Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going Down to the Office

When we were selling our hillside house in Huntington, Indiana, we were in frequent phone contact with our realtor, Marcellus Scher, and he'd always say when he'd be available "down at the office" next Tuesday morning or this Friday after four o'clock, etc. Sometimes when we'd call his wife would answer and say he was "down at the office," and we should call there, and repeat the number. But we never knew exactly where that office was. He had been with a big Realty office downtown for several years, but wasn't currently.

Finally one day we got an offer that he wanted us to drop by his house out on Stults Road to hear, and we drove out of town to the address.

I knew the house well. My parents' friends had lived there years before--a nice little Cape Cod box with a finished dormered second floor upstairs and a finished paneled basement. It was a comfy country cottage I'd been in in several times previously. Scher greeted us at the front door and sheparded us through the front hall directly into the down staircase.

"I went down to the office this morning," he said, "and I got an offer on your house--just a second." He fumbled with some keys and found the one he wanted, unlocked a solid door and stepped into "the Office," inviting us to follow and sit down around a big round antique table.

Thirty minutes or fewer later we had accepted the offer in writing and sold our house, and Scher locked up his "Office" as if it were located in the most insecure part of town instead of at the foot of his basement stairs, and we all climbed back up and were seen out the front door, with a nod to Missus Scher who glanced at us over her shoulder from the kitchen.

We've often chuckled at how serious Marcellus was about keeping a professional demeanor as he went to work on definite schedules by going ten steps down to his basement. Here was a man who kept his work separated from his private life with a zeal.

Now, as I try to feel my way into more internet publishing and marketing activities, I find it remarkable my "business," my "office," is sitting here on my laptop computer that I normally work with on my family room couch. When I go online to try to increase traffic to new sites or write some more help menus for the spreadsheet budget I'm trying to sell online through affiliate sites, I laughingly tell Barb "Well, guess I'll go on down to the office today," and she knows exactly what I mean.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

We Can Hide but We Can't Run.

I'm not sure what the main industry is in South Florida, but advertising is surely right up there. People who don't live here don't know what they're missing when they open their SoFla mailboxes. When I open mine I find layers of sundry ads of various sales and promotions, all unattached and slipping over each other so that only someone with a strong grip can keep them together long enough to get to the trash. These fillers clutter the mail and hide the first class items so well in their unbound, unstapled, loose-fitting, varied-size sheets and folds that we've more than once tossed something we really needed. Surely the military would like to know what their printers coat these thinner-than-newsprint flyers with, that makes them slicker than teflon or jewelers' oil.

And these nuisance ad bundles are there anew every day. The idea of them flying apart is so you have to pick them up, and presumably in doing so have to look at them. And it works. Frequently one or more of them slips out and falls on the grass, and despite my attempts not to look, I'm visually drawn to some sale price for some product or service before I can crumple it in my hand.

Today I learned from one that "I'm too busy to clean my own house," and that "Bertha and Crew Maid and Painting Service" would do it for me, for only-- . And from another I learned that "Loyalty like mine should be rewarded," therefore I should drop my cellphone carrier and switch to AT&T. Well, that doesn't seem very loyal, does it.

The magazines we get that seem so thick and meaty with reading when we carry them inside and open their pages dissolve into limp little pamphlets as they empty their loose ad insert cards onto our table. Barb then goes through and finds the glued ones and rips them out and throws them on the floor in disdain. What's left is a flapping mess with many jagged pages, and of course most of those are filled with ads also.

One particularly irksome new wrinkle has popped up on the front page of our Sun Sentinel newspaper, which now uses stick-on ads right over the front page headlines! Similar to sticky notes, these thin little three-inch square pests with their thinly-gummed backs can be gently peeled off and removed, but they still take some of the day's top story with them. Barb sticks them on our table items and vitamin bottles, where they continue to work their magic every time we reach for the Equal or pop a Stresstab. Again, the idea is to force me to notice something I didn't want to before the Sun-Sentinel will let me see something I did want to. Bad on them, say I, shame shame.

But advertisers are a shameless species. Some have promoted putting large ads in geostationary orbit so we are involuntarily urged to "Eat at Joe's" every time we try to look up and enjoy a pretty sunset. Others want to plaster their commercial messages over the inside of public restroom doors so we have something to read while--well--something to read, other than the graffiti. Still others want to decorate our shopping cart handles or force us to walk over their ads underfoot as we wheel through grocery aisles. If there were any way to invade our sleep, or even our eternal rest, I'm confident they would try. I'm wondering how long it may be before we will stare down at a dearly departed viewing and see "Betty's Beautiful Bouquets" tastefully arranged on the pillow next to the remains.

Sometimes we try to revolt against the onslought, but it's like shadow boxing with the rain. We join the national "Do Not Call" list, but of course the politicians exclude their causes, so we're swamped with electioneers' calls this year with its heated contests. Charities are also exempt from exercising self-control, and there are always those that just don't comply. We still get a barrage of calls from our college alumni associations every evening, and the "frat of police," as our caller I.D. announces. Fortunately, the caller I.D. works, so our super-cellular voice-announcing, coded-color-and ringtone phones all go off and broadcast "PFRATF OF POLIZ" with a loud, obnoxiously-instrumented tune so we don't inadvertantly bite out of habit. I guess we have barricaded ourselves about as well as we can against the commercial world. But I'm equally sure they will forever strive to find a way to wheedle and twist their way around our defenses.