Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Banality Kills

By Dennis Hinkamp

Some of the things I’m most proud of are things I don’t or didn’t do. I’m not talking about the big stuff.  For instance, I have never started a nuclear war or run over a panda with a tractor. Of course I was never given the opportunity, but I’m sure I would have emphatically refused. I take pride in the little things such as not mindlessly saying “have a great day” to anyone who walks within 10 feet of me even if they don’t make eye contact.

Somewhere someone earned a degree and possibly a faculty chair by designing this ponderous banal paradigm. “If you want to engage with your clients you need to make a personal touch with them,” I can hear him/her say. “’Have a nice day’ sounds cynical and flight attendant-ish; ‘have a great day’ sounds more modern and engaging.”

Okay, you have already gone off the euphemistic rails using the words such as “engage,” “clients” and “touch.” As Yoda would say, “The shark you have jumped.” These are marketing words, not words you would put in a Christmas card or eulogy for a deceased pet; well, you could, but don’t.  Let me show you why.

“I wish we had been able to engage more in 2017. Three touches, one virtual, a year is not nearly enough to create familial brand loyalty. I love you like a top tier client; I’m indebted to you at 3.13% APR; Merry Christmas.”

“Fluffles and I had many great days together engaging in walkies, snackies and tummy rubs at above market norms. I feel my ROI (Return On Investment) met or exceeded expectations for any dog at this price point.”

For the most part I do want to “have a great day” every day, but do not need to be admonished to do so 12 times a day. I get this line every time I walk into the locker room, leave the locker room, get a burrito, make a bank transaction, leave Best Buy without buying anything, leave Staples without buying anything or run screaming from Home Depot where I was going to buy something until the greeter told me to have a great day after I refused his help finding something. I hope you all have great days but I promise never to tell you to do so. Personally, I rate each day’s greatness independent of outside recommendations.

I will also never say, “Can I help you?” when what I really mean is “what are you doing here, are you lost or you look totally too old, too male or too poor to be here.”  Rarely do you get asked, “Can I help you” if someone really wants to help you in a Good Samaritan way. You get this line if you make the mistake of walking through the women’s underwear section trying to find the fastest way out of the store.  “Just looking” does not seem like an appropriate response here, but I use it in other circumstances such as looking at Apple watches, Airstreams or pedigree French Bulldog breeding pairs. These are all things I could afford, but the financial pain would haunt me.

I will occasionally ask if I can help someone find a building or room on campus as I see him or her trying to negotiate all the construction and road closures. I preface it with “you look lost.” I respond with “If you had your own personal flight drone it would be easy to get there, but for now I think you are in for a long walk through a maze of fences and there is no rat pellet waiting for you at the end.”

Dennis Hinkamp hopes you have a great day, month, year, millennium, etc.

This article was originally published on October 2, 2017.