Thursday, October 3, 2013

"The Big Glop"

Every year, thousands of engineers are graduated from universities, ready to apply their specialized expertise to improve our lives with their innovations and improvements.  They’ve worked hard, these Engineers of the Future.  And now, it is time for them to revolutionize the world.

Int. Office Of The President Of The Dandruff Shampoo Division Of A Big Pharmaceutical Company – Day

The president sits behind his desk.  There is a knock on the door.

PRESIDENT:  Come in?

The door opens and in strides a newly minted engineering graduate, recruited by the company to invent things that will make things better.  “Better for humanity”, the neophyte engineer believes, but the president is thinking “Better for the company”, though since this is the engineer’s first day on the job, it seems harsh for him to so precipitously deprive him of his illusions, so he doesn’t.

The president rises from his seat, walking briskly around his desk to firmly shake the hand of the fresh-faced engineer.

PRESIDENT  Welcome, welcome!

ENGINEER:  Thank you, sir.  I’m excited to be here.

P:  Of course you are.  First day of work, the promise of big things ahead of you.  Truth be told, I once dreamed of being an engineer myself. 

E:  You did?

Oh, yes.  But then my father said, “I’m retiring, son, and I’m giving you the company.”  What could I do?  The man was my father. 

Of course.

I envy you, my boy.  Say, do I sound too much like the 1940's?

I don’t know.

Too many old movies, I suspect.  What say ye – oops, now I sound like a pirate – what do you say we pretend that I sound contemporary and proceed on from there?

No problem.  You won’t find me being a stickler for temporal verisimilitude. 

Good, good.  I like a boy with his eye – and ear – on the Big Picture.  Details matter, of course, but we like to restrict that kind of thinking to the laboratories, where we are legally required not to cut corners.  Up here on the Executive Floor, we speak in metaphors and generalities.  Capeesh?

Got it.

Good.  Okay, are you ready for your first assignment? 

You bet!

I have to tell you, it’s been a tough nut to crack.  I’ve had my best people working on it for years, and so far, the wells have all come up dry.  But I know your background – finest engineering college in the country.  The problem’s screaming for an answer, and I have this gut feeling that you’ll be the one to come up with it.

Just lemme at it, sir.  I’m your man!

You seem to have a touch of the 1940’s in you as well – that “can do” spirit that seems to have evaporated from the culture.  Is that from old movies too?

No, sir.  There were a lot of foreign students in my class.  I re-learned it from them.

Well, you’ll need all the grit and determination you can muster.  Plus you’ll be working brutally long hours, so you can forget about a social life.

If the goal is worth it, I do not mind the sacrifice.  Besides, engineering is not the sexiest of professions.

Thank God for accountants, eh?

Without them, we’d be rock bottom.


All right, then.  Time is money, as they said in, I believe, the 1920’s!  I’m going way back now!  (RUSHING TO ADD) Although that adage continues to apply today.

Of course.

You know our division is responsible for shampoo manufacture.  I don’t imagine that’s what you were thinking about when you were lying in your bed, dreaming about “making a difference.”

I actually had my heart set on developing medical technology but I could not find employment in that field, so I figured the next best thing was pharmaceutical products – pharmaceuticals, as you know, also improve lives – so I applied here, was accepted – thankfully – and they assigned me to “Shampoos.”

Let me assure you will not be working on discovering better shampoos.  Or even better dandruff shampoos.  Not that those things aren’t important.  It’s just that you, my boy, are destined for greater things.  Your first assignment… Are you ready?

Yes, sir!

Dandruff Shampoo…


Oh, sir! 

Was that sarcastic?

Oh, no, sir.  Although I am not above telling you what you want to hear.

Good boy.  Insincerity is fine, in its place.  And you will discover that, over time, you will forget, and start believing the crap you originally made up.  “Crap.”  Is that too vulgar?

No, sir.  It is exactly on the money.

I am all over the place today!  Anyway, the news I am about to impart to you is big.  So big, in fact, that I am leaving it for tomorrow’s post.

I’ll be reading, sir.

You don’t have to, you’re in it.  (POINTING OUT FROM THE SCREEN) But they’re not.  And to receive the revelation of this cliffhanger, they will have to come back. Wait.  Did I use “receive” incorrectly?

Idiosyncratically, perhaps.  But not incorrectly.

Good boy.  Did you minor is “English”?

No, sir.

0h.  Then you could be wrong.
Happy birthday to the person it was my luckiest day to have met.  The rest I shall say directly.

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