I’ve long ago learned to ignore the emails that start out with, “We are being very happy that this letter is finding you well doing. I am having the honor of being the solicitor for the late President Quasi Modo…”, since these are obviously fictitious and written by unscrupulous people trying to steal my money. But recently, I received an envelope through the postal system with a rather official-looking logo as the return address. As I pulled it out, I noticed that the paper had a very nicely designed letterhead at the top which indicated that the letter was from the “Colombia Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals” (not the company’s real name). I was intrigued to learn that I had been selected from among my business colleagues to receive the honor of being included in the latest edition of this distinguished journal. I excitedly read down the page to learn more.
It seems that I have shown the exemplary qualities which are necessary to set me apart from others in my field of endeavor and because of that, if I would fill in the included application and return it to them, I could have the distinction of having my name included in their next “Who’s Who” publication. There was absolutely no charge for being included in this prestigious volume, so there was no risk whatsoever. Needless to say, I was all aquiver with pride! Little old me! Someone has finally noticed my hard work and amazing talent and wants to honor me for it. Of course, I did what any red-blooded, proud human being would do and filled out the questionnaire, mailing it in the envelope provided.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I haven’t done anything noteworthy in my life, unless it was the time I went a whole year without washing my car. In the music business world, I’m no more than a blip on the radar screen, with similar blips appearing in hundreds of small towns all around the country. I haven’t achieved any significance in the business world besides enduring when others haven’t been foolish enough to continue. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being self-deprecating here, not talking down what I do. I’ve done this long enough to realize that my business has significance when considered within its context. My little town is arguably a better place because of its existence. But, I’m not a standout in the business world, not an executive with star qualities and I know that well. But, just for a few moments, it was nice to dream.
Several weeks later, I answered the phone one afternoon. Me answering my own phone should have given the interviewer a clue about my real status, but she plowed right ahead. The Who’s Who committee had reviewed my application and I was in! All that I needed to do now was answer some questions to be included in my profile. Moving steadily further into the trap, I replied to the questions as completely as possible, imparting my great wisdom to the responses to ensure that the adoring public was properly impressed with my knowledge and level of maturity. After a few moments of this, the trap was sprung! “We have several levels of membership, some of which actually include your own personal copy of the publication. Would you like to be included at the top level? The cost is only $995.” I was momentarily struck dumb! It was nothing but a sales pitch! The whole elaborate set-up was designed to stroke my ego to the point that I would spend an astounding amount of money to prove my worth to my friends and colleagues. I spent what effort it took to refuse (five times, I think) and then, having gained a modicum of my self-respect back, politely asked when and where I could view the publication to be sure my name was included at no charge. There was silence for a moment and then the lady replied that it might be in the public library at a date that she could not specify. I never heard from the company again.
I’m constantly amazed at how our human nature carries us down paths that we would never choose, given the time to consider the “big picture”. Our vanity, our ego, drives us like no other master, causing all sorts of stupidity and tomfoolery which leads to extreme embarrassment in the long run. Funny how something that starts out being about pride ends up in abject shame. These are truly two extremes which are in a straight line from each other. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” is a much-quoted Proverb and is more often than not ignored, frequently to the chagrin of the arrogant bungler.
I have experienced that chagrin more times than I can count, but likely will repeat the offense again. Some fools never learn! I do however have a “Who’s Who” listing to add to my resume’, should I ever need to apply for a real job. And, it didn’t cost a thing besides my self-respect. I’m thinking that may be far too high a price…
“The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride, and arrogance.”
(Samuel Butler~English novelist, 1835-1902)
“In heaven, I yearn for knowledge,
Account all else inanity.
On earth, I confess an itch for the praise of fools,
(Robert Browning~English poet 1812-1889)
First published 1/17/2011