If You Can't Lick 'Em...
|December 1, 1999
GRAND RAPIDS - I knew that something was wrong when Mike walked in. He had been depressed all week because he had been fired from Burger King for calling in sick again. Not that calling in sick is grounds for being fired, mind you. It is just that his boss didn't believe him when he called, and was offended when Mike held the phone up to the edge of the toilet so his boss could listen to him throw up. Apparently, this was either unconvincing or so completely disgusting as to render Mike's boss unable to consider continuing Mike's employment. (Although I can't imagine anyone who spends that much time in a Burger King kitchen would be so easily grossed out).
In any case, Mike was not pleased that he had been fired, and even more upset that it was done so unjustly. What made matters worse, he was having a very difficult time finding another job.
"Still no luck, huh?", I asked. "Not really", he replied. Just then our friend Dan burst in excitedly. "Hey! I just heard about this opening at the Post Office, if you hurry, you might still get in today to apply!" Needless to say, Mike, who was desperate for a job, ran out without a word.
He should have stayed just a few more minutes.
Dan explained to me that the position was for a new ad campaign that the Post Office was implementing. It ran along the same lines as the "Got Milk?" campaign that you see everywhere nowadays. It sounded like fun to me.
Dan explained further though, that unlike the current version this ad campaign would be a bit less geared for the "white bread, peanut butter and jelly, glass of white milk" population, and more toward the "pizza and cola for breakfast" crowd.
It seems that the Post Office was pushing the concept of buying stamps in bulk, so that you don't run out. (In actuality, as it turns out, they were doing this because they were getting ready to raise the price of stamps by 3.14 cents a piece, and they wanted the people who did buy all those stamps ahead of time to have to go out again and buy all the special 3.14 cent stamps that they would produce especially for this purpose, thus providing extra employment which the government could brag about for a month or so, and then when all the fuss had been made they could terminate the jobs and still come out 3.14 cents ahead for each stamp while maintaining an image of social awareness.)
While I was trying to figure out how many stamps you would have to buy at 3.14 cents apiece in order to avoid having to pay a fraction of a cent, Dan left to go to work. (He worked at a shoe factory. He is the guy who puts the tissue paper way up in the toe of new shoes so that you think they fit until you get home. Yup, that is the entirety of his job.)
When Mike didn't arrive home after 5pm, I was very excited. I figured he must have gotten the job and was already taking carer of formalities, or even starting work already. When he wasn't home at 9pm, I began to worry.
Finally, at 11:30pm he slowly walked in. He had a very closed look about him, and certainly did not look like he had just triumphantly gotten a government job.
"Well, did you get the job?", I asked.
He nodded, still silent.
"Great!", I said, "Let's celebrate! How about some dinner?"
He shook his head no, and ambled into the kitchen. Grabbing some bread and a knife, he then went to the bathroom and proceeded to spread Aqua-Fresh onto the bread. Putting the slices together, he began to nibble gently.
"Are you o.k.?", I asked.
He nodded, and said "Unph Foah, math agh". Of course I didn't understand this, and simply figured it was because he was eating a toothpaste sandwich. For some reason it didn't occur to me to be all that unusual for someone to be eating a toothpaste sandwich, but maybe it is because it really isn't the sort of thing that would surprise you to see Mike do.
Anyway, I asked him if he wanted a glass of Lavoris to go with that and he smiled for the first time in a month. So at least there was progress on that front.
After he had finished his dinner he sat down and grabbed the newspaper. I couldn't believe it! He was looking through the Help Wanted section again!
"I thought you said you got the job!", I screamed.
He nodded again, and said "Ah nin".
Now I was confused. He still couldn't talk, even though his mouth was empty, and he had a job but was still looking through the paper for jobs.
"What is going on!?!?!?!?", I yelled.
Mike put the paper down and sighed. "Id wav ah wudh nime hing.", he said.
This time I was beginning to understand him a little. He said that "it was a one time thing", which explained why he had returned to the paper. He did then show me the rather sizeable check they cut him.
"Wow! That's enough money to cover you for almost six months!!", I said astoundedly,
"What did you do??". I didn't realize it at the time, but that was the question which burst the dam. Rather than bore you with the entire conversation, I will sum up the "Unph"s and "Aweffuh"s which were still coming out of Mike's mouth 2 days later.
It seems that all Mike had to do was get a tattoo and let them take a picture of it. The hitch was, he had to get it on his tongue.
This then, explains his impaired speech. I was curious why they wanted him to get his tongue tattooed, and he explained that this new ad campaign was indeed just as Dan had explained it to me. At first Mike was adamantly opposed to the idea, and was in the process of walking out when he heard the dollar amount that he would be receiving, as well as national publicity.
Thinking of Burger King, he thought that it would only be too funny if his old boss were to be forced to look at a billboard of Mike everyday, making more money for doing next to nothing. So he agreed, they went to the appropriate inkslinger, and then back to the ad agency to shoot the pictures. It was all over in a night.
Mike has obviously since had the tattoo removed (a very painful process involving multiple sessions with an industrial strength tongue scraper and an old man named Bruno), and is content to not mention this particular episode in his life, particularly since the campaign never got off the ground very far.
It seems that the designers of this new 3.14 cent stamp thought themselves equally clever to the Post Office and designed the stamp to be exactly 3.14 mm bigger (per sheet) than the old stamps, the idea being that the Post Office would have to buy all new printing equipment (to the tune of millions of dollars) to accomodate the new stamps. Of course this idea went over like a....like a.....well, like a thing that doesn't go over very well. So the Post Office ended up cancelling the idea all together and instead decided to just go ahead and hire ex-telemarketers and fast-food rejects instead. (Hey, wait a minute....)
True, these new letter carriers are unreliable and only pick up the mail when they feel like it, but the money that is saved is truly astounding! They feel that they are saving so much money that they will not have to raise the price of stamps for another six to nine months!!! Can you imagine?? Lucky us!!
So anyway, below you will find the picture that was selected for the ad campaign. It was designed to be a billboard, and actually was put up at a couple of locations across the country, although none of them in Michigan. I have heard rumors however that now that the Post Office is going to be selling stamps online they might be bringing this campaign back, especially given the huge success of the aforementioned "Got Milk?" campaign. So keep your eyes peeled (an interesting expression, don't you think?) for this frighteningly funny photo on a billboard near you soon!
So that is it, the story of Mike's job at the Post Office. The only thing that still puzzles me about the whole thing is the toothpaste sandwich. I never have figured out why he might have done that. Oh well, maybe I was right...maybe it is just a Mike thing to do.