Franklin P Adams: Office Mottoes


I’d like to bring out another of Franklin Pierce Adams’s poems, as collected in Tobogganing On Parnassus. And for a poem from (at latest) 1911 it’s nevertheless mocking something that I guess is stil relevant, at least assuming that anyone ever actually buys and hangs those inspirational Successories posters in an actual office.

Office Mottoes

Motto heartening, inspiring,
   Framed above my pretty ‘desk,

Never Shelley, Keats, or Byring*
   Penned a phrase so picturesque!

But in me no inspiration
   Rides my low and prosy brow —

All I think of is vacation
When I see that lucubration:

DO IT NOW

When I see another sentence
   Framed upon a brother’s wall,

Resolution and repentance
   Do not flood o’er me at all

As I read that nugatory
   Counsel written years ago,

Only when one comes to borry*
Do I heed that ancient story:

TELL HIM NO

Mottoes flat and mottoes silly,
   Proverbs void of point or wit,

“KEEP A-PLUGGIN’ WHEN IT’S HILLY!”
   “LIFE’S A TIGER: CONQUER IT!”

Office mottoes make me weary
   And of all the bromide bunch

There is only one I seri-
Ously like, and that’s the cheery:

GONE TO LUNCH

[*] Entered under the Pure License of 1906.

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Worse, What If They’re Not Talking About Me?


You can talk about Twitter and Facebook and somehow getting into arguments with people about the remake of V that they made like — two years ago was it? Is that still running? Did it ever run? — and for that matter the guy building the model spaceship in the break room But for my boss’s money the best way to lose productivity at work is to receive a brief e-mail addressed to everyone reminding all of the need to be understanding of one another in these difficult times. I might stay up for weeks wondering if they’re talking about me.

Your Technology Requirements Of Next Week, Today


I had good reason to be in Best Buy during New Student Orientation Week but don’t ask me what it was. Whatever it was comes in second to what I found, a bunch of sheets listing the Technology Requirements for the various universities that students might be going to somewhere around here.

According to Best Buy, according to the various universities, students really ought to have some kind of laptop, because apparently they haven’t noticed students have merged with their iPhones to become a big mass of people with better things to do than notice there’s a professor trying to turn them into informed citizens. I’m delighted they recommend not just getting a laptop but also an operating system and one that’s compatible with Microsoft Office, the leading way to get documents which, on any system, can be read with random lines of XXXXX marks or weird glyphs wherever you’re supposed to sign your name.

Also recommended: anti-virus software, showing that they’re right on top of the big computer security news of 1996 there, and every one of the local universities recommends a laptop with “wireless capabilities”. I considered asking a clerk if they had any laptops without wireless capabilities but was worried that one, in the eagerness to please, would make a laptop wireless-uncapable by the normal expedient of putting it in a transporter pod so as to catastrophically merge its molecules with those of a cinder block.

I didn’t buy anything there.

Robert Benchley: From Nine To Five (Excerpt)


[ Among the many talents of Robert Benchley was his capturing of a very specific sort of fumbling monologue; he could spin out meticulously crafted strings of words falling against one another. This is a segment of “From Nine To Five”, reprinted in Of All Things,a surprisingly lengthy essay about business, in which he describes his problems dictating, and how his self-aware discomfort feeds back on itself. Comedic fumbling is a most precious skill; Benchley was great at it. Those who haven’t heard Benchley’s voice well enough to know his speaking style might do almost as well imagining Bob Newhart reading it. ]

“ Good morning, Miss Kettle. . . . Take a letter, please . . . to the Nipco Drop Forge and Tool Company, Schenectady . . . S-c-h-e-c — er— well, Schenectady; you know how to spell that, I guess, Miss Kettle, ha! ha! . . . Nipco Drop Forge and Tool Company, Schenectady, New York, . . . Gentlemen —– er (business of touching finger tips and looking at the ceiling meditatively) —– Your favor of the 17th inst. at hand, and in reply would state that –— er (I should have thought this letter out before beginning to dictate and decided just what it if that we desire to state in reply)–— and in reply would state that –— er . . . our Mr. Mellish reports that — er . . . where is that letter from Mr. Mellish, Miss Kettle? . . . The one about the castings. . . . Oh, never mind, I guess I can remember what he said. . . . Let’s sec, where were we? . . . Oh, yes, that our Mr. Mellish reports that he shaw the sipment — I mean saw the shipment —– what’s the matter with me? (this girl must think that I’m a perfect fool) . . . that he shaw the sipment in question on the platform of the station at Miller’s Falls, and that it –— er . . . ah . . . ooom . . . (I’ll have this girl asleep in her chair in a minute. I’ll bet that she goes and tells the other girls that she has just taken a letter from a man with the mind of an eight-year-old boy). . . . We could, therefore, comma, . . . what’s the matter? . . . Oh, I didn’t finish that other sentence, I guess. . . . Let’s see, how did it go? . . . Oh, yes . . . and that I, or rather it, was in good shape . . . er, cross that out, please (this girl is simply wasting her time here. I could spell this out with alphabet blocks quicker and let her copy it) . . . and that it was in excellent shape at that shape — . . . or rather, at that time . . . er . . . period. New paragraph.

“We are, comma, therefore, comma, unable to . . . hello, Mr. Watterly, be right with you in half a second. . . . I’ll finish this later, Miss Kettle . . .
thank you.”