DEAR MISS MANNERS:
I have an unusual and embarrassing personal problem.
I don't mind if you print this letter, but I do not want my name used. Let's just say that I am the president and chief executive officer of a large organization with branch offices in every state and every country of the world.
I try to help the unemployed whenever I can. Recently I gave a job to someone who has been out of work since 1976, living from hand to mouth in another city.
I should mention that he worked here before my time, in the sales division. He also did a little public relations, mostly for himself. I never cared much for him personally, but I'm only bringing him back on a temporary basis, as the head of a new market-evaluation team for a new product that, with the right merchandizing, will be a winner.
When he was here before, he did a wonderful job with a tricky product. It was a kit called "Oriental Peacewar" and it had a lot of novelty items that made it hard to move.
It had secret bombings, Christmas bombings, invasions and stuff that looked like war, although it really wasn't. He got out there and sold it.
I am launching a new version of this product that I know will be a smash. It's a "Latino Peacewar Instant Anti-Communist War Game Exercise," and it's a real winner. Right now, just because it has some carriers and troops in it, buyer resistance is a little bit up. I need someone out there like the Supersalesman, who can talk out of both sides of his mouth -- I mean, explain that warships and soldiers are peace negotiators if you look at them a certain way. He doesn't speak Spanish, but you would be amazed at his Doublespeak.
The only trouble is that my conservative country-club friends, who were very influential in getting me where I am today, don't like him at all. I know they will love the product he is pushing, and will be the biggest buyers, once we get rolling. But when they look at the Supersalesman, they see red.
If they could just get his picture out of their minds, they would just love the new "Peacewar."
Here's my problem: How do I avoid having my picture taken with him? The Supersalesman loves having his picture taken. It is one of the things he enjoys most about working here.
A lot of photographers hang around our plant gates all the time, waiting for "photo opportunities." I like photographers -- they don't ask a lot of silly questions -- and they know it. I figured if I didn't let them in just this one time, they would understand. I mean, they have thousands of pictures of me and the Supersalesman in their files. Maybe not together, but what's the difference?
There was a photographer there, our own staff photographer, and I had him in to take a picture that I knew would stay inside the office. I put the vice president of the firm between me and the Supersalesman, and I held my arm out, so my friends could see I'm keeping my distance.
Unfortunately, the photographers who hang around the gate made a fuss about it, and we had to release the picture of me and the Supersaleman, and I'm afraid it's going to happen again and divert attention from the wonderful product I am putting on the market.
Please advise me.
Feeling Incorrect in Washington
Perhaps your wife knows someone in the fashion world who could make a designer brown bag. When the Supersalesman comes again, ask him to try it on for size when the photographers are admitted. You could keep adjusting it as they snap away, and your friends will never see his face.
Or, just as they are focusing, you could drop your wallet on the carpet and tell your visitor that due to an old football injury you cannot bend down to retrieve it. He would be safely under the desk at the critical moment.
As you are in Washington, you may have friends in the CIA. They have many ingenious disguises which you could have delivered to your problem in a plain brown wrapper. I have heard of red wigs, for instance. Do not, in your circumstances, disdain the false mustache. They also have voice-altering devices which are effective unless your problem has an accent.
Had you considered asking your vice president to camp in your office so that he will be available at all hours, to leap into the middle should your Supersalesman show up unannounced, with cameramen in tow?
Have you considered getting another sales representative, one you would not be ashamed to be photographed with?
And finally, have you thought of putting your new product back on the shelf while you think a little more about what you are doing?