I often write about stories of my youth … or at least earlier times and some of the characters I’ve worked with. Over the past 4 days I’ve had an interesting email exchange with a couple of Filipino business people that I thought it might be valuable to write about … and while casting about for a headline and a way to start things off, I thought about Louis and a lesson he taught me which I used to take as Gospel but now find i soften wrong here in the Philippines.
I worked for Louis for years back in my Cheyenne Mountain days. I wouldn’t want to say that Lou was hard to get along with, or set in his ways much, but one of his favorite expressions was, “anyone with ‘sch’ in their name is stubborn and hard headed”. Of course, he had it in his family name twice, so maybe he was trying to tell us something. (it’s pronounced “shoe – ski”, BTW, much simpler pronunciation than the man himself).
One day Lou was preparing to leave on a business trip and he selected me to sit in for him and man his desk. I knew the job pretty well, but of course I was a little nervous about taking the reins. Louis sat me down and showed me all the reports that needed to be turned in, all the letters that needed answering, his list of meetings that needed attending and so on. They he gave me what he called the one single piece of advice I needed to remember … “the shortest answer is ‘No'”.
That piece of advice has kept me out of a lot of contretemps and undoubtedly saved me hours of work in the rest of my government career. I was always grateful for it. But here in the Philippines? I’m not so sure. Perhaps it has lost some of its usefulness.
Wednesday or Thursday of last week I received an email for a business person in a “blogging media” corporation. Just why bloggers should join forces under the umbrella of some sort of agency which ads levels of corporate management to what otherwise is an independent calling, I don’t know, but for them who feel the need for an outside boss, more power to them.
The email invited me to attend a “media event” food extravaganza and then asked me how much I would charge to write an article about the show. The event was in Makati or someplace else I don’t travel to at night (people think I live in Manila, but I am really a country mouse in a little provincial town here, and getting me into Manila is a major undertaking).
I just answered the invitation with a simple “no thanks” and also added, in response to the writing query, that I didn’t write articles for pay. Seemed simple and polite enough to me.
Well, the one thing you can never say here in the Philippines is a simple “no” … even if you add “thanks” to it. Since that simple response, the client of the firm that originally contacted me has apparently canceled the event (goodness knows how many other bloggers were planning on going … they must all hate me now). I also received a 378 word email (long enough to be a blog post in itself) from the parent company assuring me in excruciating detail that they were the most honest company on the face of the earth, had more editorial integrity than the New York Times and Katie Couric put together and that they had terminated their business relationship with the firm that sent me the original invitation.
So in one two-line email I have managed to ruin a night out for who knows how many fellow bloggers, perhaps cost them fees they were planning on being paid and apparently got an up and coming media firm fired from a lucrative job with a major corporation. All with one “no thanks”.
What a way to start my week. a fire storm of proportions I never would have imagined. And don’t forget, I haven’t heard from my dear asawa yet, she reads this column and I am sure will have a thing or two to say about my delicadeza … or lack of same.
Sorry Louis, your advice served me well for many years, but I’m afraid here in the Philippines it just won’t work. From now on, whenever I receive an invitation from anyone I don’t know, I’m going to take the even simpler approach and just hit “Delete” and move on to the next message. Even I can’t get in trouble for waht I don’t say. Live and learn.