*with apologies to Thomas Jefferson

As I stood in the elevator approaching the fourteenth floor, I could sense that something wasn’t right. The prestigious executive recruiting firm of Hickley, Hartley, & Hoolihan had summoned me to its offices, hoping that I could help to improve its bottom line. The irony was not lost on me, for as a member of the “New Economy” myself, I was constantly seeking out new means to improve my own. But with the new tax season just around the bill-paying bend, I decided there was nothing to be lost by honoring Hickley, Hartley’s request for an initial creative consultation, and seeing whether I might do something to contribute to its profitability.

“Welcome, welcome,” Henry Hickley greeted me warmly, as he buttoned his polyester jacket, and smoothed out the creases in his bisecting tie. “Glad you could make it…really, really glad.”

As a nervous secretary shoveled a chair beneath me, two middle-aged, bespectacled men, adorned with ample frostings of goo in their hair, also leaned in to shake my hand.

“I’m Harvey Hartley. He’s Hedrick Hoolihan,” the more heavily frosted-one beamed. “We’re really, really glad you could make it, too.”

“We’ll get right to the point,” the unfrosted one sombered, indicating for the others to be seated, and that the meeting was about to turn serious. “Corporate profits are climbing. But businesses are still downsizing like never before. That means we’ve got a lot of brilliant, talented people out there who are seriously underemployed.”

“You might say we’re a bunch of refugees ourselves,” Harvey Hartley chuckled, without eliciting much of a response. “But seriously…with the surplus of talent out there today, most employers are flat out refusing to hire anyone who’s been out of work for more than a year. We were hoping you might sit in on a typical counseling session with us, act as an impartial observer…maybe come up with some swift ideas as to where we might place some of the square pegs we’ve been running across.”

“Sounds okay by me,” I beamed, the first words to have escaped my lips so far.

Henry Hickley smiled, turning to the unusually antsy secretary beside him. “Mrs. Hoho…would you please be so kind as to usher in our first candidate. I believe the gentleman said his name was Thomas Jefferson.”

“Thomas Jefferson,” I smiled. “You mean, as in the former President?”

“Weill…he claims he was president,” Henry Hickley replied, going through the notes in his file. “Frankly, he could have been president, a vice-president, or even a national sales manager. Times are tough. You never know with these people. It’s become common practice for them to exaggerate on their resumes.”

Mrs. Hoho returned to the room, and escorted Thomas Jefferson to his seat. He looked well-manicured, and elegant, albeit slightly less upbeat than in pictures I had previously seen of him.

“Well, well, well, Mr. Jefferson, so nice of you to come in,” Henry Hickley stated. “You’ve had quite a full history…quite a full history, indeed…let’s see here. It says at various times you worked as an architect. Engaged in scientific farming. And you’ve even dabbled as an inventor. Am I correct in understanding that you invented both the swivel chair and the dumb waiter?”

“That is quite correct,” Thomas Jefferson nodded with some pride and accomplishment.

“Well, the swivel chair impresses me,” Henry Hickley came back. “But frankly, I’ll be honest. This is Los Angeles. Dumb waiters here are a dime-a-dozen.”

“Most of them graduated from the U.C.L.A. film school, har, har,” Harvey Hartley har-haringly noted.

“Okay, so you’ve invented a few things,” Henry Hickley went on. “What’s important here is that you actually got a couple of projects made. It also says here that you attended law school.”

“That is also correct,” Thomas Jefferson reaffirmed.

“And you graduated from William & Mary,” Henry Hickley noted. “Is that true?”

“Yes, of course it’s true!” Thomas Jefferson replied indignantly.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Henry Hickley held up his hand. “I’m just askin’. You’d be surprised what’s going on out there these days. And we’ve got to protect our client relationships.”

“I understand,” Jefferson replied, sinking down in his chair. It was clear he had been down this road before.

“Hmm…you’re also a published author. And you’ve been active in politics,” Henry Hickley glanced up, looking somewhat impressed.

“I would lose the politics part,” Hedrick Hoolihan contributed. “That’s not going to skew well — in a whole lot of circles.”

“So, we’ll put it at the bottom of his resume,” Henry Hickley glared back at him, a bit annoyed. “Those Human Resources guys rarely get that far anyway… Anyway, the important thing is that you seem to have acquired a vast array of skills along the way…including a talent for negotiating. It says here that you were involved with closing a major land deal — in Louisiana.”

“It was pretty sizable,” Jefferson nodded simply.

“So you’ve dabbled in commercial real estate transactions, too,” Hickley kept his smile lit, snapping the file shut. “Listen. Tom. May I call you Tom? I need to be honest. I’m not sure how we can help you here. You don’t seem to focus on any one thing for any given length of time. And you’ve been out of work for quite awhile.”

“I’m either overqualified, or I’m underqualified. I either have too much experience, or not enough experience. Yama, yama, yama,” Thomas Jefferson lamented.

“Well, what about your skill sets? Do you know Microsoft Powerpoint? Can you operate a MAC?”

“No, but I am an idea person,” Jefferson said, rising to the challenge. “For example. The other day, I was thinking about the nation’s education system. If the U.S. Department of Education were to liaison on a regular basis with the U.S. Department of Labor, more accurate projections could be provided to the nation’s school children as to where the most promising job prospects are likely to be had in the next ten years, thus helping to reduce unemployment — by allowing America’s next generation of workers to plan their curriculums and vocations more exactingly.”

“That’s all well and good,” Henry Hickley responded. “But how do I sell that to somebody?”

“Tom,” Harvey Hartley benignly attempted. “If you could close your eyes. Be anything you wanted to be. What would you be doing right now?”

Thomas Jefferson closed his eyes, shifting uncomfortably about in his chair.

“Well…I imagine I would be at home at work in my garden — looking for new ways to increase the yields of flax, wheat, and hemp. Or perhap retiring to my study — to work on my latest chemical experiments.”

“Okay. Right. But let’s be practical here, shall we, Tom? Working out of your home can get to be a real bummer after awhile. Upkeep on the house gets to be expensive? There’s overhead to consider? By the way, you can open your eyes now.”

“I suppose I could write. Or perhaps I could teach. Religion and political philosophy have been particular passions of mine lately. I’m also told I’m pretty fair when it comes to playing the violin.”

Henry, Harvey, and Hedrick all looked at each other, and nodded knowingly.

“Yes. ..well. We really appreciate your stopping by,” Henry Hickley stood up, leaving Thomas Jefferson to also got to his feet and meet his gaze with a look of disappointment. “Mrs. Hoho, here, will show you where you can video tape your mock five minute interview, before validating your parking ticket and showing you to the elevator. Oh — and before you leave, we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind completing a few psychographic profiles — providing us with an example of your handwriting — and a routine urine specimen.”

Thomas Jefferson merely shrugged, closing the door behind him. Everyone looked at each other once more, and it was Harvey Hartley who was first to speak.

“This guy’s all over the map,” Harvey Hartley rendered. “Just like so many hyphenates living in L..A.. Creative, yes. Brilliant, maybe. But still a real zero, in my estimation.”

“If he had just stuck with that Louisiana land deal, I might’ve possibly wrangled him a nice position with Coldwell Banker for a coupla hundred K a year,” Henry Hickley offered.

“I wouldn’t give up on this guy so quickly,” Hedrick Hoolihan interjected. “He obviously has some talent…what he clearly lacks is name recognition.”

“Maybe if we changed his name to Steven Spielberg…or Jerry Seinfeld…or Sam Houston. We could charge a higher fee,” Henry Hickley chuckled half-heartedly.

“Sam Houston died,” Harvey Hartley shook his head, putting the kibosh on this one. “Besides, Sam Houston was political.”

“Suppose we did change his name to Steven Spielberg,” Hedrick Hoolihan spoke up, not quite willing to let the idea go. “You know, as a stunt. A sort of gimmick. He could call up and say something like, ‘hello, my name is Steven Spielberg, har har’–as a conversational icebreaker — a way to get in front of people.”

“Wait a minute,” Henry Hickley frowned. “What if the real Steven Spielberg found out about this? Don’t you think he’d mind?”

“We’d have to send him on completely appropriate interviews,” Hedrick Hoolihan volunteered with earnestness. “And the real Spielberg likely wouldn’t find out about it for awhile. Even if he does, what could he do? So Jefferson winds up sending him a letter of apology. ‘It was a gag. I’m sorry.’ You know, something like that. Worst case scenario is they settle out-of-court.”

“Hmmm,” Henry Hickley said thoughtfully, stroking his chin. “Brand identity is everything these days. You never know…”

“I just got a job order for a project manager at Universal,” Hedrick Hoolihan went on, brightening, as he left his chair to go and find it. “They need a showrunner — someone to fix the Jurassic Park Ride.”

“Forget it, I’m not doing it,” Harvey Hartley held up his hand in protest, as he left his chair to go after him. “That account is too important to us, and this guy won’t stick with the project for more than three days. Did you see that tangent he went off on with the Department of Education? Completely out of left field.”

I left the room at that point, and never did manage to collect a fee for the services I neglected to render. But as I stood in the elevator, and began to make my way back down to the bottom floor, I started to relax, and drift, get into the muzak, and muse a little…as to what it would be like…if I ever decided I’d be willing to go for it…and change my name…to Steven Spielberg…or Art Buchwald…or Will Rogers, Jr….or even Erma Bombeck.

Hey, you never, never, ever know.