I've written about the amusing or silly things that can happen at meetings. And I've wondered whether some meetings were even necessary. But fortunately I've attended only one meeting that was downright inhumane.
At the time of this horror story I was an ad agency copywriter in New York, working on a major life insurance account that had been advertising in national magazines. I had written the campaign that was to be used in their first test of television: two 50-second film commercials plus an assortment of "tags"--endings that would be read live by local announcers. And our client "Roger," the insurance company's ad manager, had already OK'd them. hen Roger called me on Monday afternoon to say that before going into production we'd also have to pre-sell the advertising to "Cliff," the sales manager in the remote westen city where it was going to be tried out. We would have to fly west on Wednesday and see Cliff in the hospital on Thursday.
In the hospital? Well, on Sunday Cliff had been riding his prize-winning palomino in a local Frontier Days parade when the horse had reared, thrown him and then fallen on him, severely damaging one of his knees. Hours of emergency surgery had patched him up to some degree, but he was due for more surgery on Wednesday.
Roger assured me that Cliff would be eagerly awaiting our visit on Thursday. I suggested that waiting until the next week would be more appropriate, but it turned out that Roger was planning to leave on vacation on Saturday. He was anxious to head west as fast as possible . . . or, more important, to get back from the west.
So Wednesday night we arrived at our destination.
Nine a.m. Thursday we dropped in on the insurance company's local office--mainly to get an idea of what shape Cliff was in before going to the hospital. We then learned that Cliff's second bout of surgery had been postponed until that morning.
Roger insisted on calling Cliff and did get through, just minutes before surgery was to begin.
"He's sorry for the delay," reported Roger. "And he wants us to come over in the afternoon."
"How was he feeling?" I asked.
"Fine!" said Roger. "Of course he was sounding a little groggy. They'd given him a preliminary anesthetic already."
Fine indeed. I said we shouldn't even try to see him until the next day, but Roger wouldn't hear of a delay. Periodically he called the hospital and found out that Cliff was still in the operating room.
At about 1:30, when the surgery had been going on for four hours, I at last convinced Roger to postpone our meeting until 4 o'clock the next day.
During the next 24 hours we left town and visited the location where one of our commercials was to be shot. Then we came back for our meeting with Cliff.
He welcomed us graciously and apologized for the delay in our getting together. (And I noticed he didn't say we should have seen him the day before.)
He also asked us to wait just a few minutes more before getting down to business. He wanted his "No. 2" and assistant, "Dick," to be in on the meeting, because Dick would have to do much of the local "follow-through" while he, Cliff, was recuperating. But Dick had been delayed.
As he waited and made small talk, it became horrifyingly apparent that Cliff was in pain. He kept shifting from position to position in bed and rubbing his leg as inconspicuously as he could manage.
After fifteen minutes--with Dick still missing--Cliff rang for the nurse.
"Can you give me a shot for the pain?" he asked.
"No, I'm not authorized. I can give you some pills."
"But the pills put me to sleep, and these important gentlemen have come all the way from New York to see me on business."
This important gentleman wanted to slink out of the room--and had felt that way since he got there. "I'm sorry about the shot," said the nurse, "but the doctor will be visiting you soon, and he can give you one."
After more small talk and writhing and leg rubbing by Cliff, Dick finally appeared. And Roger began presenting the storyboards for our two basic commercials.
Before he was finished with the second, Cliff's doctor appeared.
I suggested we go out for a cup of coffee, but Cliff bade us to stay. "This will only take a moment."
And the doctor was quick. A few prods, a few questions, and then he gave Cliff the shot he'd requested.
Roger resumed reading the second script. he moment he was finished, Cliff came up with some perceptive and difficult questions. And Roger fumbled for answers. Cliff was obviously a lot smarter than Roger, and our campaign was on the brink of being killed.
Passionately, I joined the argument and eventually satisfied Cliff's reservations.
Roger, relieved and thankful, asked me to go on and present the variety of live tags I had written.
At this point Cliff was also looking newly relaxed. And by the time I had gone over two of the tags his eyes were glazed. He was spellbound--but not by me. His shot was taking merciful effect.
Before I finished with the fourth tag he was out cold.
Roger and Dick and I slipped away to the lobby, where I went through the rest of our presentation. We left scripts with Dick so he and Cliff could mull over the tags later. They could be changed at the last minute if necessary, and we did have the crucial OK that we needed to proceed woth filming.
The next morning Roger and I flew home. He had lost a day of vacation. And I had sort of lost my innocence.
As for Cliff, he had spent an excruciating hour with the wrong kind of pills.