Of Sales Reports, Creativity, “Bullsh*t Artists” and the Secret Meaning of Fonts

I’m going to be upfront with you, guys: I love writing sales reports. Always have, even back when I worked as a Store Manager for CVSStress/Pharmacy. You remember those days, don’t you? Back when I walked around with a pager clipped to my belt in one of my many, collarless button downs, a trenchcoat hanging from my shoulders, a fedora perched upon my head and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of my mouth.

You don’t? Okay. Well maybe a few of you do but the rest of you? Sorry. I sometimes loose sight of the fact that this whole blogging-thing is a relatively new platform for me. Back then, the majority of my writing was done on my old, 286 HP with the monochrome screen, or in one of the myriad journals that I carried with me. The only people that ever read it were my closest friends and compadres. Now, though? What was once  scribbled or typed in private has gone public. I’m still not entirely sure if that’s a good thing. At least I discriminate. I don’t just put anything out here. Some things, I keep to myself. Others? Well, y’know.

I digress. Those of you who know me and have been following me and my ramblings for a while now know that my jobs haven’t always been geared toward my strengths, i.e. creativity, imagination, writing and algebra. Yes, algebra. Don’t ask me how that made it onto the list. I was always the math-a-phobic English Major until I took a GE algebra requirement class for my still-developing Masters in Education (and by “still-developing,” I mean “likely never going to happen”). Apparently, I had a skill I never new existed as evidenced by my A+ in that class.

Admittedly? That was three or four years ago. Pre-children. Now? Who knows. Someone do me a solid: Post an algebra problem in the “comments” section of this blog entry and I’ll try to answer it. If I get it right I’m allowed to boast of my algebraic prowess in future blog entries. If I get it wrong? You get to determine my punishment. Nothing involving spiders, though. I hate spiders. But I love writing sales reports which is what this blog entry is supposed to be about! Stop distracting… well, me. I’m distracting myself. And I’m sounding more schizophrenic than ever.

Oh f*ck. I went cross-eyed, again.

Back to the topic of this blog entry: Sales reports. Why do I love writing sales reports? Simple, really. Writing. It’s one of the rare times that I actually get to use one of my strengths in my oft times mundane, routine existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Blog entries? They don’t really count, even the ones that I dilly and dally with during my “down” time. They’re not invariably linked to my current “career,” nor were their predecessors, “Mental Flatulence.” Books like ENDWORLD – A Novel? Again, I generally don’t touch them during working hours. I generally wait to work on them until post-9 PM when the girls are in bed (though not necessarily asleep). But sales reports? They are linked to my daily existence. And when it comes to writing them, I have now and always have had what amounts to my own, personal system. I should warn you, Sales Report Nazis (if any of you exist): It’s not exactly what they taught you in Management 101.

Consider that generally, a basic sales report has three main components: Sales Successes, Sales Challenges and Sales/Marketing Plans, i.e. what you are going to do to conquer your Sales Challenges. Most people write each section like a school taught outline (“I” followed by an indent and “A” followed by another indent and “1,” et cetera, et cetera). Not me. I write each section the same way I used to write essays in high school and college: Free form. And loaded with embellishments and numbers. I thrive on the former. The more descriptors I throw in the better. They don’t call English Majors, or former English Majors turned nonviable Education Masters “bullsh*t artists” for nothing.

Por ejemplo, the one that I just wrote today. Let’s just say that the business that my company is doing with this company in 2013 isn’t exactly stellar. But despite what the hard numbers say, I never once let on in my report that my company was under performing  Sure, I cited factual examples of where we weren’t meeting our numbers in the “Challenges” section, but I followed those statements of fact up with embellishments that would fit perfectly into the pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (not exactly a ringing endorsement for a forthcoming Science Fictional novel, is it?). To paraphrase: “Sure our sales of BLANK are down BLANK PERCENT from this time last year, but our sales of BLANK of BLANK are up BLANK PERCENT, which only shows a net loss of BLANK total as opposed to BLANK PERCENT.”

Confused? Don’t be. Just think of it as an algebra problem: A < B, but C > B > A. What is C? C = BLANK, alias a very high percentage that in no way, shape or form  makes up for the fact that A is down almost BLANK PERCENT from this time, last year (but big numbers look damn fine on paper!). BTW, BLANK, in case you were wondering, is one of the best and most utilized tools of the self-proclaimed “bullsh*t artist.”

And in the Sales/Marketing section? I focused on what we were going to do to improve our performance, but made re-mention, numerous times of the Sales Successes I covered in the first section. I also threw in a subtle jab which, judging from the reaction I got from my co-workers was just subtle enough to get the point across. That point? That we’re not the only ones responsible for our sales being down BLANK PERCENT. You are, as well, and here’s why. Blah, blah, blah.

I hope you, my readers get my point. And if you don’t? DM me on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll send you a copy of the sales report (with all relevant names and numbers removed and replaced with the word “BLANK”). Or email me. I’ll do the same. The bottom line? For me in my of times mundane, routine existence sales reports = Creativity. Not necessarily untapped creativity. It’s not like writing a novel. But I like to keep even the driest of dry compositions interesting. That’s why I change my font to match how I feel about the sales report I’m writing.

Don’t believe me? Again, DM me or email me and I’ll send you a censored copy. Fonts are a misunderstood resource, IMO. Microsoft Word (and too a lesser extent other word processing programs) have given us a wealth of fonts to choose from–everything from Palatino Linotype which I write all my novels and short stories in unless otherwise advised to, and Comic Sans which I only use when I want to non-verbally spit on you or the topic I am writing about. I bet you can’t guess which font I used in my aforementioned sales report? Survey says?

BLANK. Oh come on. You can’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. All I’ll tell you is that it was neither Palatino or Comic. It was… well? It was BLANK. End story.

Fonts = A form of non-verbal expression for writers. They’re a way of showing our readers our mood or, in many cases, the mood and/or tone of our book, short story, poem, essay et al. I wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel primarily in Palatino, but when it came time to type the title page, the copyright page, the dedication, the table of contents and the Part and Chapter headings? Bank Gothic, baby. If you’ve never seen it, check it out. It’s very Dystopic looking. Sadly, Bank Gothic didn’t look very good in print and my designer and I opted for Arial Narrow instead which, IMO, does translate well to print. But I leave that for those of you that purchased a print copy of ENDWORLD – A Novel to decide.

Here are some examples of Word (’cause that’s the one I know the best) fonts (excluding the ones already mentioned above) and what they signify, in alphabetical order:

  • Arial: The font most businesses use, it signifies something made for the BLANKS by the BLANKS (a BLANK is, of course, a temporarily banned word in my subjective reality that begins with a “sh,” ends with a “ds” and has a “*thea” in the middle). Variations used by less normal but still boring BLANKS like myself include Arial Alternative, Arial Black and for the really audacious, Arial Unicode MS. Arial Unicode MS? I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! Moving on…
  • Calibri (Body): The default font in Microsoft Word, it signifies… well, nothing, really. It’s boring. It’s a default for Chrissakes. Anyone who uses Calibri (Body) extensively has absolutely no imagination or creativity whatsoever. A writer that writes in Calibri (Body) is likely writing stereo instructions, or a “How To” manual for installing a dimmer switch. At least pick something with some character. Something like…
  • Commercial Script BT: One of the most unintelligible fonts available via Word, the only writers that use it are the ones that truly believe their superpower is to read illegible print and anyone else that can’t shouldn’t buy their book or read their blog. Not only fonts like Commercial Script, but handwriting like mine and the notes that doctors jot down on prescriptions.
  • Courier New: The font preferred by writers like myself that did the majority of their earliest writing on a 286 HP with a monochrome screen in the non-Windows compatible Wordperfect. Significance?  Traditional values. Anyone else grow up with that experience? I swear to this day I still remember the keystroke macro to bring up the “File” dialogue box. See also Courier WP.
  • Georgia: Admittedly, if I had to pick one font to write in for the rest of my natural life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, it would be Georgia. Why? I have absotively, posolutely no f*cking idea. I just like the look of it. It’s like a cross between Arial and Times New Roman, but with a little additional flair thrown in. For me, Georgia = Most of my basic, everyday writing. These blog entries? Georgia. I think it’s one of the main reasons why I chose this theme.
  • Impact: In yo’ face! ‘Nuff said. A writer writing in Impact is non-verbally smacking you upside your silly head. It is equivalent to using all caps in an email or a blog entry.
  • Old English Text MT: Arguably as unintelligible and illegible as Commercial Script or Kunstler Script, Old English Text MT is a good font to use when you’re writing Epic Fantasy, or Historical Fiction set in… well? Old English times. Writers who use it believe that they appear well read to their readers. Most readers that encounter it generally believe that the writer that utilized it is a bit pretentious, or is intentionally ripping off Tolkein.
  • STENCIL (purposefully in caps because with STENCIL, all you get is caps): “In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.” STENCIL will forever in my mind be associated with the A-Team. It’s arguably the most overused title page font in the genre that I primarily write fiction in (Sci-Fi Adventure), which is why I won’t go near it. That’s not to say that STENCIL = Poor quality. It doesn’t. But it’s implications are pretty obvious. If I see a title font in STENCIL I know I’m about to read a book that has a high-tech military fighting either aliens or… well, aliens.

And there you have it: A basic list of some of the fonts I have encountered in my life and what a writer who uses them is, IMO, trying to convey to his or her readers. Am I right? Wrong? I leave that for the other writers reading this blog entry to decide. My opinions are, of course, my own. But if you ever encounter something that I wrote, typed in Comic Sans font? Well. Now you know how I really felt about it.

On that note, I believe that it is time for me to bring my non-verbal, dilly dallying to a close for the day. In summation? I turned in my sales report and eagerly await a response from BLANK about it. Good? Bad? “Meh?” As I mentioned previously, sales reports aren’t exactly well-springs of creativity. Most of them are written like an outline. But those of you that know me… that have known me since I was a pager carrying, trenchcoat wearing, Mandarin collar sporting fedora’d BLANK that begins with a “sh,” ends with a “d” and has a “*thea” in between know that at my core? I’m not a Store Manager. Nor am I even an Office Manager though I masquerade as one daily in my oft times mundane, routine existence. What am I? Nothing more than a “bullsh*t artist” who occasionally shows off his algebraic prowess.

Oh! And I hate spiders, too. If A = Spiders, and B = Me, then A + B = C. And C? C = A grown man who has been known to SCREAM LIKE A BANSHEE WHEN HE FINDS ONE ON HIM. See? Caps = IMPACT. In yo’ face, guys. In. Yo’. Face. 

🙂

What Christmas Means To Me

This is probably the last thing that I should be writing, right now. As of this particular moment in time on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence  the question, “What does Christmas mean to me,” can be answered with one word and one word only: Pain. As in sinus, head and throat. As in I woke up this past, Monday Morning–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or do not celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday–with virtually the same ailment that both of my girls had last week. But wait, you may argue, didn’t your girls have two, separate ailments? Yes. They did, and I got the best of both worlds, i.e. Cara’s fever and Natalie’s congestion. I am a walking, talking, barely breathing, woozy headed, medicated facsimile of a smiling face, right now, and the smiley face? I’ve only got that on for my customers. I’d much rather drink a bottle of Nyquil and crawl up in to a corner for the next day and a half. But I can’t. I won’t. ‘Cause as Freddy Mercury so aptly sang despite his foreknowledge of his own, personal condition, “The show must go on!”

To be honest with you? The only reason that I’m here and not at home, in bed right now is because I need to ensure that the dozen or so moving parts of the massive cylinder order leaving the factory for my biggest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) this PM get off without a hitch. That’s the kind of thing that I do for my customers, guys. Most Inside Sales/Customer Service people punch in quotes, punch in orders and talk on the phone only when unnecessary. They take sick time when they’re sick (and sometimes when they’re not). But me? I throw myself bodily in to my work. I persevere despite how incredibly sh*tty I feel. I go out and visit my customers. I get to know them on a personal level and not just a professional one. I’m not sure why I do it that way, I just do. And it seems to work pretty well so really, why f*ck around with the system?

Because the older I get, the worse I feel. Yes, I know I’m only 37 years young but “getting sick” can’t be cured by 30 Jello shots and a bottle of champagne anymore. I need real medicine and I need rest. And consistent rest is something I have not been getting these last few weeks.

So why? Why chose now to write a blog post about what Christmas means to me? Won’t your answers be skewed by your condition, you may argue. They may. But I just popped a couple of Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu that I picked up at 7-11, along with a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink and I can already feel my nasal pathways, my head and my chest drying up. It’s amazing what Acetaminophen can do when combined with an antihistamine and caffeine. I’m not saying that I feel 100% better… I don’t. But I’m feeling a bit more functional than I was a few paragraphs ago and some things? Well, I’ve waited a few days to write this and I don’t want to wait any longer lest I forget them. So damn the pounding in my ears, I’m goin’ for broke.

This past Christmas–or this past Tuesday for those of you that have been living under a rock or only celebrate Hanukkah–was my 38th on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Mind you, I really don’t remember the first couple but I can remember from roughly my fifth or sixth on. I can’t recall every gift… every detail of those earliest Christmas mornings but I can remember how they felt. In short? They felt magicalBefore I knew the sad truth about Santa Claus; before I learned that reindeer generally don’t fly, not even with some of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust; before I realized that my then-father now sperm donor had eaten the cookies and drank the milk that I and my little sister had diligently left out for the other big guy, Christmas morning was a time of infinite possibility. In truth? It was the only time. Not even my birthday could match it’s awesomeness.

All that changed as I got older and realized “the truth.” Christmas morning was a time of necessity. It was a time to get up before 10:00 AM–something which I rarely did in my teens–and eat breakfast with my mother and my sister. It was a time to open my significantly smaller pile of gifts with each, passing year despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was kick back on the couch and watch “A Christmas Story” over and over again. Magical gifts like the original Millennium Falcon and the Darth Vader carrying case–both of which are worth bow-coo bucks presently in mint condition; who knew?–were replaced by clothes, more clothes and the occasional novelty gift, i.e. “junk.” All this culminated in my first Christmas away from home–1997 for those of you that are counting–when I slept too late at my apartment, missed Christmas breakfast and showed up at my Mom’s hungover and smelling of tequila and cigarettes around noon. I still don’t know if my mother ever forgave me for that trespass. If she still begrudges me it let me formally state the obvious herein: I’m sorry. And if she forgot about it some time ago? Well, I guess I can’t blame her. Only pseudo-madmen like myself can remember things as mundane and inane as this and can barely remember what they ate for lunch yesterday.

For the record, it was leftover Eggplant Parmesan, a meatball and a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink. Anyone else sensing that “caffeine dependency” is a theme for your old buddy the Madchronicler? My neurologist would have a field day with my caffeine consumption, presently. No migraines for the moment. Just a pounding in my sinuses, my head and my chest that already appears to be returning despite the fact that I just popped those Tylenol Cold and Sinuses an hour ago. All together now: Oh f*ck me. Sorry, but I abandoned oh thank God last night.

And then, three plus years ago, something amazing and unexpected happened: My wife and I had a child. Okay, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. We had been trying for a while. But it wasn’t Cara’s birth that I was referring to as “unexpected.” It was my own renewed interest in Christmas. I remember waking up that December 25th, long before Cara and Nicole did in anticipation of Cara’s reaction to seeing all of her presents under the tree… of her happiness at realizing that Santa had eaten all of his cookies and drank all of his milk. I guess in my elation, I neglected to realize that Cara was only five months and some change old at the time and could barely sit up, much less realize that some jolly and jiggly, red suit clad, cookie and milk loving sot had slid down our non-existent chimney and left her an army of Fisher Price, Playschool and Leap Pad stuff. Still, it was fun opening her presents for her and giving her the paper to play with.

But a fundamental change had been enacted in my life, guys. With each, subsequent year I got more and more “in” to Christmas as Cara realized more and more that something different was happening. This year, my wife and I had our second child (Natalie for those of you keeping score), and Cara turned three. And I knew, even before the season started that this Christmas was going to be as fun as hell.

My anticipation reached a feverish level on Monday night–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or who celebrate Kwanzaa–and that wasn’t because of the temperature I was running. It wasn’t due to the myriad medicines, the two low sugar, Monster Energy drinks that I had consumed or the periodic shots of vodka I was taking when mine and my wife’s families weren’t looking to dull the itch in my throat. Okay, so maybe those factors played in to it a bit but I got very little sleep and was up before anyone else on Christmas morning. I actually had to wait a half an hour for Cara and Nicole to wake up (Natalie is still portable and hence not as much a wakeful necessity) before I could go downstairs. But when I walked down those stairs and saw all of the presents under the tree and against the wall behind and beside it… when I looked over at the end table and saw the cookie crumbs on the plate that Cara had left for Santa, the empty cup that smelled a little like sour milk and the note that Santa had left Cara and Natalie? Well sh*t. I felt the magic come flooding back in to my living room for the first time since I was an impressionable youth despite the fact that I knew “the truth” behind the staged scene laid out before me. It. Was. Christmas! And there was much rejoicing.

Yay!   

In short? I had come full circle, friends. As I turned on the tree and the iPad underneath it which had “Merry Christmas!” written in bold, flowing  purple letters across its face I realized that the reaction that I was about to witness in Cara was the same as the reaction that my own mother and, for a time, my own father turned sperm donor had witnessed in me on those early, Christmas mornings of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The impression of the prototypical, Thomas Kincade Christmas morning was heightened by the rapidly melting, coat of white snow that lay upon the ground outside and the lingering scent of baked cookies that hung over my head from the previous day. Throw in a roaring fireplace which we do not have (the Yule Log is not a sufficient substitute, BTW) and you’ve got a scene to rival any cinematic vision of Christmas morning ever created including my all time favorite, the one that takes place in the Nexus for Captain Jean Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Generations.” Yes, I went there. Don’t believe me? Check it out at your leisure and tell me I’m wrong. I triple dog dare you.

In a word? No. It did not.

Um…

Wow. Talk about anti-climactic.

I’m serious, though. It played out like this: Cara came downstairs, smiled and stated very nonchalantly that “Santa was here” before she seated herself next to where my wife indicated her pile was and began to rip through her presents. She further “assisted” her little sister, myself and my wife with our piles. As the process unfolded she seemed to get more and more “in” to what she was doing but admittedly, the entire outcome was somewhat unexpected considering how sure I had been of her reaction leading up to it. After a whirlwind 45 minutes, everything was opened and she was asking me and my wife to remove toys from boxes so she could play with them.

In all honesty? I should have been prepared for it as soon as she came in to mine and my wife’s bedroom and informed us that she did not believe that Santa had come ’cause she had not heard him or his reindeer on the roof of our house. Which is a legitimate point as the ceiling of her room is directly beneath said rooftop. But I was not. Don’t get me wrong: I was not disappointed. Far from it, actually. I savored every shredded piece of wrapping paper that fell upon our living room floor and every “ooh” and “ahh” that her gifts elicited. And I did not for once doubt her belief that “Santa was here” despite her not having heard him and his reindeer because, as she stated at numerous points over the course of the following day and evening, Santa had gotten her everything that she had asked for and she was very thankful.

Perhaps I simply built the scenario up too much in my mind. Maybe she wasn’t quite as ready to embrace the magic of Christmas morning as I thought she was at three and a half. Or maybe the times have changed and the mentalities of our children have done the same. I’m inclined to lean more toward the latter though the former is also a distinct possibility. Little exists in the way of magic nowadays and what does exist is called “fantasy” by most. Our kids? They learn this from the get go. More attention is paid to the sciences and mathematics than is paid to the arts, nowadays. As for me? I’m not a true believer in magic as it exists traditionally though I am a lover of everything and anything fantasy. Wizards and witches, warlocks and leprechauns? There is no place for such things in a world where everything from a holiday to our national debt is analyzed at the microscopic or, some might say quantum level. Such things now fall in to the realm of “fiction” and not “reality.” Not even “Little Kid Reality.”

And Christmas? Both the story that we all know so well and the fundamental spirituality at the center of it (see: Jesus Christ; Saint Nicholas) have been glossed over by the big box retailers and the idea guys. Case in point: The Elf on the Shelf. While I love ours like a member of our family, albeit one that merely shows up for approximately 30 days at the end of the year, wreaks havoc and then leaves, where is Jingle in the traditional canon of Christmas? What child ever wrote in their “What Christmas Means To Me” essay, “My Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, who likes to TP our Christmas tree and have an affair with Barbie right under Ken’s nose.”

None that I know of though there’s always the possibility that there’s some sick and twisted kid out there that thinks like I do. The fact is, Christmas in 2012 (pushing 2013) is not the same as it was 30 plus years ago, or even 15 years ago in 1997. Our children are not the same. Whereas my generation and I were born in to a world of notebooks, number two pencils and Trapper Keepers, Cara and Natalie’s generation is being born in to a world of iPads and Cloud storage. All one of them needs to do is Google “is Santa Claus real” and “the truth” will be revealed. My generation, disenchanted with the magic of Christmas created the same technologies that our children are now being born with. The Catch-22? We used our imaginations to create such things, the same imaginations that once upon a time believed that Santa Claus and his reindeer flew to and landed silently upon our rooftops despite the fact that reindeer aren’t supposed to be able to fly, not even with a sprinkling of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust…

…that Santa slid down our chimneys despite the fact that 75 to 80% of us, growing up, did not have chimneys and the physics of a 400 pound man sliding through an opening with a diameter of a foot are virtually inconceivable…

…that he ate the cookies and drank the milk that we had diligently left out for him…

…that the Thomas Kincade scenes imprinted upon Christmas and post cards, and popularized in movies like “Star Trek: Generations” were, in fact, actual scenes of the perfect Christmas morning that at some point in time existed on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

We created the mentality that our children are now being born with: That everything once considered magical or fantastical has been relegated to the fiction shelf of your local big box, book retailer (see: Barnes and Noble), or the online store of your preferred internet, big box retailer (see: Amazon.com). Even Christmas. But still, there is that teeny, tiny part of me that was watching Cara very, very closely on Christmas morning and could see, despite her nonchalant exterior, a twinkle in her eyes that had not existed the previous evening when I had put her to bed. She saw all of those presents beneath the Christmas tree, the empty plate that had once held cookies and the cup beside it that had once held milk, the note that was printed in her Mommy’s distinctive handwriting and she knew that something had happened. Maybe not something magical but something special. Someone had come, be said someone Santa Claus or Daddy/Mommy Claus, and said someone had gotten her everything that she had put on her Christmas list…

And she was very thankful.

What does Christmas mean to me? The same thing that it meant to me when I was a child. I drowned it for a while with tequila and cigarettes, not to mention a heaping dose of skepticism, one too many viewings of “A Christmas Story” and one too few mornings simply sitting around the Yule Log, enjoying my family’s company. I forgot about it for a while but over these last few years, I’ve remembered it. Even without magic, Christmas morning has been and always will be a time of infinite possibility.

As for Cara? Well sh*t. She’s only three and a half. I can only remember as far back as my fifth or sixth Christmas.

Who knows?

Happy Holidays, everyone.