Cold Call

“Hi, This Is Scott”

In the go-go period of 1995-1999 (the Dot.Com era) everybody was in a hurry  to do something “internety”  Salaries were inflated and an incalculable number of companies sprouted up and their only value proposition is that they had “I,” or “E” (for internet, and electronic, respectively) and created a web site. 

That time was a gold rush for recruiters. Thus, I received many phone calls that I didn’t have time for, and/or had no interest in. In 1996, my office phone did not have caller ID, so I had no way of screening outside calls.

One day I received a call from a recruiter, about a position in the Chicago suburbs. 

I told her that I lived in the city,  and was not at all interested in commuting to the suburbs. I told her I didn’t think I’d be a fit for the job based on that alone.  

Though I agreed to send her a résumé. I would soon regret that decision.

“Have You Heard of McDonald’s?”

She called back a couple of days later. She seemed out of breath as she began telling me about the greatest job in the history of our solar system. 

Less than two minutes in, I told her that I wasn’t interested. 

I reminded her that I lived in the city, and didn’t have a car, and had no  interest in buying a car. Thus, I was not interested in talking further. 

The recruiter wanted to keep talking anyway, and she did. I learned the position was with an advertising agency, that   “has been in business for 30 years.”

I already worked at an ad agency (that had been in business for 100 years). I told her I didn’t want to pursue opportunities in other agencies.

“I am not interested……” I said….again.

She interjected “They have one client, but it’s a huge one. ”

One account? My interest dropped from “Very Little” and dropped to ” zero.”

She added “Have you heard of McDonald’s?”

Hmm…moving on to condescension? Didn’t seem like a particularly solid technique to win over a prospective candidate.

 “McDonald’s: that’s their client. For 30 years! The company ‘does the work’ for their Monopoly game. They loved your résumé and are very interested in talking to you.”

 “Does the work”? What the hell?

That could mean anything: printing, graphic design, media buys, strategy, etc. and maybe even something internety. 

I must admit, the M-word (McDonald’s) did cause me to pause for a moment. Like many people my age, I had fond memories of McDonald’s:

I almost asked her to elaborate, then I had a feeling in my gut. A queasy feeling, like the time that I got sick at football practice shortly after I’d eaten 4 Quarter Pounders on a dare.

I didn’t know if this was a gut instinct, or a Pavlovian flashback. I concluded  it was the former.  There  was no force on Earth would make me interested in that position. There was too much risk, and a Super-Sized  serving of inconvenience.

“I Knew You’d Be Perfect”

I said, “It doesn’t matter who the account is. I don’t plan to work for a company with only one customer. My current company had a client for 75 years and they lost it last year. Furthermore, I don’t want to work in the suburbs. I don’t even have a car.”

“Well, you could  JUST  buy a car?”

“I don’t want a car. There are many reasons why I got rid of my car. I’d be happy if I never had a car again.”

“Well, you could JUST take a train.”


The location wasn’t near a commuter rail station. The would involve several bus transfers; therefore a lot of time. I reiterated that I wasn’t interested. 

She was getting exasperated, and said, “But they loved your resume and  want to know how soon you could start.”

WHAT?!? That was the second time she said she had shared my résumé. It didn’t register with me the first time. On the second occasion it did. 

“You shared my résumé?!? Why did you do that?!? And who makes decision to hire people without an interview?” I asked, in a whisper-shout.

She replied, “I knew you’d be perfect. And I’m sure that they’ll make it worth your while to commute out there. Or you could just buy a house near their office. They have a big budget for this job, you could probably buy a nice house…”

“JUST” again.

“OK, This is Your Loss”

I was way past done. With every fiber of my being, I tried to restrain myself as I reiterated all of my key points: I didn’t want to commute to, or move to, the suburbs. I didn’t want to buy a car, or spend hours on commute trains and buses. 

She tried her money line again, “But, they’ve had the McDonald’s business for 30 years, and…”

After some effort, I was finally able to convince her that I wasn’t interested. She signed off with a disdainful “OK. This is your loss. Bye.” There was a bit F-U! in her voice.

Across the Pond

I didn’t think much of  the conversation years until  after I’d moved to Michigan. I learned on TV news of a high-profile scandal involving the McDonald’s Monopoly game.  Some of of their promotional agencies were axed.

I was glad that I had gone with my gut. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one McMuffin.

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The Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon, where a large number of people share a recollection of an event that did not actually occur, or their recollection is somewhat (perhaps substantially) different from the facts of the actual event.

The term “Mandela Effect” was coined by a paranormal researcher, Fiona Broome, who had vivid memories that anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela had died in prison during the 1980s. Broome’s recollection of Mandela was shared by a number of other people. 

In reality, Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and he became President of South Africa in 1994. In 2013, Mandela died at his home following a lengthy illness.

Broome and others, have speculated that because there are often numerous people who share alternative memories of an event’s facts that this suggests the existence of parallel universes. Furthermore, that people might be remembering events that actually occurred in an alternate reality.

I have my own thoughts on the Mandela Effect, sadly none are as glamorous as a “Multiverse of Madness” (yes, a reference to Marvel’s recent Dr. Strange movie), or the famous “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Star Trek. 

Here  are some common Mandela Effect examples. I think many of them are of low consequence. Does it really matter if people remember watching “The Flinstones” as opposed to the “The Flintstones?”

Others  have easy explanations. For example the lyrics to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is notable, because it does, and doesn’t, contain “…of the world,” at the end of the song.  

Musical performers often modify their hits songs when performing  in a live audience context. While album version ends with “we are the champions,” the band’s memorable performance at Live Aid added “…of the world” to the song’s end. 

Did any of the examples from The Parade article surprise you?

Do you have examples of the Mandela Effect (…false memory syndrome, or groupthink) in your work, or elsewhere in your life?


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Performance Review

A few months ago, I pondered the type of projects I was going to pursue next. 

After much deliberation, I decided that, for now, one of the best ways I could serve my community would be to help alleviate the staffing shortages in our schools.

When my paperwork was finally approved, I stared at the available assignments with some  trepidation.

Eventually, I clicked the “Accept” button for a 1-day assignment as a 5th-grade science teacher in a neighboring school district.

Since then, I’ve worked in four other districts–pre-K, high school, middle school–across myriad income levels, so that teachers can: go to the dentist, celebrate their birthday, take their child to the doctor, attend an IEP meeting, or recover from Covid.

The jobs are never quite the same and are often extremely different from one day to the next. Nearly every day begins with an encounter with  imposter syndrome.

However,  the feedback, from the students has given me an incredible boost. I’ve shared some below.

After I’d  covered her class for 30 minutes–while her teacher was in a meeting–a 2nd-grader wrote me a note:

“Thank you for being the best sub ever. “

A middle schooler said to me (30 seconds into a conversation):

“What?!? You’ve read the book ‘Jurassic Park?’ I’m already your biggest fan, ever!”

A 5th-grader walked up to my desk on his way to his next class, and offered:

“You’re a good sub., but you need to be more strict.”

A high school junior wrote this:

“Dear Mr. Smith, I’d love to thank you for subbing in my class. We may be wild, but we mean well. You’re a great and funny man. I like the way you say ‘ya’ll.’ It reminds me of a cowboy movie. “

These are among the best performance reviews I’ve ever had.

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Cool Change

In my twenties, I found myself in a bit  of a predicament.

Shortly after I’d resigned from my job in Tallahassee, and had let my lease run out, I found out my new opportunity—with a previous employer in Gainesville—had evaporated.

I learned this at 10 pm on a Sunday night, when I still had 135 miles left to drive on the return leg of a weekend trip.  On the agonizing ride home, I concluded the practical, and easy thing would be to rescind my resignation, then I could find a new place to live.

The next day, my boss said they hadn’t hired my replacement and asked if I wanted to reconsider my resignation. 

I opened my mouth, with intent of being practical and saying ”Yes…” but I was overcome by a stream of impractical thoughts. The first thing to come to mind: I couldn’t stay in that soul-sucking  job. 

I was also more than ready to leave Florida where I’d been for 15+ years  since my parents relocated their 3 remaining nestlings to The Sunshine State from Massachusetts. 

My impractical thoughts raced to my youth, in Connecticut and Massachusetts: the fall colors, the fluffy snow, the topography, clam rolls, Fenway Park,  apple orchards, the rocky coasts, Lexington and Concord, aunts, uncles, and cousins, …and cooler weather. I decided to make a big change.

The impractical thoughts won. I answered ”No, I can’t stay here.”

She asked about my new plans. I replied, ”I guess my new plans are to make new plans.”  

The next day, I bought a new typewriter and started writing cover letters to organizations in the Greater Boston area and was able to line up some interviews. 

An unexpected, though welcome, twist was that a couple of college friends (who were now a couple) had offered to let me stay with them, if I was interested in working in the DC vicinity.  Thus, I contacted some organizations in that area, too.

The next few weeks, was a blur of yard sales (where I tried to sell my beater truck) working overtime,  researching potential employers, writing cover letters, running, and listening to live music (see below). 

I had lined up some interviews in Boston and DC, and picked a departure date that would allow for some short visits with my college friends, and my sister’s family in Connecticut, before I had be in Massachusetts for the first interview.

It was almost exactly 30 years ago today, that I put the last armful of items into the trunk of my Mazda 323 and headed north. I’d would eventually settle in the DC area for a spell, before moving to Chicago, and finally West Michigan.

Other than the occasional adrenalin surge and swearing  that accompanies  skidding on an icy road, my regrets are few, far between, and of short duration.

It still seems like one of my best decisions ever.

(Funk Bible “Funken Soul”)

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