A few years back I worked at a marketing firm stuffed full with refugees from the car business. Some had been salesman. Others were dealership managers and the like.
The culture they brought to the agency was interesting, to say the least. There were true stories about how sales guys used to do things like throw a customer’s car keys up on the roof so that they had to sell them a new vehicle. There was also a contest in which money was thrown in a pot and the first person to get a customer to crawl into the trunk of a new vehicle was the winner.
So you can imagine there were plenty of hijinks going on day-to-day. The culture was also full of an immature brand of machismo. Women were regularly harassed, and settlements were allegedly paid. It was all witnessed firsthand.
Those of us who objected kept our heads low. I did help a gal find a lawyer once to end the harassment she was experiencing. I don’t know the specifics of what transpired after that, only that she left the company and the jerky salesman in question was assigned a no-nonsense administrative assistant who stood a full head taller than him.
I was considered an odd bird in that environment. My athletic interests were suspect, for one thing. What kind of person does all that running? And another thing, I was a graphics guy. A ‘design fairy’ as the owner once called us.
And the fact that I could write and spell earned me the name “The Professor.” That nickname came from a question one salesguy asked. “Who can spell the name of those flying dinosaurs?”
“What, a pterodactyl?” I asked.
So I spelled the word. And the reply came back, “What are you, some kind of professor?”
And the nickname stuck. Only these days, we refer to them as Pteranodon and Pterodactylus these days. Turns out Pterodactyl is a non-scientific, generic name for flying dinosaurs. I didn’t even know that 20 years ago.
Still, it got me the title Professor for knowing how to spell it. And ain’t that interesting?
I wouldn’t call that anti-pterodactyl place where I worked exactly anti-intellectual. There were plenty of smart people who worked there. In fact, I would love to have stayed had I not been targeted in a downsizing of middle managers to position the company for sale. Oh, well. Like the dinosaurs, we all have our days of distinction and extinction. Some come sooner. Others come later.
I think back (however) to the day that a sales manager came tromping into the creative department holding an envelope aloft and yelling, “Who designed this piece?”
It was a spring mailer for a basketball-themed promotion. Naturally, it had a basketball player on it. But the sales manager was angry. “This is a black guy,” he trumpeted. “My customers know I’d never put a black guy on one of my mailers.”
He was a bigot, in other words. He also owned tons of guns and bragged about the fact that he was ready for the day that a certain group of people came to steal his stuff. “I have an arsenal,” he boasted.
None of us doubted that. But what we did doubt was the man’s ultimate character and intelligence. He and his pals dealt with many of us cynically for caring about the precepts of design, and the gall of suggesting that the idea of having a black basketball player on a mailer was a good idea.
I suppose he could have turned around and accused us of stereotyping. “You’re the ones that are prejudiced,” he could have said. “Thinking basketball players are all black.”
And that’s a keen illustration of how that entire upside-down, inside-out, backwards version of America has taken place. It is an anti-intellectual, reverse discriminatory, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-health and wellness belief system that has taken over and run roughshod over common sense and efforts to manage this nation equitably.
But I’ll take a pterodactyl and see you one. I’ll even stick one in a goddamn pear tree of the phony-ass War On Christmas concocted by conservatives eager to prove they’re persecuted right into their own pews. Pack of lies.
It makes me think of the final scenes of Jurassic World when that flock of pterodactyls flapps (sic) out of the aviary dome to terrorize the dumb shits who set up Jurassic World as an insult to nature in the first place. You mess with nature, human or otherwise, and sooner or later there’s a payback.