In several stories, I’ve written about childhood antics and pranks. Pulling pranks and getting into trouble over harmless antics was a common theme when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have the internet or even much TV to watch?
I still remember all the TV channels we could pick up in Hamilton, Ohio. Counting all of the channels on The VHF and the UHF frequencies, (and right now the younger readers are going ‘huh? VHF, UHF?’), we could receive 6 stations. Hamilton, Ohio is located somewhat midway between Dayton and Cincinnati so we could pick up all of the channels from both cities. Oh, and of our 6 channels, 2 of them were duplicate networks (ABC and CBS). We kids were thrilled when WXIX was introduced to us because it meant we could watch great entertainment like The Cool Ghoul! I confess though that although we didn’t have much TV, I did rush home from school each day so that I could watch Dark Shadows.
My favorite direct prank as a kid was a game called purse. I documented it in this short story, so take a break and go read this for a quick laugh (link). As an adult, I have several pranks pulled that I’m fond of. Today’s story is ‘sort of’ a prank in an indirect sort of way. It’s a story that I’m quite fond of because it was all impromptu and the final impact was never made aware to me.
Like many of you reading this, every year while working for P&G, we employees were asked to contribute to the United Way. Then you know the drill – you and your teammates are asked to attend a United away ‘meeting’. The meeting is anything but a meeting. We’re corralled together and then subjected to view a video aimed at loosening our hearts and our purse strings. We watch the short video and think about anything that helps prevent us from shedding a tear in front of our teammates – oatmeal, that always worked. No one cries over oatmeal.
After the oatmeal drill, we would be handed a couple of pamphlets along with an official form we were asked to fill out. The form would authorize the company to make payroll deductions which would then get directed to whatever United Way agencies we declared on the form.
The form also included what was called a “Fair Share”. The fair share was a ‘recommendation’ for how much one should donate. It was called a recommendation but it felt more like a ransom. Maybe ransom is a word that’s too strong; ‘guilt trip offering’ would be more appropriate. Fair Share varied from site to site. For instance, if the site was located in an area that had a lower cost of living, the fair share asked for would be a percentage lower than that in a higher cost of living area. This is a key point for this story.
Cincinnati is the World Headquarters for P&G. If you are hired into the company as a manager anywhere in North America, there is like a 99 44/100% chance that you will spend at least one assignment in Cincinnati. I was very fortunate in that I grew up in Hamilton, just north of Cincinnati, so my first job was there. After a couple of years, I was asked to transfer to Louisiana – Alexandria to be specific. If memory serves me right, the Fair Share recommendation in Cincinnati was somewhere around 1% of my pay but in Alexandria the fair share was only an hour’s pay per month.
My Alexandria assignment was a manufacturing plant. The organizational structure at almost all plants is the same. They are led by a Plant Manager and each Plant Manager has an administrative assistant. They are typically female and in the old days, (less than 20 years ago), they were called “plant manager’s secretary”. The Plt Mgr Secretary typically is in the role for many years. It is a desired role, is considered confidential and naturally comes into contact with a lot of confidential information such as manager salaries. Therefore, the person in this role has a lot of power, (or so they tend to think). I’ve met quite a number of these folks. Some of them don’t portray themselves any differently, but a few of them I’ve met are quick to let you know they are ‘in the know about everything’.
Carly was one such Plt Mgr Secretary. I worked for F&A, (Finance and Accounting), and as such, I did not report up through the Manufacturing ranks.My salary was managed separately by someone in the Finance organization out of Cincinnati. The fact that Carly knew every manager’s salary except the few of us in F&A irked her to no end. On at least four different occasions she made sly little comments in an attempt to find out how much I made.
Italicize. “You know…I know everyone’s salary here except you.” I would either change the subject or just smile.
Shortly after the 4th or 5th attempt to acquire my salary, we were coincidentally engaged in our annual United Way event. Carly was responsible for collecting the managers’ contribution forms so I decided it was time to have a little fun. I popped out my handy-dandy calculator and calculated a one percent contribution rather than the standard plant one hour per month and then simply turned in my form. A one percent contribution figured as an hour’s pay a month translated roughly into close to double my current salary, just a little shy.
I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long before learning whether or not Carly whipped out her calculator.
A couple of days later, I was in the copy room, making copies of course, when Carly walked in.
Time for a copy room flashback. Another favorite memory I have of the copy room has to do with my annoying an intern named Tim. This was a time when Rob Schneider’s ‘making copies’ was popular on Saturday Night Live. Tim had come in to run some copies and so I went into the Schneider routine.
“Timster, Timotola…making copies….”
(Big smile) “You do that pretty well Rob.”
“Timmie…complementing the boss.”
“Timbo, workin’ the room, making copies…..Tim/Tim.”
“Ok, Rob, that’s enough.”
“Timbolina, not liking the Robster.”
And it went on like that for a few more exchanges until I figured that Tim had had enough.
But back to Carly. As I said, I was already in the copy room when Carly came in. She greeted me and then said, “oh I wanted to thank you for your very generous donation to the United Way drive.”
I merely looked at her with a very furrowed brow and quizzical look on my face. Then I simply shrugged and said, (in a questioning tone), “it was just the fair share, Carly.” I think it was the first time I’d ever seen Carly speechless.
Then I turned to walk out the door, smiling with my back to her.