Monday, October 19, 2009

"An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes..."

One of the secrets to the great success of American business over the last decade -- that is to say: our seventy-hour work weeks, continuing Cold War-era sexism, systematic indiscriminate union-busting, and employers' ennui re: employees' health and/or welfare -- is the Chamber of Commerce.
In years past, I have worked for backward bunches of self-righteous meatwits who conducted their concerns as though their precious way of life were under constant siege. In the backwater known as the SouthCoast, this means parochial cliquishness -- exactly the sort of thing that the Chamber is all about.
Of course, according to Chamber by-laws (or "protocols" or "covenants" or "recipes" or something), workers are considered merely whiny foot soldiers of the Big Bad Socialist threat and business owners are pitiable set-upon self-identified victims. Who knew that Veronica Lake's feet were that big?Which is a common peculiarity in certain quarters, those familiar with the comedy stylings of Glenn Beck will recognize.
Unfortunately, I also had to make small-talk with these pasty polyester-and-pomade pigeons when the Chamber-espoused radio station where I worked contracted me to attend a Business After-Hours.
Do not misunderestimate the baby elephant walks that these events are. Remember those high school dances, with the diffident murmuring, the reticent wallflowers, and the oafs' too-eager laughter that served only to break the silence and make everyone more uncomfortable? Well, Chamber After-Hours are generally like that except there's open consumption of alcohol.
"So, let me get this straight" I asked as I preread the copy that had been entrusted to my ability to squeeze two pages of drivel into a thirty-second promo. "This line here about 'making new business contacts and new friends'... But they all know each other. Half of them played on the same high school basketball team."That's Wasilla's own Barracuda, Number 22. Bet she gets a talk show on her local radio station.
Alas, no elucidation was forthcoming. The Station Manager/Program Director/Morning Man/Sales Hump knew that I wasn't going to subscribe to the pretext.
Since I had been issued the short straw, I sputtered the prepared notice over some innocuous bed music and went to set up the broadcast equipment. While hanging the station's abject banner, I was asked more than once if I were the deejay and could I play "HOO-lee-oh IN-gleesius."
In those innocent days of my youth, it was beyond me to augur what the Chamber -- to me, a bunch of pleasant, puffy nitwits who smelled of Aqua Velva -- would ultimately become. I mean, seriously, when Eliot Spitzer notes that you've been "wrong on virtually every major public policy issue of the past decade: financial deregulation, tax and fiscal policy, global warming and environmental enforcement, consumer protection, health care reform …" you know that you've been snagged.

(This presentation features photographs of Veronica Lake and Sarah Louise Heath.)

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