The shot opens up in a train. It is very early. The voice, a Perry Mason voice -- deep, masculine, authoritative -- talks about the very special sort of person who wants to get there first, wants to be number one, top of the heap.
The camera pulls back pans the empty seats, and we see that our man, the stockbroker, is the only passenger on the milk run. He's jumped the competition, hit the rails to Wall Street before the sun has come up over Westchester.
The second commercial opens up in a home. The man steps out of his darkened bedroom, leaving his wife asleep, and climbs down the stairs past the dog. Making coffee with one hand, he dials London with the other, First off, he wants to know the price of gold.
The same voices end both commercials, intoning: "The winning attitude at Bache. Put it to work for you."
It's all there, wrapped up in a collection of 50-second television commercials for stockbrokers. The hard-driving man is a hot item again, bankable. Maybe he lost status in the softer '70s, but he's out front now, boasting of his long hours and his competitiveness.
Steve Goldstein, the ad agency supervisor for the Bache man, makes no bones about it. The man they are pushing is "definitely a Type A."
"We try to demonstrate that our brokers are very special people, hard working. We'd like to develop him into a symbol of the kind of person you would like to have working for you."
The ads are dramatic ones, even melodramatic, and yet they work. They work because they strike a chord of honesty in the middle of a chorus of ambiguity, a choir of confusion.
Watching them, I realize that Goldstein is right. Very few of us may want to be a Type A, but many of us want to be served by Type A's.
The hard-driven, competitive people are seen nationally and emotionally as lousy spouses. Actuarially, they are seen as lousy insurance risks. But they are often the men and women we would like to have working for us.
You can hear the harshness of this truth echoed throughout the business world. The company chairman quoted in The Wall Street Journal told a recruiter bluntly, "Find me someone who is unhappily married as I am, so he'll really devote himself to the task at hand."
You can hear it more benignly in the ad man's analysis. "One of the things we have found," says Goldstein, "is that clients think investing is a very serious matter. . . . They want someone who is going to work hard for their money, put in the extra effort."
Maybe "workaholic" is a nasty word, smacking of disease, of single-minded devotion to labor instead of to people. Surely Goldstein reacts against it: "I don't think he's a workaholic. I think he's just a guy who loves his job."
But behind that defensiveness is something very real. For all the talk about stress, for all the talk about leading a full life, there is still a real tension between the life we want for ourselves and the work we want out of others.
Nobody wants to be married to a doctor who works weekends and makes house calls at 2 o'clock in the morning. But every patient would like to find one.
No one admires a lawyer who spends vacations and weekends with a briefcase, except, of course, the client.
We all agree that a politician should spend private time with his family. And we all want him to speak at our banquet.
Even in the ad business, as Goldstein ruefully notes, "Clients call at 8 a.m., and if you're not here they are disappointed."
So, today we admire the well-rounded and aspire to balance -- then hire the single-minded. The competitive hard worker -- the lone man -- is on the milk run because we keep him there.
There is simply more of a conflict than we admit between the qualities we value in a person and those we value in a worker.
We put each other in a double bind, and then we wonder why we feel so trapped.