Tag Archives: public relations

One if by Land II©

Eleven years ago the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly published my humor column titled “One if by Land.” That story centered on Ribby Von Simeon. Ribby is the son of internationally renowned movie star Sippa Margarita and Balderdash Von Simeon, the news and entertainment magnate.
Ruthless Von Simeon, Ribby’s grandfather, was a Western mining tycoon. Between them they acquired a heap of money.
Miss Margarita’s media profile says that she was born in Valencia. Her public relations packets contain photos of her in and around Valencia, Spain. Reality insists that Josipa Margarita Ruiz was born and raised in Valencia, Kansas. The couple had one son, Ruthless Ignacio Balderdash San Bernardino Cortez Ruiz Von Simeon, known all his life a as Ribby.
Ribby Von Simeon was raised by his Latino grandparents in Kansas. It was all his mother could do to handle her fast-paced movie career. Ribby’s one enduring childhood memory of his mother was of a voyage they took. He flew to Europe and together he and Sippa sailed back on an ocean liner.
The voyage was bittersweet for Ribby. He had his mother all to himself. But he was seasick from the moment he stepped on board until the ship docked. He spent the whole voyage in bed being tenderly cared for—this is to her credit—by his mother. She brought him hard rolls and broth. She read to him, and told him tales of adventure and derring-do. For the rest of his life Ribby loved ocean liners but hated the ocean.
Ribby didn’t come into his inheritance until he was in his forties. By that time he was living simply but comfortably as an adjunct professor at Letongaloosa Community Junior College. The news that he had inherited a pile of money came at the same time news reports said that the luxury liner Santa Maria de la Valencia on which he and his mother had sailed the Atlantic had been decommissioned and would be sold for scrap.
The thought of that dearly remembered vessel ending up as scrap iron infuriated Ribby. That fury transformed him from a diffident and taciturn academic into a man as rapacious as his grandpa Ruthless Von Simeon and as vociferous and belligerent as his father Balderdash Von Simeon.
Ribby used all his available resources to attack the astonished lawyers, financial conservators, bureaucrats, politicians and shipping company executives. When it was over, Ribby owned the ship and had permission to do anything he wanted with it. He had the ship carefully dismantled and transported piece by piece to Kansas. Then Ribby had the ship reconstructed, refurbished and moored at the top of a hill on a large tract of land he owned outside of Letongaloosa.
After the re-commissioning of the Santa Maria, Ribby dropped back into academic anonymity until 10 years later when another crisis arose.
Newly elected county officials were young, and eager to raise tax revenue. They changed zoning regulations. Ribby’s property became part of an urban renewal project. The officials knew little about Ribby except that despite being a lowly professor at LCJC, he owned the land and the ship. They ordered him to dismantle and remove the vessel at his own expense.
That order transformed mild mannered Sippy Von Simeon into an amalgam of his forebears Ruthless and Balderdash. Within hours highly placed officials were threatening to strip the county of federal funding; bankers had cancelled favorable interest rates. Bureaucrats, politicians, and diplomats denounced the county officials and demanded that they cancel the project or leave Ribby’s land out of it. The county capitulated.
When the chairman of the county commission, a young commodities trader, went to see Ribby, all traces of Ruthless and Balderdash Von Simeon were gone. The county commissioner encountered a diffident, taciturn adjunct professor in a rundown university cubicle typing e-mails on an outdated computer.
Suddenly the brash young county commissioner doubted the need for treating Ribby with kid gloves. Fortunately for him, his eye fell on an autographed photo of Ribby standing with three former U.S. presidents. He caught his breath.
“Professor Von Simeon,” said commissioner, “the county will support you anyway it can.”
“Thank you,” said Ribby, diffidently.

-30-

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Small Adjustments

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Man vs. Computer

Ruhl Agbah loved words, and he wanted people to use words correctly in speaking and writing.  He was reasonably adept with social media.  He tweeted a bit, but he assiduously avoided the limelight.

That’s what makes this story so ironic. Ruhl ended up smack dab in the middle of a publicity hater’s nightmare.

Ruhl got into a knock down drag out Internet fight with a computer. The Internet incident made national news.

Ruhl  inadvertently caused his own 15 minutes of fame. A TV talk show host used a plural pronoun with a singular noun on national television.  The host said: “I’ll give each panelist their own chance to speak on this issue.”

That gaff made Ruhl shiver.  Using a plural pronoun with a singular noun on national television was, he felt, like blowing one’s nose into the palm of one’s hand in public.

Ruhl got online and Googled the network’s website. He phoned the number listed there.  A recorded message told him to push a series of  numbers on his keypad to reach the right department. It was frustrating. Rather than waste more time, Ruhl hung up and sent a scorching e-mail to the network’s “contact us” Internet address.

Within minutes Ruhl received an e-mail reply from the network.   This was the computer-generated message: “Thank you for your comment. We take all comments and suggestions seriously…”  Another sentence said, “This website is not monitored. Please do not reply to this message.”

With quivering fingers Ruhl clicked “reply” then typed: “Go straight to !@#$%^, you jerks.”    Within minutes another identical message came from the network: “Thank you for your comment. We take all comments and suggestions seriously…”   And, “This website is not monitored. Please do not reply to this message.”

Ruhl smiled.  “Ohhhhh   Kayyyyy,” he said, and clicked “reply” and typed, “Thank you for nothing.  This e-mail address is not monitored.  Please do not reply to this message.” He pressed “send.”  Within minutes the identical reply came from the network.  Ruhl copied and pasted his message into the “reply” space  and pressed “send” again.

An hour later Ruhl’s inbox was full of identical computer-generated network messages and his repeated replies.  He opened each message to see if it had been written by a human being.  No such luck. All the messages were identical and all had been computer-generated.

By that time Ruhl had calmed down. He felt better.  He had taken a stand in favor of correct grammar, even if it turned out to be a back and forth argument with the television network’s computer.

An hour later the phone rang.

“Hello.”

“May I speak to Mr. Agbah?”

“Speaking.”

“Sir, this is Barbara Brandistone. I’m a reporter with the Associated Press.”

“Oh?”

“Someone here came across a lengthy Internet exchange between you and a national television network.  Would you please tell me about that?”

“It wasn’t an EXCHANGE,” Ruhl said, raising his voice. “I stormed their electronic barricades trying to make human contact, but I failed.”

Ruhl spoke with the AP reporter for another five minutes.  Finally he said, “You’re not going to make a big deal of this, are you?”

“No sir.   I’m just doing a short piece about the Internet.”

If Ruhl was mollified by her reply, he shouldn’t have been.  The AP reporter put Ruhl’s  Internet experience in the lead paragraph of her story.

A few days later when things had calmed down, Ruhl got a tweet.

“I’m here,” he tweeted.

“Mr. Ruhl,  This is Marygliss@. I want to apologize.  Your experience with our system was regrettable.  We have taken steps here at the television network to rectify the situation.”

Ruhl: “That’s good. Thank you.”

Marygliss@: “Not at all, sir, we appreciate your input.”

“Then the network got my message after all.”

“Yes sir.

The two exchanged a few more pleasantries.  Ruhl, happy that he had finally made human contact, signed off.

The next day Ruhl read an article that made his skin crawl.  Cutting edge software techniques, said the article, now allow corporation computers to interact with humans on twitter as if two humans were tweeting. Ruhl called Barbara Brandistone at the AP. She did some digging.  It turned out that Marygliss@, was just a television network computer

.Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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