Friday, September 18, 2009

Latch-On Services--Sometimes What You Say Really Sucks

To quote Dave Berry, “I’m not making this up.” You couldn’t make this one up if you tried. It’s just too embarrassing. But to also quote Mark Twain, “Man is the only beast that gets embarrassed, or who needs to.”

In the mid-nineties, as part of one of my multiple career transitions, I sold advertising for a small, twice weekly newspaper in Iowa. On this particular day, I got a phone call from a new business in town asking me to stop by about advertising in the paper. I was only too glad to stop in a visit with the owner.

It turns out that the owner was a new resident who, along with her husband, had recently moved from Southern California. With roots in Iowa and Missouri, they had selected our small town. The lady, who’s name I can’t remember, had a small consulting business that she had also operated in SoCali where, of course, there were many more people.

She was a lactation consultant. Now, I wasn’t entirely sure what a lactation consultant does, but I also knew that Iowa was a major state for pork and beef cattle but not for dairy cattle. Of course, she meant in the human sense. She taught new mothers about breast feeding, helped them get started, fitted them for appropriate undergarments and sold them and so forth.

The name of her business was Latch On Services. OK, I thought, that’s catchy. We were close to Des Moines with many more people (nearly half a million at last count). I was taking notes on the nature of the business, their name and address and phone number, all preparatory to building an ad that would serve their interest and help build their business.

Pulling out a piece of paper she showed me a drawing her daughter had done (her daughter and mine were actually the same age and in the same classes we discovered). It was a wonderful piece of line art that showed a stylized mother and child nursing.

“You don’t think that this will be misconstrued or considered in bad taste do you?” she asked.

And, in my best newspaper advertising consultant voice I responded, “No, it’s delightful.”

Now, I could have left it at that. But Nooooooooo. As an official newspaper advertising consultant, thoroughly in command of the English language, I offered further explanation. “It’s very appropriate and subtle,” I commented. “Although some people might……”

Let’s take a break here. I could have said laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw or any number of other synonyms but instead, like a total buffoon, I reached way, way down into my newspaper advertising consultant Thesaurus to come up with an entirely different word.

“Although some people might titter,” is what I actually said, immediately tasting my own shoe leather from getting my foot so far in my mouth.

I stopped, mouth open, stuttering, sounding like Porky Pig at the end of the cartoon. “I don’t believe I just said that,” I spluttered.
Her husband, sitting across the room and drinking iced tea, performed what a San Diego radio station talk show terms an ASNR for “Acute Spontaneous Nasal Reflex”. In other words, he started to laugh so hard that he blew iced tea out of his nose.

Now, when I think back to the psychology courses I took in college, there has to be a “Freudian” connection here. Who knows. Who cares! It was just one of those many times in life where the Dufus Fairy stepped up and slapped me upside the head causing me to utter one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said.

I got the sale though and we became friends. And my face gets red each time I think of this little anecdote.

There’s no moral to this story. No great life lesson that I can think of. Just an example of being a human being, saying something dumb when you’re trying to be cool (not a whole lot different than a 14 year old pimple faced boy trying to impress a girl). But being old enough and wise enough to realize that it’s not the first time something like that has happened to me. And it won’t be the last time.

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