Let there be peace on earth. If only saying it made it so. But just saying it can get you a Nobel Prize.
A lot of people are still up in arms because President Obama was rewarded, not for accomplishing peace, but for simply talking about how he’d really like to make that happen. I think many of the disgruntled probably don’t live here, because in New York, talking up (as opposed to actually accomplishing) your agenda is a common way of getting recognition.
Take for example, our Real Housewives, who will return soon—God help us—to represent New York City to the rest of America.
Unlike the others who have careers, Luanne had a title, yet no niche. So she started talking about “manners.” Even though hers didn’t really seem to be any better than anyone else’s, she spoke as though she invented the concept and was eventually awarded a book deal about, yes, how to have manners.
We all know people like this. I worked with a guy who talked incessantly about “new business”—how, why, where to get it. When our ad agency decided to start a new business division, guess who was put in charge of it, even though he had yet to actually bring in any—that’s right—new business?
Then there was the colleague who’d earned the rep as “the nicest person in the world” by merely offering to do things. “Want Starbucks?” she’d ask, as you stood with coffee already in hand. “I’m going to IKEA this weekend, need anything?” (Like what, a sofa?)
My best (worst?) story of someone talking up an agenda was when I freelanced with an art director. She elevated her status among our colleagues by regaling an entire conference room with her views on donating time to charity, while evoking the name of a rather renown one here in New York. She spoke eloquently of the good done by the organization and how satisfying it is to be a part of something so beneficial to so many.
Weeks later, with the freelance job behind us, we were comparing notes about what new assignments were floating around. I mentioned that, even when she wasn’t working, at least she had her volunteer work to keep her busy and inquired about how that was going.
Volunteer work? It seemed that not only had she never worked for them, she had never even signed up. Apparently, the day of the meeting where she spoke so movingly, she had only called the organization to inquire about participating. She had never actually gotten around to following through. To her though, using the good works of this noble cause to falsely raise her profile was nothing to feel guilty; she truly believed in the virtues of volunteerism, and at the time she really meant to sign up to help, so kudos were still deserved.
Since this kind of “logic” seems to come without consequences, I think I’ll get into the act, and in the running for next year’s Nobel Prize.
I want to go to Strawberry Fields (I probably won’t make it over today, or ever, but I really want to), and sing my own rousing rendition of “Give Peace a Chance.” For the next year, I’ll talk about how important it is for me—no, for all of us—to send this kind of positive vibe out into the universe.
By the time the committee convenes, I’ll be a shoo-in! Please forward the award c/o Our Town or West Side Spirit. Thank you in advance and, oh yeah, I’m humbled.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, by The Vineyard Press, is coming soon.
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