Monday, April 26, 2010

Accentuating the Positive

I was on the telephone the other day with a self-described “fast talking New Yorker” who couldn’t resist poking a little fun at my Kentucky accent.

“What accent?” I replied.

I was only half kidding. Despite being a born and bred Kentuckian, I never considered myself to have a particularly thick draw. I do confess to a little southern twang, but it’s nothing like the saucy sounds of my good friend from Louisana.

Nevertheless, from a New Yorker’s perspective, talking to me must be just like talking to “Larry the Cable Guy.” While I don’t have a corny catch phrase like “Git-R-Done,” I do have plenty of southern idioms. By far the worst is the long “i” sound. If I were Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones’ classic would be called “Tiiiiiime is on my Siiiiiide.

What’s a boy from a southern border state to do? Perhaps I could change my standard greeting to “hello” or “hey” from “hiiiiii.” Or maybe I could eliminate the number “five” from all addresses and telephone numbers.

That probably wouldn’t work. After all, an accent is like a bad golf swing. You can’t fix it no matter how hard you try.

I guess I’ll just have to live with it. While New Yorkers probably won’t like it, something tells me I’ll be just fiiiiiine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Marquis Really Meant

Today, Marquis Teague, a highly prized basketball recruit from Indianapolis, spurned my beloved Louisville Cardinals for our archrival, the villainous Kentucky Wildcats. Some say this happened only after Teague received a phone call on Kentucky’s behalf from none other than NBA superstar Lebron James.

Following are some of Teague’s actual comments along with my interpretation of what he really meant.

Marquis said: “It's been real tough. It's tough to tell coach Pitino no."

Marquis meant: “It’s even harder to tell Ben Franklin no.”

Marquis said: “I had people from Louisville and Kentucky saying things about each other’s school. It was pretty crazy, I really didn't think it would get like that.”

Marquis meant: “I was surprised UK fans could operate computers.”

Marquis said: “I heard that … the LeBron thing and I was like 'Dang I didn't even know he called me so how did anyone else know.' But that would have been pretty cool if he had called.”

Marquis meant: “UK’s compliance department has asked me not to talk about that.”

Marquis said: “I’ll tell him (Pitino) thank you for recruiting me and I love you and your family. I would have loved to have played for you, but I had to do what was best for me.”

Marquis meant: “Have you seen my blue Porsche?”

Marquis said: “I told Coach Calipari yesterday that I wanted to commit to him. I haven't talked to him today yet. I just said I wanted to be a Wildcat. It’s what I was comfortable with.”

Marquis meant: “Wonder if Cal needs his MasterCard back?”

Marquis said: “You see what Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall did and Brandon Knight is a great point guard coming in. … He has had some great point guards.”

Marquis meant: “I don’t care much for that coaching stuff.”

Marquis said: “It has been really hard the past few days, a lot of phone calls and a lot of things that were going on. It was neck-and-neck and I really didn't want to tell either one of them no. But now I am glad it's over."

Marquis meant: “They can’t get my phone records, can they? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that Lebron James stuff.”

Marquis said: “My dad liked Louisville a lot, but my mother liked Kentucky a lot.”

Marquis meant: “My dad is a good man; my mama is loco.”

Marquis said: “I almost committed to Louisville twice but that just shows what coach Cal can do. It means coach Cal is a great coach and a great man to change my mind like that.”

Marquis meant: It’s time for me to go. Lebron James is waiting for me on my private yacht, the U.S.S. Rupp.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Channeling Financial Advice

I was driving home from work one day surfing the a.m. radio dial when I came across such a mishmash of messages that I stopped in my tracks. A talk show host named Dave Ramsey was talking about everything from mutual funds to Jesus Christ. On the one hand, he was chastising callers for falling to their impulses. On the other, he was encouraging them to do better.

I listened to Ramsey for the next two weeks as sort of a goof. It was like an audio train wreck that I couldn’t turn away from. In retrospect, I think there was a pretty good reason I was drawn to Ramsey’s show.

Ramsey talked about living within your means, including driving used cars and eating rice and beans. He also talked about paying cash, tearing up your credit cards and building up an emergency fund. He talked about having the right kinds of insurance at the right price. It was commonsense stuff. As Ramsey would be the first to admit, it’s the kind of advice you’ve probably heard from your grandmother or read in best-selling books like The Millionaire Next Door. But Ramsey has an interesting “rags to riches” history and a compelling way of telling the story.

At the time I was listening to this, I was doing pretty well. I had a job I liked making decent money. Nevertheless, his message resonated with me. It wasn’t a goof anymore. I started worrying about things like an emergency fund.

I tried to get things in order. All the while, the program served as a daily booster shot. When people called in with the wrong priorities, I shared Ramsey’s frustrations. When people called in with success stories, I was motivated to join them as debt free.

Later, I lost my job. As it turned out, I needed Ramsey’s message even when I didn’t know it. Having that emergency fund paid off in spades. Boy was I happy that I found that quirky little program.

In the years since, I’ve lost touch with Ramsey’s show. But now, having lost a second job, I’m thankful I never lost touch with his message.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sending Your Boss Undercover

Want to know how to get your boss on Oprah? Send him undercover.

The CEO stars of the CBS hit show “Undercover Boss” appeared before a fawning Oprah Winfrey today. I’ve had more than a passing interest in this show since several PR people told me their companies were approached about doing it and took a pass. I bet they’re kicking themselves today.

With a couple of exceptions, the show has placed its participants in an overwhelmingly positive light. It has humanized participating companies by telling their stories through the perspective of their dedicated employees, including single parents, caretakers and students. As importantly, the employees’ interactions with their “undercover bosses” have been touching. The bosses have created programs for them, added benefits, and doled out scholarships, raises and promotions.

Having your CEO shown as devoted, caring and fair is no small thing, particularly in this environment of bailouts where corporate leaders have generally been portrayed as cutthroat, greedy and out of touch.

That’s the good news. There’s been some bad news, too.

In the Hooter’s episode, for instance, a restaurant manager degraded his waitresses. The CEO admonished him, but not nearly enough for my tastes. Additionally, the CEOs generally bumble around at their tasks like George Bush with a grocery scanner … but that’s before the big, heartfelt conclusion.

Sure, “Undercover Boss” is over produced. Of course, the skeptic in me wonders how the CEOs would’ve behaved in the same situations if the cameras weren’t around. Nevertheless, if presented with the opportunity, I’d like to think I would have advised my boss to shave his moustache and go undercover. Then I would have collected a big bonus after he appeared on Oprah.