*with apologies to Ben Franklin

"Hey, hey, hey. You're HERE. ALL RIGHT. That's mighty, mighty COOL, my man."

The young man in the charcoal Brooks Brothers suit escorted me over to the bean bag chair situated behind his glass top desk, and motioned for me to take a seat. I hesitated for an instant, but as my posterior sank deeply into the bag, and I was forced to listen to the sound of rushing air escaping, I couldn't help but notice the vast menagerie of polyvinyl sea creatures, barnyard animals, and lifelike dinosaurs all stacked in neatly appointed rows surrounding the front edge of his desk…

"I'm Dobie Curtis, new President of Sagely & Wisely Toys," the young man –who couldn't have been more than twenty-four — smiled. "But hey…you can call me Dobie."

"Your office informed me that you were interested in some consulting services," I replied simply, shifting my weight around, so as to let some more air out of the bag.

"That true," Dobie came back. "Actually, I'm a man of few big words. So…I'll get right to the point. Sagely & Wisely just went through a heavy corporate turnaround. I was brought in to essentially clean house. I got rid of the "old guard" — you know, guys mostly over 40. And I replaced them with a buncha people my age — at a lot lower salaries. My thinking here was that if I could get the same work product out of the same group of people for a lot less bucks, I could save the company bundles, and that would show up in both their bottom line and mine, right?" Dobie winked at me. I merely cocked my eyebrow at him, and shrugged.

"The only one I've kept going is the secretary to the guy I replaced — old Mrs. Studebaker — simply 'cause she's the only one who knows where all the old bones are buried," Dobie laughed long and hard with himself. "But seriously…I asked you to come by because, despite the savings, we've yet to see any real gains turn up — in either the company's productivity or its bottom line. That's why we were hoping you could noodle around here a bit, perhaps come back with some specific recommendations."

"Older workers are also seasoned workers," I put in helpfully. "They bring experience and perspective to their jobs that can allow them to operate with greater dedication, efficiency, and clarity of purpose."

"Yeah, yeah, I've heard that song before," Dobie waved me off. "But from where I sit, words like 'experience' and 'perspective' are nothing more than whiny excuses coming from a bunch of corporate fossils who simply can't acknowledge that their times have long since passed."

"Just what kinds of toys do you manufacture around here?" I smiled simply, attempting to change subjects. Dobie merely stared back at me for a very, very long moment.


"Well, uh, let's see…" he said finally, digging through the massive stack of papers piled high on his desk.


After some effort, Dobie managed to pull a thick glossy brochure into the daylight, and began to thumb through what appeared to be his company's annual report.


"Mmmmm. Right. We make a highly integrated and specialized line of educational products," Dobie beamed back at me in satisfaction.

"Interesting," I continued, as I smiled back in return. "And tell me — just as a point of information — what would you say are Sagely & Wisely's three most popularly-selling toys?"

Dobie paused and stared at me again, before thumbing at length through the report in his hands. Finally, he gave up, pushed the brochure to the side.

"Perhaps I should introduce you to our Senior Vice-President for Public Relations," Dobie returned in his most disciplined manner. "I'm sure he can provide you with more advanced knowledge on these subjects."


"Heyyyy, dude! How they hangin'?" the Senior Vice-president for Public Relations greeted me. He stood up to offer me an extremely amiable "buddy" handshake, before polishing this off with a rousing "high five."

"Hey, dude, they're doing great!" I replied as I pointed at him and rapped his knuckles, doing my best to think fast on my feet and blend in with Sagely & Wisely's new corporate culture. "What's up with yours?"

"They're hangin'! They're hangin'!" the Senior Vice-President for Public Relations grinningly acknowledged, as he flashed me the "V-For-Victory" sign, immediately sat back down before the PC at his desk, and stared, totally entranced, at the flickering image on screen ahead.

"Sooo…what's on the box?" I attempted as I sat down beside him, trying to ease into the spirit of the day.

"Surfin' the 'net, man," the Senior Vice-President for Public Relations exuberantly informed me. "Sure beats the surfin' at Santa Monica pier. You know, they still haven't got their storm drain problem totally licked. And with waves being what they are…I could run the very real risk of conking my head!"

"It's a frustration we all share," I nodded in crystal-sighted agreement. "But hopefully, one day, scientists will come up with a solution we can embrace." Then, indicating his computer screen, "What' have you found?"

"Check this OUT!," the Senior Vice President for Public Relations turned back in excitement. "I just broke into NASA's mainframe in Washington. You know that picture of the face on the pyramid on Mars? Well, I had it digitally enlarged…and guess what? It's a REAL FACE. How much do you suppose I could GET for posting this dupe on the Web?"

"About eleven to fourteen years, with time off for good behavior," I stared back at him pointedly. "Look… I know this may be none of my business, but — wouldn't you rather be working on some great press releases for Sagely — maybe get a chance to take credit for bringing some additional revenues into the company?"

The Senior Vice President looked back at me for a long, existential moment, increasingly weighing out the options before him. Finally, he let out a large, exasperated sigh.


In search of greener pastures to investigate, I swung by the company's water cooler. Two high level female executives were locked in bitter argument, in the middle of what appeared to be and could only be described as a designer drug break.


“F@!%*$ you," said the first to the second. "There's NO WAY Kim Kardashian is going to reconcile with Kris Humphries on her show after she's had a baby with Kayne West. She'd be a dork to do it!"

"That whole thing was STAGED and you KNOW it," the second snarled back, swallowing several multi-colored pills before swishing back some water. "Just look how her ratings spiked when this first hit the fan. Are you trying to convince me that bringing him back for one more episode so that he can tell her how much he really wants her back won't put more tingle in BOTH their pockets????”

The first reached for and attempted to poke out the eyes of the second, when I interceded.

"Ladies, ladies," I said, doing my very best to separate both. "I don't mean to intrude, but…shouldn't you be thinking about the status of your jobs here? After all, what if your bosses were to get wind of this?"

"F@!%*$ you," the first snarled back contemptuously, as she fought to be unleashed. "I AM the boss. And YOU happen to be interrupting a very important strategy session."

"I'm HER secretary," the second fired back, as she reached in vain to yank out the hair of the other. "And why should I have to defer to HER when SHE makes just as much money as I DO?"

"But what about all the work that needs to get done around here?" I asked. "What about THAT?"

"F@!%*$ you," the first repeated, spitting out her words, while still bucking like a bronco. "I CALLED New Jersey twice about the order, and they never called back. I say F@!%*$ New Jersey. F@!%*$ the two million dollar order. And most of all," she declared, as she finally managed to break loose and hurl herself on the other, "I SAY F@!%+$ Kris Humphries if he's considering doing one more episode of 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians!!   Especially now that Bruce is so traumatized by having to pretend he's Caitlyn!!!"


The Vice President of Marketing groaned, as I entered his office. As the young woman in the biker outfit before him got to her feet, I could see that she had just finished inserting a shiny brass ring into his navel.

"I know, I know," the Vice President of Marketing winced, as he held up one hand in anticipation of my question, while using the other in a vain attempt to stop a thin issue of blood from trickling onto his pants. "But frankly it was my decision. Part of Dobie's new “Think Younger' campaign. Dobie circulated a inter-office memo encouraging all senior executives to come up with new ways to relate to a younger audience."

As the leather-garbed woman smiled, pocketed her check, and proceeded to breeze past, the Vice President, with some difficulty, attempted to waddle back around behind his desk. "Dobie told me you'd be coming by, and why you'd be coming," he said with another grimace. "Unfortunately, I'm late for a Young Executive Leadership Retreat. Another part of Dobie's 'Think Younger' mandate. He actually reached out to various execs across the nation to pull this together….care to join me?"


The lights went down, and as Jet Li's image burst onto the theater's oversized-size screen, a loud cry immediately went up from the large gathering of top young executives packed inside.


"Whump, Whump, Whump. Whoof! Whoof! Whoof!" the young executive from IBM shouted, whirling his fist in the air, thinking he was perhaps, the next-generation incarnation of Arsenio.


"Kick it! Kick it! Nail those chicken mcnuggets!" the young executive from Chrysler commanded, to cheers from everyone around him.


Sagely & Wisely's Vice President of Marketing turned somewhat sheepishly toward me, as Jet Li proceeded to demolish one baddy after another, right and left.


"I know what you're thinking," he said, his refrain sounding strikingly familiar. "But there is a point to this, I can assure you. The executives gathered here have all come together to actually determine why it is that men like Jet Li, Hugh Jackman, and Christian Bale command millions of dollars for just a few weeks of work, while we're forced to get by on sixty thou or so a year for putting in nearly the same degree of effort…and while we contribute substantially more to the nation's gross national product."


"And?" I shouted back above the roar of the crowd. "What have you concluded?"


The Vice President of Marketing merely grimaced once more, turned his attentions back to the screen. "Do it! Do it!" he screamed at Jet Li. “Do the clown nowwwww!!!"


When I returned to the company's headquarters to submit my recommendations, I found Dobie Curtis, leaving his office, a security guard at his side. He was balancing an armful of files, and looked rather glum.

"What's going on? What's wrong?" I wanted to know.


"Canned me. Axed me. Aced me, man. Cut me off. They promised to give me four full weeks to completely turn this operation around. Instead, they put me out in three."


"I-I don't understand," I returned in earnest. "Then who's in charge now?"


My ears were immediately drawn to the discordant sounds of whooping and hollering coming from inside Dobie's office, and so I couldn't resist poking my head inside. A young boy — perhaps no more than six — was racing frantically about, steering a large flying mechanical robot through what he clearly perceived to be threatening air currents dead ahead.


"KABAM, KABOOM, KAPOW," the boy shouted, dashing madly about. "WOO! WOO! WOO!"


A woman, who could only have been the inimitable Mrs. Studebaker, looked back at me apologetically.


"Lose the educational junk," the boy screamed at her, as she worked furiously to take notes. "I only want robots! Lots and lots of robots!"


"Excuse me," I said tentatively, as I tiptoed into the office. "But…I came to collect my bill."


The young boy immediately ran over to me, and stared defiantly up into my face.


"I'm NOT your Bill. My name's JEFFREY," he growled, as he began to kick me repeatedly in my ankle. "And you're – a -VERY – BAD – MAN – for – interrupting – MY – PLAY. Very – VERY – BAD!"

As I hobbled back out of the office, and leaned down to massage my ankle…I found Dobie Curtis standing next to me, doing the same. Then, as if he anticipated my question:

"He refuses to take any meals when offered. He's absolutely dictatorial when it comes to getting his way. And he's shown an absolute fanatical devotion to playing with the industry's most popularly-selling toys."


"I don't understand it," Dobie said, still looking dazed as we rode down in the elevator together. "A kid that age has no experience. No perspective as to what it takes to run a successful toy company. How can he appreciate the rarified genius that comes with inventing a Tickle-Me-Elmo? Or the sublime satisfactions to be found in launching a new, improved Super Soaker?"

"What will you do now?" I looked at him sympathetically.

"I don't know," he exhaled. "Haven't really thought about it much. Probably head for Palm Beach …check out some of the bikini contests going on down there…over Spring Break. After that? Maybe dust off my resume… go out on some interviews. But, hey…" he brightened. "I'll bounce back. Whatta 'bout you?"

"Thought I'd head down that way myself, see if that shuffleboard judging position is still available," I shrugged. "After that…who knows? Probably swing by small claims court. I just hope the lines aren't too long this time."

Outside, as the sun beat down brightly, I waited for the light to change before crossing the street. A hapless 40-year-old, wearing a rumpled pin stripe suit, who looked every bit as if he had recently been outsourced from AT&T, stood nearby, playing an animated rendition of Justin Bieber on his oboe. A few sympathetic passersby dropped some change into his music case. He approached me…but I looked away.

"I'd like to help you," I finally said. "Really I would. But I'm afraid today is not that day."

The man took one look at my fine pressed navy suit, polished black wingtips, and persisted even more frantically with his playing.


"LOOK…" I attempted to telegraph it for him, trying to be as diplomatic as I could. "Whoof! Whoof! Whoof! KABAM. KABOOM. KAPOW. Get the picture, junior?"


I guess he got the message, because he immediately departed, in pursuit, it seems, of less sophisticated quarry.


Something tells me that Mrs. Studebaker would have been more than a tiny bit pleased.