Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Am I Choking? Brother John?

So. I’ve told you about my friend Tonia? The one who’s the female Clinton Kelly, running workshops to teach the fashionably-challenged how to dress to flatter their figure?

Yes, that Tonia. Somehow, through Tonia’s superpowers of persuasion, she convinced Jack (realtor by day, chef, manager & PR whiz by night) and…well…me, to climb on board the crazy train and create a “Business Plan & Strategy” to get her company up and running fulltime. The “Business Plan & Strategy” was Jack’s idea…he even had little booklets made for Tonia and I…there were, like…40 pages in this book and the cover was laminated. Tonia and I snuck knowing smiles at each other behind Jack’s back and I wondered (not for the first time) why our method of post-its in assorted rainbow colors wasn’t professional enough for Jack-the-Tack. (‘Cause he’s sharp….get it?) I mean…OUR method would have pink post-its for important things…like “Call that guy that called on Tuesday from the Chronogram (?) about placing an ad?” (Tonia), or a pretty yellow one that said “Need sign for store window re: Scr o*pal Bene S” (Yes…that would be me….and I have no idea, but in all fairness, I was driving at the time…and I believe on the phone as well…):

As it stands right now, MY responsibility in all this is to:

  • Design several layouts for business cards
  • Design several layouts for brochures
  • Design several layouts for print ads (including grayscale alternatives)
  • Design a rough template for a monthly newsletter

Tonia’s job is to inundate Jack and me with hoards of food whenever it gets within 2 hours of any mealtime and Jack seems pretty busy putting together all these laminated “Business Strategy” manuals.

So. Basically, everyone’s waiting on moi. The problem is that every time I try to go over the kazillion (that’s an actual number in the marketing biz…really.) options for any one design with Tonia, we get interrupted a kazillion times due to her clients that come in looking for her personalized, honest attention to detail that she’s so famous for.

This means that our two-hour meeting on Wednesday stretches out to four and a half hours when factoring in all the interruptions. Then, she goes to pick up lunch…which we never asked for…not that she asked what we wanted, thankyouverymuch. So, off she goes and a minute later, the phone’s ringing. I look at Jack and Jack looks at me.

“I’m not answering it. YOU do it,” I say.

“Not enough money on the planet,” says Jack.

So, we let the machine get it. (They hung up, anyway.)

Then, a customer walks in the door. Neither one of us thinks to look up from our doodling, so she clears her throat and says “Hi. Is Tonia here?”

“Uh. She stepped out. She’ll be back….in a few minutes…maybe 10?...minutes?” I say, looking to Jack for reassurance that I am conveying the information accurately. He’s still scribbling on his pad and it's starting to look suspiciously like a grocery list from my angle.

The lady literally backs out of the store and gets back into her car and immediately picks up the phone. I say “Jack. Tonia had better get back here pronto. That lady thinks we’ve murdered the shopkeeper and stuffed her body back in the office behind the half-off winter clothes and under the leftover Chinese food from yesterday’s lunch.”

“Nah,” Jack mumbles distractedly. “It’s just your overactive imagination again…does Clorox have an “h” in it?”

When the second customer comes through the door, I smile brightly and say “Hi!”, like Tonia does, leaving out the “Can I help you find anything?” that usually follows it. She takes one tour through the store and promptly leaves, probably wondering why her good friend Alice told her this place was so great on personalized service. When Tonia finally returned, Jack mumbled something about the phone ringing and I bluffed my way through the 2 disinterested customers. Tonia seemed a tad annoyed…but not overly surprised.

Lately, I’ve taken to showing up at other locations to try and find a few moments of uninterrupted time so I can crank this thing out. Today, I showed up at her hair appointment. She’s sitting in a chair with goop on her hair reading a magazine and I plop down beside her. She’s pretty good at the “poker face”, so it’s hard to tell if she’s glad to see me or not.

“How did you find me? Did you go by the store?” she asks suspiciously.

“Nope. Research is my thing, lady. Now…let’s get to work!” I respond, with more energy than I actually feel.

After yet another interruption to have her hair blow dried, we run next door for a late lunch of Italian Cuisine (read: In, Out, FAST Pizza Place). As always, Tonia orders the food as she never seems to approve of whatever I want and honestly, it’s just easier to let her do it. I set up papers, notes and mock-ups on the biggest table they have and we spend the next 30 minutes making some life-or-death decisions….saving the world and all of humanity from witnessing a business card with “too much yellow”, or “not enough dead space in the middle”…allowing mankind to survive for yet another day.

Staring off into space for a minute before we finish up, I spot this sign (underneath the prerequisite pizza-poster):

We’ve all seen it…even peripherally as we move through most restaurants…it’s the “FIRST AID FOR CHOKING” sign. I got up to read what little wasn’t covered over by the cases of soda:

#1: Ask “Are You Choking”?
It then has an illustration of a person with their hand on their neck…and it says “This is the universal sign for choking”. Evidently, if the person does NOT have their hand in the correct place, it will not be understood that YOU ARE CHOKING. So PAY ATTENTION, people!

It then goes on to tell you to call Emergency and there’s a long line, where the on-the-ball Pizza-Place owner wrote in “9-1-1”, in case there’s actually someone under the age of five who needs to call and doesn’t know the number off the top of his head.

From there, it tells you that “If the victim (gee…they’ve already got you placed on a gurney with a toe tag, already) can breathe, speak or cough, STAND BY…but DO NOT INTERFERE.”

But….is it any ONE of those things?....or does the victim (with one foot already In the grave) need to be breathing, speaking AND coughing for everyone in the place to STAND DOWN? I mean…what if they can cough but they can’t breathe?? I can just imagine the ongoing debate as to the linguistics of said FIRST AID FOR CHOKING.

#3: “If victim cannot breathe, speak or cough (I guess it’s all or nothing, then…) perform Heimlich Maneuver until food or object is FORCED OUT.”

Around this time, I’m already pulling out my cell and fiddling with the buttons…the beginnings of a serious laughing fit simmering dangerously close to the surface as the full comic picture hits me of the geniuses in charge of making this sign sitting in a room…with one guy acting out the “universal sign for choking” as he was taught it in nursery school…sung to the melody of “Are you sleeping…are you sleeping…Brother John? Brother John?”…and I’m trying to focus on finding the button for the camera before I totally lose it. Tonia calls out “What are you doing over there?” thereby drawing the attention of the owner of this fine establishment, who’s a tad suspicious of some woman taking a picture of his half-hidden FIRST AID sign.

“Nothing….HA!” I say. “We were just leaving. Let’s go,” I answer…once again, thanking God and The Universe and my mother’s genes for my overactive imagination…for once again providing me with the ability to laugh…even when no-one can understand exactly why.

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