When I was putting together yesterday’s story about the GeoCache jackpot hidden next to the Barossa Valley’s second biggest tree, I noticed that this photo highlights my absolutely dandy set of fingernails.
There’s a point to be made here and I swear I will get to it. Eventually. But not before we take a brief trip in time.
Many years ago we sold our little California ad agency to a behemoth New York ad agency. We were but a tiny cog in their immense machine.
Oddly enough, our business continued to thrive, but the mother company ran into financial problems and a couple years later sold itself (and us) to an even larger international ad agency.
Our new corporate masters didn’t really understand what they had purchased so they asked our agency’s top management — my partner Dan and me — to schedule a two-day orientation meeting in Manhattan. They arranged for us to meet with each of their department heads so we could figure out how to work together smoothly. We assumed they also wanted those department heads to report back with their assessments of the two new guys from California.
I can still clearly picture the moment Dan walked into my office clutching a single sheet of paper with both hands. It was a memo written to those department heads by the Chairman of the Board of our new corporate overlords. Dan was laughing.
“The people who bought us,” he cackled, ”know absolutely nothing about us.”
He then read from the memo.
“Next week we’re going to host two distinguished visitors from our new acquisition in California. Dan, the president of the agency, is a buttoned-down, street smart New York-style account service guy.” Dan did not dispute that part of the memo.
“But here’s the funny part,” he said as he continued reading. “‘Jim, the agency’s creative director, is a laid back California surfer type.’”
Dan resumed laughing, turned and walked out of my office, and probably continued chuckling all the way back to his office on the other side of the building. Although this happened more than 30 years ago, he can occasionally still be heard breaking out in a chortle and mumbling “Laid back California surfer type. That’s classic.”
The reason this was funny is that nothing in the chairman’s description of me was accurate except the word “Jim.”
First of all, I’ve never been on a surfboard in my life. The New Yorkers had apparently mistaken my slovenly T-shirt and shorts attire for some sort of non-existent athletic ability. But that’s not the mischaracterization that had Dan laughing.
Laid back? Yeah, that’s the one.
No matter how laid back I may have appeared on the outside, he knew I was a complete mess on the inside. He knew that that stress-related migraines kept me locked away in a dark room several days each month. That I had more tics than a Texas hound dog. That I found sleep as elusive as Sasquatch. That I had dozens of nervous mannerisms. That on the day we met my fingernails were bloody stubs that had been chewed and picked down to the quick.
That being said, can somebody please contact the lunatic from the Trinity Broadcast Network because a freakin’ miracle has occurred on this trip.
For the first time in my life, I’ve stopped chewing on my fingernails and stopped picking at my cuticles. For the first time in my life, as you can see in the photo at the top of this story, my phalanges are perfect.
I have no idea why. I haven’t changed my routine. I haven’t changed my diet. I haven’t changed my outlook on life. If anything, the fact that the Australian government has closed its borders and stranded us here should have made me more nervous.
Believe it or not, I can actually remember the moment I began chewing my fingernails. I’d guess I was about three years old. My parents were trying to break me of the habit of sucking my thumb and my dad began yelling when he caught me with my opposable digit in my mouth.
“I wasn’t sucking my thumb,” I told him. “I was chewing my fingernails.”
He actually bought that preposterous story. And I guess he thought it was an acceptable trade-off. So I really had no choice. I had painted myself into the proverbial corner. That was the moment I had to stop sucking my thumb and begin biting my fingernails.
And before you ask, no, I have not reverted to sucking my thumb just to fool you like I fooled my father.
But my nails are pretty damn pretty, aren’t they?
(And a ten point pop culture bonus for any of you who understand the Fingernails, Part II reference in the headline.)