I sat there and typed the last introduction business letter of the day, addressed the envelope and along with the other letters I had typed earlier put on the stamps and dropped the stack of letters in the mail box.  Over the next ten days I did pretty much the same thing until I started to receive letters or phone calls from the people I had targeted.  If things worked out well I was getting phone replies within three or four days and mail replies within a week.  Turn time is everything and the focus has always been on identifying the potential customer, contacting him or her and then working on establishing a relationship which might lead to developing new business as quickly as possible to the benefit of both of us.

You can just imagine how excited I was when I first heard about email and how I could make that cold call phone call, follow it up with an email and turn on accounts up to a week faster.  Amazing.  “Hello, Mr. Jones, I’m calling to introduce my company …..  That’s great, I’ll send you an email to confirm” and it was so quick.

How things have changed.  Ring, ring, ring, “Hello and thank you for calling XYZ Company, the leader in whatever it is we do.  Please take a moment and listen to this message as our options have changed. Press one, press two, press three, spell the person’s name, press the pound sign and then, “I’m unable to come to the phone right now.  Your call is very important to me, please leave a message and I’ll return your call promptly”.  No, it isn’t. No, he won’t and behind a wall sits a potential customer you can’t get to and behind a wall sits a potential customer who should be looking for problem solutions but who has cut him or herself off from those who can deliver the solutions.

So what can you do? Let me suggest going back to sending real letters on real letterhead in real envelopes with stamps.  You see, the same people who won’t answer the phone and who won’t return calls and who will delete your email without opening it will open the envelope with your letter.  Isn’t that something? Maybe it’s the excitement of receiving something addressed to them just like Christmas morning.  So I guess it’s time to use today’s newest and latest computers as word processors like they had twenty years ago.  If that’s what you have to do then that’s what you have to do, but wait, before you stack the letterhead in the printer.  Now with all of the news about hacking and government spying comes an article in USA Today about the Russian Federal Guard Service going back to typewriters and paper documents.  The Russians are buying typewriters, new typewriters.

So let’s review.  Scrap the phone calls because nobody answers the phone but if you do decide to call don’t leave a message because nobody returns calls and don’t bother sending emails because they’re not opened and send letters via the mail but don’t use your computer as a word processer because of hacking or spying concerns.  Do get out that old, perfectly good Remington, Smith-Corona, Underwood or Royal that you just couldn’t toss and then head to Staples or Office Depot and tell the kid in electronics that you want a new ribbon, some whiteout and a typewriter eraser (with a brush—eraser crumbs, you know).  That should keep him busy for a while and then ask him about file folders, postal scales, file cabinets and carbon paper.  You’ll soon be as ready as anyone to do business as we work our way through the twenty first century.

Isn’t progress great?


The depot in the summer

A string of yellow reefers marches past the depot

All the same with the ventilator fan shafts turning in the side of each car

Then the caboose and in the distance the light of another eastbound with another string of yellow reefers, all the same.

And again and again but the next time the headlight is different and it’s almost here.

The train slides past, the brakes squeal and the conductor opens the Dutch door.

He steps down as the attendants in the other coaches and the Pullman porters step onto the platform.

Off the train, watch your step, hugs and kisses and smiles

People rush to their loved ones, retrieve their luggage or head for their cars.

On the train, watch your step, hugs and kisses and tears

The old ladies and men stand there smiling and waving goodbye to grandchildren crying in the windows.

The porters and attendants pick up their step boxes and board leaving the conductor on the ground to look up from his watch and give his signal.

He boards and slams the door shut.

It’s silent and then the streamliner glides forward.

The grandparents take a few steps with the train and blow kisses at the sad little faces.

The engines strain, smoke lifts into the air and a cook standing in the doorway of the dining car turns and shuts the door behind him.

In the distance a headlight pulls another string of yellow reefers, all the same.



A simple life

You take a good hard look at your life when the years pile up and the end is in sight.  I’ve always tried to live a good life and not let the pursuit of money and things get in my way but it’s been hard.  Being part of a family which lived off inheritance income has meant having everything I wanted (my great uncle on my mother’s side invented the three-prong/two-prong adapter for AC power—the cheater plug).  I’m afraid that my privileged life has not helped make me the man I want to or should be.  Now, it’s like being in an athletic contest late in the game and not having a lot of options to turn things around.  But then something happened.

Last week, Thursday afternoon, I received an email from Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson Ernest (Mother Elizabeth Thompson, the 87 year old widow of Sir Thompson Ernest who died in a plane crash while flying from New York to Geneva in 1998) telling me that I have been chosen (she cannot say why) to receive 8.5 million British Pounds and that a bank draft has been deposited with all related charges paid.  Now, I know what you are thinking, Nigerian prince, right? This is a scam, right? That’s what I was thinking until I looked again at the email and saw that name, Mother Elizabeth Thompson, the Mother Elizabeth Thompson.  Reading the email again it all became clear to me.  She is very old and weak now and her days doing philanthropic work are nearly done and she wants to pass the money along to someone who can carry on doing good works.

Good works are what I have been trying to do with my family money.  I know that the additional funds could expand the reach of my own work but I’ve started to see this “blessing” from Mother Elizabeth as being not only a blessing for those who will be helped but also for me personally and let me tell you how and why.

I’ve decided to take this gift from Mother Elizabeth and pass it along to someone else so they can use the money to do good in the world.  It will help many new people and it just might help me acquire the sense of humility and charity and poverty that has been beyond my grasp for so long.

As I told you, all fees have been covered by Mother Elizabeth including the delivery charge, the insurance premium and the clearance fee and the only thing that needs to be paid is 250 British Pounds for the secure keeping of the cheque.  I am paying that amount in order to have the money transferred to me and now I am simply asking you to join me in this journey and pay that small amount to have the money transferred to you.

My own life on earth is winding down and as I make my pilgrimage to a simple and pure life I am taking a vow of poverty and leaving worldly riches behind.  I think that John Lennon said it best when he penned, “Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world…”

Won’t you think about helping others?  Won’t you think about helping this lonely and humble pilgrim, this dreamer on his journey to cast off the things of this world?   I wonder if you can.  I hope that you will.

I accept PayPal.



Back to school

This year’s Fourth of July fireworks were terrific like always.  Lots of color, lots of oohs and aahs and lots of noise.  It doesn’t get much better than the Fourth of July, it’s warm, it’s early in the summer and all is well but then something happens that’s a lot like having your ice cream taken away or the air let out of your tires.

I walked into the dining room and there, over there on the stack of mail on the table, on top, there, right there, all bright and colorful just waiting to be picked up and read, Monroe’s Giant Back to School Sale flyer, “Oh, look at this, Monroe’s has some really good prices on school supplies.”

School supplies? It’s July 5th, the day after Independence Day, and here come the “Back to School” ads with the goofy kids like you’ve never seen all smiley and happy and laughing as they head back to school.  What is wrong with those kids, if that’s who or what they really are, I’ve never seen kids like that.

So the summer that stretched on forever has now had an ending placed on it by Monroe’s and all the other stores who want to sell pencils and notebooks and crayons and rulers and sweaters and winter coats and boots and hundreds of other things for school.  Well, I don’t need school supplies and winter clothes.  What I need are popsicles and a trip to WaterFunLand and baseball tickets.

How would Mr. Monroe like it if I sent out ads saying, “Come to the big Monroe’s Going out of Business Sale?”  How would he like it if he looked out his window and saw trucks pulling up out front ready to take away the tables and counters and elevators and the front door from his store? How would he like it if his business came to an end just because I said it should?

As I run my genius “Going out of Business” plot over in mind I think about everyone I know who would want to let Mr. Monroe have it.  I know that Jon and Carrie will join me.  This is war.

“Jon, Carrie, come here. Have you seen the Monroe’s Back to School ad? Why do they have to ruin every summer?  Why do I need to see gloves and stocking caps and pencils and notebooks in July? They just can’t wait for summer, my summer to come to end.  I don’t want my summer to come to an end and I’m tired of them telling us that summer is over just so they can sell things.”

Jon looked at Carrie who looked at me and shrugged. “It’s just an ad. Every year it’s the same thing. Why do you allow these silly ads to ruin every summer?  Were you like this when you were a kid, Dad?”


Friday night’s question

Last Friday night we went to a party in the park concert which featured a Jimmy Buffett tribute band.  The weather was beautiful, the concert was free and it just felt like summer so there really wasn’t anything to do but just enjoy the evening.  Half way through the concert the leader of the band (Jimmy Buffettette, I guess) said something that made me start to think.

I never thought it was really possible but I’m starting to believe that there isn’t a question that cannot be answered.  Oh, I’m not talking about nonsensical questions like the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin questions but real questions that man has asked for centuries.  Now, because of the ease of using computers anyone can find the answers to most questions or a good part of those answers like which car should I purchase if I want the best gas mileage or how can the US take advantage of shale gas deposits in order to decrease our dependence on foreign oil or how can I lose 25 pounds by this coming Saturday night?  I now have access to the answers to questions that Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Thomas Edison, Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres would have struggled with not so long ago. But as I sat there watching couples in their Margaritaville attire dance around I did come up with one question that I do not believe can be answered.

As “Jimmy” told the crowd, “we’ll be right back so stick around” he also said to be sure to go to the tent in the area next to the stage to check out the band’s CDs.  Now, here’s the question that cannot be answered:  Why would anyone want to buy the CD of a tribute band?