow through on, what seemed like, a very basic procedure. But still, I should probably call. I do. I was informed by a very delightful sounding automated woman that, my bag has yet to be recovered. Fine. 7PM. No need to panic, I figure my inquiries may be best answered by a human representative. I call a second number on my luggage claim form and, presto, an unlikely, but appreciated, encounter with a human. In speaking to the woman I was told my bag had left and should arrive sometime that evening. Better late then never, I guess. 8:30 AM on the following day and still no bag. Damn you all to hell!! As I’m praying for a great flood to wipe out baggage claim, I receive a phone call, from a delivery man, assuring the much anticipated arrival of my baggage in 10 minutes. Haza!! All sins have been forgiven for the almost intentional array of obstacles keeping me from reuniting with my running shoes! Not to mention some of the precious gifts I received from friends and family for Christmas.

In haste, I put my bag down and continue with my day working from home. Around 10AM, I realize that certain notebooks that are imperative to my work are in the bag and now would be a good time to open it up and start putting things away. Imagine my surprise when I realized, as articles of clothing are being put into their proper place, that gifts I had received for Christmas were no where to be found. Did I forget to pack them? No, I remember quite specifically putting them in my suitcase. Maybe they’re deeper down than I anticipated? No, in digging I find no such evidence of there existence. Could it be? Did I dream the gifts? Could the excitement in my mother’s face upon opening be nothing more than a figment of my imagination? Possible, but not likely. My God, I’ve been robbed! By who?! Who would have the time to physically open my suitcase, rifle through my belongings, and remove certain things from their containers or, in some cases, just remove the packages all together? Whose taste is so poor they thought to steal my clothes? O.K., the important thing is not to panic. Thankfully, my bag has been under the watchful eye of a respectable major corporation. Surely, they must have answers. At least a procedure to help renew my faith in large companies. After all, I am the “little guy” they claim to respect and cherish. They must be able to help ease this sense of helplessness that comes, all too often, when being a victim of a crime. Perhaps, even goes as far as to inquire into bringing this perpetrator to justice. You can’t run a reputable business without holding those who tarnish your good name with such deeds responsible, right?

Damage control. First, I’ll call the number used to track baggage. Machine. I’ll call the secondary number in which I had such success previously speaking to a human. Machine. I’ll call customer service; they must have an option to report this to someone. Machine. Ticketing? Machine. Internet? Of course, you can always find someone to complain to over email. But, before reporting this incident via email, I should take the time to research the protocol in reporting such a problem, you know, to ensure I take up no more of their time then necessary.

Hey, wanna know a riddle? How do you report stolen articles from your suitcase to the company involved, from home? Trick question. You can’t. Ha. Turns out, to report stolen material you must be physically present in the baggage claim room and must be there within 24 hours of receiving your bag. It takes and hour and a half to get to JFK from my place. A cab is at least half an hour each way and would cost me $50 for each before mentioned ways. There has to be another way! Doing it now would be impossible.

After 3 and half hours of getting machine after machine, busy signal after busy signal, I finally get to a person in customer service for Northwest Airlines. I simply inform her that I’d like to make a claim and can not do so in person for the next couple of days.

“I’m sorry; I don’t have access to filing baggage claim reports. Besides, our system says you got your bag,” she says.

“Yes I know I have my bag, I just don’t have that which left with my bag,” I impatiently reply.

“I don’t know how to help you,” she admits

“Aren’t you in customer service?” I inquire

“Yeah, but I’m in Sioux City, Iowa. Would you like to speak to my supervisor?”

With an emphatic “yes!” I am put on hold. I am told I am being transferred to Dave, and with a click, and a ring, I am back to the automated voice that started my journey 2 hours earlier.

I know this is taking longer than anticipated, but I find it valuable to relay to you the inter-workings of Northwest Airlines. I think it’s important for you to know how comfortable you can be when under the protective wing of such an employee friendly company. It’s like having an idiot savant for a lawyer. No need to speak, the less they say, the harder it gets.

2 days, 2 hours, and 34 minutes after arriving without my bag in NYC, and excluding the $700 of goods that decided not to come with me, I am finally speaking to a baggage claim representative for, you guest it…….Delta. I know what your thinking, “how can Delta help me take advantage of this great job opportunity with Northwest?”

Great question. You see, their merging and my baggage were supposed to come to New York on a Delta flight. Although she initially told me she couldn’t help me. She did. Even though she suggested it had nothing to do with her airline. It did. Even though she says she didn’t have to give me her name. She did. And through all of the difficulties that Ada had in helping me, through no fault of her own mind you, we finally came to a conclusion that I have officially reported things stolen from my bag. It only took 6 and ½ hours for someone to finally say, “I’m listening.” Or, in Ada’s case “What do you want?” Hey, I’ll take what I can get. This now gives me 5 days to show up with a list of missing things, in person, to the airport.

“What was stolen,” she asks,

“Well, I haven’t really gone through everything yet. One thing I know is gone is the digital camera my father gave….”

“We don’t cover digital cameras.” She insists.

“What? What do you cover exactly?” I ask. I could almost hear my unmolested presents fall farther and father into a cavernous hole.

“I can’t tell you what we do, but what we don’t is jewelry, electronic equipment, film, money, cameras, watches, fragile or irreplaceable items, and some other stuff I can’t remember,” click.

Don’t you see! It’s the job that slipped through the cracks. Think about it. Not only is there no supervision, there is no possible way to have repercussions. Don’t worry if someone has all the information, which could, in turn, lead back to you, NOBODY CARES! Even better, Northwest Airlines has a system put in place that makes the victim feel like the asshole! Oh, the beauty of it. Now that I think of it, I didn’t even consider being a delivery person for the airlines. Eureka!!! According to Northwest, my bag left JFK before 7PM on the second day, and didn’t arrive to me until 8:30AM on the third day. Imagine all the time you’d be given to rummage through luggage and find that perfect gift for the one you love. I know, your mother-in-law can be a pain in the ass, but what the hell, it’s Christmas! Don’t forget to get something for yourself; you worked hard stealing from people who have no other choice when traveling long distances. And the best part of all?!! There’s only like 3 people working the phones. So, there’s no one to report it to anyway. They’ve covered themselves quite well by not being responsible for anything at all. No time? No receipts? No ext. number? No crime. If there not losing money, why would they care if the customer does? Think of the freedom this job allows. Finally no oppressive “supervisor” in charge, telling you to stop raping the customer. Relax. Take your shoes off. This flight to Denver just got delayed and your old lady has been bugging you for a mink coat ever since you got her pregnant. No other job offers that kind of bonus for the do-it-yourselfers of the world. You can’t rob from customers at a bank if you were a teller. You can’t open packages and steal what ever contents you want at the post office. Not only are there rules against these actions, there’s someone around to enforce them. No thanks! I like my stealing to be clean and easy.

So, now that the holiday season is over and you’re not sure how you’re going to cover those credit card bills on your salary. You finally have a solution. This is it. For all those who worry what the next fiscal year may bring, your prayers have been answered. No health benefits? Steal medication. Want to further your education? People always pack books. There is no problem that being an employee of the NWA baggage services can’t solve. So, get off your ass, dust off those cargo pants (your going to need the room), and start turning your life around! Happy hunting and you’re welcome.