#262 In which our hero somewhat reluctantly participates in a questionable company-mandated charity contest.
My agency is big on charity work. Not pro bono advertising work (which is a little odd) but general fund-raising and collections. We typically “adopt” several underprivileged families around Christmas and provide gifts, coats and assorted stuff, for example.
Recently, we had a food drive. The deal was that the charity organization would provide us with ten 55-gallon plastic barrels, and we were to fill them up with canned goods, paper products and other non-perishables. Which is all and good.
But, then an email went out explaining how we were going to turn this food drive into a FUN! activity for the entire agency! We were going to decorate the barrels! You would randomly be assigned to a team, and your team would get together to brainstorm how to decorate the shit out of your barrel! Oh, what fun would be had!
This reeks of mandated participation, which doesn’t thrill me. Years ago I worked for The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. The owner’s pet charity was United Way, and he liked to brag that 100% of his employees contributed. This was achieved by strong-arming anyone who didn’t want to participate. And, honestly, it was coercion, plain and simple. At the time I was working in the phone room, and not making a fortune by any stretch of the imagination. So I didn’t really want to give any money to charity, especially when I could better use that money to pay off my credit card debt. But when I didn’t immediately return my United Way form, my boss, then my boss’s boss came down on me. First it was a nice “ah, come on, donate a$1 a week, that’s not so much, is it?” Then it became, “Y’know, John F. [the owner of the paper] takes United Way contributions very seriously. You wouldn’t want to piss off the president, would you?” It was all really obnoxious.
So, I wasn’t excited by this apparently mandatory contest BS. But I went to the initial group meeting because… well, because I want to keep my job. And every little thing I can do to make myself seem like a team player/someone management wants to keep around, I’m going to jump at it.
And this guy came to the meeting prepared. He had sketches of what he thought we should do to decorate the barrel. Which was to but a gigantic nutcracker head on to of it, with a working mouth to accept the canned goods. Now, I’ll admit this is an intriguing idea, but how the hell do you make that work? Was this guy going to craft a giant nutcracker head out of paper mache? When someone asked him how to do it, his answer was, “I dunno, we could carve it out of foam or something.”
Now, my original plan was to go to the meeting but not really help that much. I was busy with my real job, after all. But, I would be goddamned if I’d like this guy get his way. I had what I thought was a pretty damn clever idea, and I told the group about it. And, more importantly, it was 100% executable. I sketched it out on a piece of paper and passed it around.
After some debate (some dumbasses still wanted to make this unmakable nutcracker head) it was deceived to do my idea: Santa’s reindeer.
My idea was simple: do something that no other group would think of (it was a competition, after all): turn the barrel on its side, make sawhorse legs, and make a head with antlers. It came together easily in my head.
Then I made a mock-up, using foamcore and a Mountain Dew can as a proxy for the barrel. It looked great. So I told everyone I’d cut the real deal out over the weekend and bring it in on Monday.
That weekend it took me about four hours to cut the parts out of plywood. It went amazingly easily, especially considering that I’m not at all handy. Another 15 minutes of brown spray paint, and it was done.
I brought it in and started to assemble it. I told the rest of my group that all they needed to do was find a blanket or piece of cloth or something to cover the barrel, and a red nose. One $5 blanket from Walmart and a foam nose later, and it was done.
I was really pleased with how well it all came together. Most of the other barrels were more traditional in design (there were a lot of chimneys with Santa coming down, an angel, Oscar the Grouch in his trashcan, things like that. None of the other entries put the barrel on its side.
I thought that gave us a good chance of winning but, honestly, what I really thought would put us over the top was the butt:
I made a plug for the open part of the barrel, with a trap door. The idea is you had to lift the deer’s tail to stick the canned goods in it. That’s right, you had to stuff the food up the deer’s butt.
Given the mental age of a large portion of the agency, I thought this was the perfect gimmick to give our entry the edge. And it was certainly more fun that some half-assed nutcracker head.
I should have known better.
The votes were tallied, and my reindeer lost. By two votes. TWO! I can’t win a damn thing at this agency.
However, the entry we lost to was very cool. It was a Starbucks’ holiday cup, complete with hot chocolate and whipped cream. It was beautiful. Not as innovative as my entry, but very cool. If I had to lose, I’m okay with losing to that entry.
Okay… but still bitter.