The Analogist: Year in Review
One of the occasional running features introduced in 2007 was 'The Analogist,' where you tell me your problem and I tell you what it's like. This feature is so occasional, in fact, I can rerun all the situations we've Analogized in one post. If you have a question for The Analogist, email me. Now on to the Year in Review...
I love my sister but she's the worst. When I was nine, I fell out of our treehouse and broke my collarbone. Angry at the attention I was getting, she jumped from the same treehouse and broke both legs (she still walks with a limp). I'm getting married next month. She's bound to pull something and I want to warn people. What's a good analogy for our relationship?
Your sibling rivalry reminds me of the space race. Did you know that while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were traipsing around the lunar surface, a Soviet spacecraft "“ Luna 15, at right "“ slammed into the Moon? Sounds like something your sister might do if you were an astronaut and she ran a rival nation's space program. This will work especially well if your friends are still harboring Cold War resentment.
I tried and failed to get a former colleague a job with my new company. He was passed over for a less experienced guy with "more potential." People raved about this guy like he was the iPhone. But after months of lackluster work, he was caught trying to steal a scanner. After a tearful admission to HR, he was escorted out by the rent-a-cops that patrol our office park. A more humiliating fate I cannot imagine. I feel so vindicated. What parallels this clown's fall from grace?
Drop this line at your next office happy hour: "Glad we finally got rid of Darko." Darko Milicic was a highly touted prospect before the 2003 NBA Draft. The Detroit Pistons selected him #2 overall, ahead of future stars Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Talk about hype. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's also often hilarious. This is from ESPN analyst Chad Ford back then:
"Darko is really one of a kind. He runs the floor, handles the ball, shoots an NBA three and plays with his back to the basket. So you can slot him at the 3, 4 or 5. Okay, a few other guys can do that, too, but what sets Darko apart is his toughness in the post "¦ Fact is, Darko plays in attack mode at both ends of the floor. The more you push, the more he pushes back."
Darko did not push back hard enough. In parts of three depressing seasons with the Pistons, he never averaged more than 1.8 points or 6.9 minutes a game. Now he's with the Memphis Grizzlies (and improving, I must admit). And in his defense, he was never accused of stealing company property.
Does a third-party candidate actually have a chance to win in 2008?
Essex Fells, New Jersey
Hmmm. I think you misunderstood the concept. Asking me this question is like asking spelling bee contestants whether or not they'd make good pirates. An interesting query, yes. But altogether inappropriate for the venue.
I used to have two cats, until one disappeared. Ever since this happened, my other cat has been wandering aimlessly around the house, pretty much useless. Is there anything else like this out there?
This reminds me of the relationship Tiger Woods had with his former swing coach, and not just because a tiger is one of the four species of cat in the genus Panthera (tiger, lion, jaguar and leopard).
Tiger split with Butch Harmon in 2002 after the U.S. Open. Before the parting of ways, Woods had won seven of the previous eleven major championships, which is like your cat's general attitude before becoming useless. Without Butch — your other cat in this analogy — Tiger was basically wandering aimlessly, not winning another major title until 2005.
But it's important to remember that Tiger eventually returned to his previous unbeatable form, winning tournament after tournament, buying a $39 million Florida home with his supermodel wife, and becoming a father. If this analogy holds, your cat will be fine (in three years, tops).
I just realized why my new boss seemed so familiar. Though we didn't go to the same school, she had a bit of an, um, reputation in high school (I attended a parochial school in the same town in the early 1990s and she's a few years older.) I'm not sure how much of it was true, but she sure dressed the part, and I know she never graduated. Now she's a completely different person, married, very driven and a great boss. I'll carry her secrets to my grave. Or at least my exit interview. What's an analogy for her change, and my feigned ignorance?
Your suspension of disbelief is similar to the way viewers treat repeat actors on the same sitcom. For example, on The Golden Girls, the same actor who played Rose Nylund's lover Miles also appeared in season one as Arnie — another of Rose's male suitors. That Miles was actually in the Witness Protection Program is confusing and rather ridiculous, but irrelevant. The actor (your boss) and the show in general (your company at large) are both best served by your playing ignorant.
Another example: Ted McGinley, who starred as Jefferson D'Arcy on Married"¦with Children for seven seasons, played Peggy's husband Norman Jablonski in the 1989 Christmas episode ("Whoa, Jablonski!"). Ted was fully accepted into our living rooms as Jefferson, unless of course your parents didn't allow you to watch this program. We acted like his previous role never happened. Just like you're doing with your boss' (mildly) scandalous past.
If you're not a Golden Girls or Married"¦with Children fan, this analogy also works with The Cosby Show "“ Denise's husband Lt. Martin Kendall previously appeared in season two as Sondra's date Darryl, a pre-med student Cliff Huxtable found preferable to Elvin and his wilderness-store-in-Brooklyn dreams.
When it comes to awkwardness prevention and sitcom enjoyability, feigned ignorance is bliss.
Does this remind you of anything or anybody? Earlier this year I convinced my law firm to let me start a law blog on our website. While it sounded like a great idea and has been fairly successful, they haven't let me scale back any of my lawyer duties. I'm working harder and longer than ever and totally drained. Now I'm almost certainly going to have to quit.
New York, New York
It sounds like you were (metaphorically) killed by your own invention. Surprisingly, this is not uncommon. Otto Lilienthal was killed while testing a hang glider he'd invented. Franz Reichelt was killed after jumping off the Eiffel Tower to test his overcoat/parachute. William Bullock's foot was crushed by his rotary printing press and died from the subsequent infection. Wikipedia has a whole entry on this: List of inventors killed by their inventions. At least you've lived to tell your story.
After losing some key accounts, my company has laid off thirty people so far this year. Lots of good friends have been let go. There are only twenty of us left. As you'd expect, morale is low. Any analogies to make us feel better?
San Diego, California
This is a tough one. Watching your friends get shown the door is obviously painful. And you're all probably wondering who's next. I doubt this will help, but here's an explanation of forest rebirth posted in Muir Woods, outside San Francisco:
In case you're having trouble reading, the last line says, "Rather than an area of death and destruction this is a wonderful place for us to watch the rebirth of the forest. The debris [from the felled tree] created new habitat for animals, while the new gap in the canopy allows sunlight in, encouraging plant growth. This is not an end, but a beginning."
Sure, comparing your fired friends to old, dead trees is a little callous. But there's a possibility your company can turn things around. Maybe a more helpful place to look is the slogan of New York Lotto: "Hey, you never know."
Dear Analogist: I've been temping with an insurance company, splitting time between communications and HR. The HR folks just offered me a full-time position. A job's a job and I'm grateful and happy. But when I asked my boss in communications why they didn't want me, he told me that they did. However, last week, both groups had booked our main conference room for different important simultaneous meetings. HR agreed to find another meeting space if communications agreed to give me up. I've been traded for a two-hour stint in a conference room! Has anything like this ever happened before?
This isn't as bad as it sounds. And I don't mean that in a "be happy you're employed" way. This reminds me of a story about Dave Winfield, who had an illustrious Hall of Fame career, compiling over 3,000 hits in 22 seasons. Two weeks before the 1994 baseball strike, Winfield was traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Cleveland Indians for the proverbial "player to be named later." Winfield hadn't played in a game for Cleveland when the strike forced the cancellation of the season. In all the turmoil and labor strife, no player was ever named to complete the transaction.
To settle the trade, executives from Cleveland and Minnesota went to dinner, and the Indians picked up the check. So Dave Winfield "“ according to The Sporting News, the 94th greatest player of all-time "“ was traded for a dinner. You're in good company. Congrats on the new job.
Dear Analogist: Since being named Best Man in my buddy's wedding, I've taken a new job in Dallas (commuting back to Phoenix on weekends), broken my collarbone in a freak street hockey accident, and found out I'm being audited. The point? No time to plan a bachelor party. One of our high school friends — a guy not even in the wedding party — really picked up the slack. He's been incredible with this thing, and we've got a kick ass weekend in Mexico ahead of us. My question — how do I get this point across to the groom? I'm worried I'll get credit I don't deserve. Who else in history has taken on so much responsibility? (And don't say LeBron James against the Pistons in last year's playoffs. That one I could come up with on my own.)
How about LeBron James against the Pistons in last year's playoffs? Oh, right.
While I'm not sure just how impressive your friend's actions really were, a great analogy for one person carrying a group is the 1884 season of Providence Grays pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn.
I will let the fine folks from Baseball-Fever.com explain:
On July 23, 1884, Providence Grays pitcher Radbourn begins what may be the most remarkable feat in baseball history. "˜Old Hoss' pledges to pitch every game for the rest of the season if the Grays would agree not to reserve him for the following year. He pitches in nine straight games, winning seven, losing one and tying one. He takes a "˜day off' and plays right field before returning to pitch six more consecutive games. He plays shortstop for a single game and then pitches in 20 more consecutive games, winning 10 before having his 20-game win streak stopped. He would lead the NL in wins with 60, an ERA of 1.38, innings pitched with 678.2, strikeouts with 441, complete games with 73 and winning percentage with a .833 mark. The Grays would win the pennant by 10Â½ games over the Boston Beaneaters.
If the groom's not a baseball fan and thus can't appreciate this incredible feat, another comparison is Sean Connery's character in The Rock. I haven't seen that movie in about five years, but I think I remember him really going above and beyond for Nic Cage in the end. Have fun in Mexico. Good luck with the audit.
Again, if you have a situation you need Analogized, email me.