Archive for the 'alternative' Category

My Affairs with Stairs

stairs-do-ho-suhnote: inspiration for this post comes from the contemporary austin’s do ho suh exhibit, opening to the public today, ee Cummings, and john updike’s story museum’s and women.

the first stairs i can recollect were those of the back porch at the first home i can remember.  the home was the apartment that my parents had in wichita, kansas.  the memories coincide with the photos in my parents’ picture albums.  the shots are of the back of the building with one or more of our immediate family sitting, standing, or laying on the stairs.

i remember the coarse, grainy gray of the stair (for it was only one step) — made of the concrete that composed the remainder of the rows of apartments’ foundations.  the steps were cool in the fall and winter and warm in the spring and summer.

the next stairs i remember are those of my dad’s parents in iowa, before they sold their farmhouse.  memories are faint, but i can still remember (“remember” more than “see”) the ill-lighted back staircase that we would take up to my guest room.

i also remember the stairs at our next home in wichita — on hillside drive.  the house we lived in then brings me close to bradbury’s dandelion wine and his childhood self, douglas.  the house was rather stately and large, as i remember, reminding one of a southern home from the ’40s.

at that time, hillside drive was on the verge of being in the black part of town.  we had a big porch — the only real porch i can ever remember — and the steps up to it were wooden and wide.

i can remember looking out the front door at night and seeing a police motorcade speed by the night the monkees rock group played in town at the height of their 60s popularity.

stairs-Escheri can also remember looking out and standing on the porch during a few nights of curfew during the year the race riots were aflame.  at the time, it was on parallel with the biggest of other events, because the police were out in force and the night and town had quiet power and tension to them.

the back stairs of the hillside house were higher and only led to a landing for the back door, without a porch.

my greatest single memory of those stairs is seeing my uncle keith (husband of my dad’s sister judy) leaping down the stairs ahead of my parents one day when i faked being hurt. i don’t remember the exact details, but i talked my brother frank into going in to the adults and telling them i was in trouble.

i layed down on the ground and acted as if i couldn’t get up.  frank must have been only a few years old at the time, so although he was doubtful at first (we had been playing normally before i layed down on a whim), he “went for the bait.” (i guess i must have been exerting my dramatic juices.)

however, seeing keith rushing down scared me out of my wits and i immediately leaped to my feet telling them everything was okay.  i think i was firmly but gently reprimanded and was left with a genuine impression of concern from keith that i remember to this day.

we moved to amarillo, texas in the middle of my third grade year and i attended Wilson elementary.  in texas, i found most things were very flat. (in junior high and high school, the halls were dominated by long wide ramps that led up to one floor of school and down to the other.)

stairs-hogwartswilson was an old school though and, being somewhat in the style and probably the period of its namesake president, it had sheer brick facades, lots of stairs, and the look and feel of rock solid history.

at wilson, i was a patrol guard  primary duty of this honored position was stair monitoring.  principally, keeping an eye on the manner in which other children walked the stairs between classes and making sure that no unorthodox techniques were employed.

walking out of single-file, backwards, or taking more than one stair at a time were not to be tolerated by a patrol guard.  a person flagrantly violating stairs rules was to be turned in by the observing patrol guard to receive appropriate punishment.

stairs-rockyi suppose that the patrol guard was a position of responsibility given to children assumed to be the elite — preparing them earlier than their peers for the other responsibilities that would soon be pressing from around the corner of years.

as a regular guard in fifth grade and a captain in sixth grade, i relished my responsibility and the respectability that came from the associated authority.  the only time i can ever remember crying in grade school, though, came from this stairs duty.

a friend had been walking back to class after morning recess up the stairs in the usual single file.  as he passed me at the halfway point, which was a landing where i took up position, i believe he grinned.  the next thing i knew, he skipped some stairs right there in front of me!

i later told my teacher of the incident, making her pull the details out of me.  i remember her comforting me because i was troubled with the idea of having to turn in a friend.  duty versus friendship.  she listened and i felt better and i can’t recall if my friend was ever punished.

stairs-steve-zissouthe job I had before and during junior college was at a hotel. as a bellman, i was basically an all-around, do-everything person. two memories of stairs there remain.

the first memory is a fond one.  the lobby of the hotel was a large two-story affair with a great carpeted wooden stairway coming down from the top. i remember learning how and then repeatedly sliding down the great rail of the stair every chance i got, when customers weren’t around.

although it must have looked perilous, I found it easy and enjoyed the little gasps and wide eyes i would get from other staff who hadn’t seen me when i would come zipping down and land in a full trot at the bottom.

the second recollection is less fond.  as i said, the hotel was two stories and half of the rooms faced out while the other half were inside. during the summer, when things got really busy, we had a lot of guests request roll-away beds for their rooms.

we had a limited supply of roll-aways, which we tried to keep evenly distributed between the first and second floors. however, invariably, the weekend would find me needing to take a bed from below to above, or vice versa.

let me paint the picture for you:

  • there were no elevators in the hotel — this was pre-ada
  • our roll-aways were full-size single beds that folded up in half and had wheels — they were not smaller cots or day beds
  • i worked by myself

IMG_0426if the picture isn’t clear, suffice it to say that i gained a bit of strength during those summer days and evenings, hauling beds up and down those stairs.

i believe that it was during this job that i first began a practice of counting the stairs i frequented. particularly on some of the heavier beds i remember lifting upwards, it was either know how many stairs there were and rush up as fast as possible with faith, or struggle step-by-step, peering down at your feet for the last four or five before taking them to make sure you didn’t anticipate one that wasn’t there and break your neck, or vice versa.

the next stairs are from college, and i see them more vividly than any others, perhaps because i walked them more times. i attended a very small, private church-sponsored university in the middle of texas to which i had won a full academic scholarship.

there were only two men’s dormitories. the one on campus was the jock dorm, where all the athletes lived. it always seemed dimly lit, even during a bright day, peppered with loud music and an odor of sweat, i think i went in there to visit someone once during my two years at the school.

the other dorm was an early 1900s converted hotel. besides being the tallest structure in the city, it also housed the remainder of the college’s men — and the majority of its eligible bachelors. because of its age, the dorm only had two elevators, even though it was 12 stories high.

and because of their age, these elevators were in a constant state of repair. every week, it seemed, the maintenance men were hovering over one or the other of the shafts, while lowering a comrade down to service one of the units — looking like the coal-black workers in a diamond mine.

stairs-liu-bolini lived on the 9th floor of this dorm-hotel throughout my stay. because of their lack of dependability, general overuse when they were operating, and overall untrustworthiness (i was trapped in one of the vators on my way to an important lecture one afternoon; even though i yelled for help, it was about 20 minutes before anyone noticed anything wrong), i soon learned that the preferred method for getting up and down was going to be the stairs.

i have several impressions of these stairs. first, they were steep, but not unmanageable — just the right height. this characteristic is as opposed to the lack of height of stairs at many modern facilities, including sports arenas and churches, where each step is only a few inches in elevation above the previous, confusing the climber as to whether to go the slow and awkward way of taking each step or stretching for every other step, which makes it almost too steep.

i also noticed a characteristic ( which i have since concluded is a feature ( or perhaps a common engineering principle) of most staircases) such that the majority of flights of stairs from landing to landing are numbered in odd sets. therefore, i developed a technique of always taking the first step by itself and then skipping every other stair therein, which i practice today.

this seemed the most logical way to take the stairs when running up or down them, which is what i was usually doing. i was usually running because walking 9 flights of stairs (yes, i lived on the 9th floor) got to be rather trudging work — particularly when you walked up and down them several times each day.

the stairs were an ugly, but not unfriendly, yellow color sprinkled with green. (no doubt this gave them a modern look when first built. today, most builders ignore painting and just leave the concrete or steel steps barren to absorb the dirt, trash, and wear of their users.) i don’t think I had ever considered walking stairs a preference or habit until after my college career. since then, given a choice, with all things being equal, i go with taking the stairs.

stairs-tower-babelin graduate school, the stairs were less memorable, but by this time, as i said, habitual. i worked as a a graduate assistant for a non-profit, quasi-academic group that promoted free enterprise ideals. my duties evolved into what some might observe as a curious mix of brain and brawn work.

i did a lot of hauling of the center’s propaganda from place to place but also took care of the center’s financial records — which included transactions, both donations and disbursements, of tens of thousands of dollars.

we were on the 6th floor and, although the elevator service was vastly improved over my old dorm, i took the stairs up and down. they were concrete, not very wide, and harshly lighted. during my time there,

i practiced trying to walk noiselessly. i wanted to walk like indians and the fox, to develop a stealthy quality, for whatever reason at the time. as i went up or down, i would listen for the volume and length of the sound made by my step. i worked on different ways to place my feet, different combinations of shifting body weight, and even the most deliberate of slow speeds.

after achieving only marginal success, i gave it up to go back to just walking as a means of getting from one point in a vertical space to another, and not a skill to be cultivated.

stairs-houses of the holyi was hired by a big eight accounting firm to do consulting work coming out of graduate school. in houston, the building our offices occupied was one of the older of the modern building era. our offices were spread across a dozen or more floors of the building. there were three banks of elevators serving logical partitions of the tower, with six elevators in each bank. the elevators were dependable, fast, and pretty convenient.

by contrast, the stairs of the building were practically inaccessible. from the ground floor, they could only be exited, not entered (except, i presume, with a special janitor’s or guard’s key).

on the regular office floors, the stairwells were locked from the inside. this meant that entering the stairwell without your office key left you with 3 options: knocking on the stair doors in hopes that someone would hear and come rescue you (an embarrassing option); waiting for someone else to enter the stairs to go one way or the other (a fifty/fifty shot); or, walk all of the way down to the ground floor and come back up in the elevators (an unexpected interruption in the tasks you were performing before being trapped).

stairs-lincolnat first, i actually used the stairs a lot. i did most of my work between 2 or 3 floors and the convenience factor was in my favor. however, the equal convenience of elevators for distances greater than my 2 or 3 floor  world broke me of my habitual use of stairs. during college, it had become quite uncomfortable (and disconcerting, for some strange reason) to use the vators.

but, in the professional, business world, using the stairs had a sense of being vaguely unnatural — as if the person using the stairs had some unusual quirk that motivated them to do so, like a distaste for waiting for anything (i.e., the vators) or a propensity for being a loner.

i began to use the stairs less, eventually taking them only at night as part exercise and part avoidance of the five o’clock rush.

my affairs with stairs are infrequent today. my occasion to resort to them is rare — mostly in practice of mock fire drills or when the elevators are broken. since joining my new company and moving to our new building, i can’t say i even know where they are. i wonder if anyone does?

What Is the Meaning of Rock Music?

What is the meaning of rock music?

Sex. Aggression. Violence. Movement. Acoustic defibrillation. Light. Loudness. Absence of organized thought. Waste of resources. Energy. Pain. Speed. Non-verbal utterances. Power. Thirst. devil hornsHunger. Sweat. Heat. Fatigue. Darkness. Love. Blood. Screaming. Fire. Rebellion. Youth. Black and white. Silver and leather. Athleticism. Anarchy. Togetherness. Purpose. Happiness. Life. Fear. Profanity. Humanism. Hyperbole. Escape. Loyalty. Sharing. Entertainment. Competition. Drugs. Nothing at all.

But, I could be wrong; what do you think?

Portrait of Two Decades Past

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 2009He is tall.

He thinks a great deal about many things.

He is constantly evaluating whether or not he has reached the limits of his capabilities, physically and mentally.

He is married. He wonders whether or not he would have achieved many other things as a single person, but would not risk the happiness he has had with his mate for any other unknown version of his life.

He has read Kafka. He wants to read books that will teach him more about the products he “hawks” in his profession, but can barely force himself to do so. He regularly reads the sports and funny papers — the favorite is about a little boy and his stuffed tiger.

He is young but going through a mid-life crisis. Before age seven, he made a deal with God allowing him to live a fruitful life until the ripe old age of 30. The bargain was struck in trade for remission of severe pains he sometimes had. Like scissors cutting through his intestines, the pains were the early signs of an appendix that finally demanded its removal a few years later on a trip to visit the grandparents.

He believes in God. He is unsure about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He believes in the Christ – in Jesus. He cannot comprehend the Holy Ghost and doesn’t really “buy it.”

He believes in God, but his belief is a personal one that is difficult to explain. “Does that make it less firm?” he wonders. Or is his belief more realistic: a belief that God is the “natural law” of economics.  That God is the force of nature that created the first DNA molecules, proteins, amino acids, chromosomes, and guided the development of life from the first single-cell creatures to present-day man to whatever may lie in the future.

That God is goodness in people – courage, charity, love, strength, humility, honesty, commitment, responsibility, faith.



the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948-magrittePerception is reality.

Change is the only constant.

Adapt or die.

The simplicity of these phrases is powerful.  But they belie a greater complexity.

There is perception and reality.

Some things don’t change.

Death, like adaptation, is a transitive state, not a permanent one.

I’m going to write more about this topic soon.  Stay tuned…

Goodbye China – Final Musings

IMG_42941 – I’ve picked up a parasite since traveling to China.

I told my wife that we would solve the world’s future energy problems if we could just decode the biological process of this bug. Because it basically turns everything I eat into gas and liquid.

Just think if you could do this with coal. Rather than burning it and unleashing noxious clouds of CO2, you could just burn the gas and use the liquid for hydro or cooling the gas burners or, heck, for watering your lawn.

2 – I was up before 4am this morning and on a plane by 6am.

It’s now midnight my body time, but I’m hanging in there with my overseas system. That system consists of staying awake as absolutely long as I possibly can.

That way, when I finally get to my Chinese destination, I can collapse in an exhausted stupor, have a good night’s sleep, and hit the ground running for a full day the next day.

The system has worked pretty well the past 2 trips; we’ll see about this one. We left about 8 hours ago which means that we still have nearly 6 hours to go. And I’ve come close to completely nodding off in mid-sentence reading, or in mid-swipe flipping through photos.

I’m listening to A Perfect Circle’s Judith hoping that some industrial metal will kick the brain awake for a bit. Maybe head back for a 3rd cup of coffee shortly, to stretch my legs as well.

SH farewell - 53 – I caught a break on my seat assignment this trip.

I managed to snag emergency row, aisle seats on both legs – from Austin to LA, then LA to Shanghai. And, to top it off, no one in the middle seat beside me, giving me lots of elbow and stretching room.

Of course, what this means on the Shanghai leg is that I get a ‘front row seat’ for watching the parade of travelers – almost all Chinese, although no one is immune – try to figure out the bathroom doors for the lavatories.

Nearly all doors have some form of handle on them in the rest of the world, right? So, naturally, people fumble with the various features of the door that suggest some form of handle, clever and unworkable as it may be.

However, there are no handles – you simply push the door from the outside, or pull it towards you if you are inside. But, person after person ambles up and studies, probes, pokes, pulls and finally (occasionally with help) pushes the door to get it open.

The other thing they do (or actually don’t do) is shut the lavatory door, often when they exit and occasionally after they enter. For example, a little boy age 5 or 6, has left the door open and peed at least three times in front of me and anyone else who cared to be walking by then.

I’ve learned it’s a relic of history and (somewhat) rural tradition that comes from a very communal style of life, where there is a lack of any kind of privacy.

4 – Clearly, China is working a form of evil selective amnesia over me.

Last trip, I hopped on the plane forgetting every electronics adapter that I have. Thus, I ended up borrowing a multi-prong extension cord from the office for a week that allows mixed voltage devices.

This trip, no sooner did I land than I realized that I forgot my China Mobile cell phone. The sad part was that I made sure to grab the specially pronged China adapter for it, on my way out of the house.

AppJamm - closing ceremony5 – I experienced 2 earthquake aftershocks this trip.

One was in the middle of a speech I was delivering, as the closing speaker of a weekend hack-a-thon that my company sponsored with Neusoft University, called the AppJamm.

The campus was in a suburb (a village, really) north of Chengdu. Chengdu is in Western, central China, not too far from Tibet in the province called Sichuan – the root of the cooking style of the same name.

The earthquake that struck the area on April 20 that killed over 100 people had happened the day before, causing numerous cancellations and delays to flights to the area (including mine).

Everything was running smoothly through the day and we had just presented the final awards. As I was talking, all of a sudden I noticed that the PowerPoint screen behind me was rocking wildly and I heard a collective gasp from the auditorium of students.

IMG_4679Whereas they felt the movement because they were all sitting, I didn’t feel anything since I was standing. Nonetheless, it was a disturbing event and I asked the professors if we should evacuate the auditorium, just in case. ‘No,’ they said: ‘Just keep going!’

Afterwards, one of my colleagues remarked that it was the most earthshaking speech he’d ever attended.

Then, the next day, I was in Shenyang, which is in far north east China, more northern than Pyongyang, North Korea. We had just completed our day’s meetings and were waiting for a driver to take us to the airport.

As we were hanging out in this Mediterranean-style coffee shop, all of a sudden the big umbrella over our table started to sway and the heavy wooden door to the coffee shop went ajar.

This time, I was sitting, and my colleague and I both felt the earth’s movement, for the solid 2 seconds or so that things were mildly rocking. We immediately checked Weibo and Wechat, both of which indicated that indeed a mild aftershock had struck.

6 – This is my last blog about China.

It’s an amazing country, with people who have an incredible drive to improve their lives and that of their children. It must be remembered that less than a generation ago, this economic leviathan was literally North Korean style, slave labor state during the Cultural Revolution.

So, when people (like me) marvel at the crazy, weird, opulent, goofy, inexplicable aspects of the country, one can’t forget how far and fast the country and its people have bounced back in such a short amount of time.

The country has many natural wonders and generous, friendly people. Just listen to the traffic-free morning of bird activity one morning in Chengdu. In addition to being the home of one of Neusoft’s three campuses, it has nearby Panda preserves and is near the ancient home of the Taoist religion.

Goodbye to all of my Chinese friends and work colleagues, both natives and ex-pats like myself, whom I met. I will always remember you.

The Golden Era of Law & Order

law & orderFor a couple of holiday seasons now, the one Christmas gift I’ve been wishing someone in my extended household would get me (but hasn’t yet) is the complete DVD compilation of Law & Order, the original franchise series.

Besides tying Gunsmoke for the record, longest-running TV series of all time, I think it is noteworthy because it was the perfectly-crafted, INTJ-targeted television show.

But, if I couldn’t have the whole series on DVD, then I’d have to pick the sequence of years when Jerry Orbach (detective Lennie Briscoe) was paired, first with Benjamin Bratt (det. Ray Curtis) and then with Jesse L. Martin (det. Ed Green).

I consider those the “Golden Years” of Law & Order.

Orbach, who was an accomplished theater performer and movie actor before he had a second career with Law & Order on TV, is the image of a committed-but-caring, wise-cracking-but-serious-about-getting-the-bad-guys, New York City detective – even if his portrayal bordered on farcical at times.

But, it is just that farce that helps make the show so weirdly enjoyable, for me.

Let me give you three brief scenes.

Nearly every show started with the initial crime, breaking for commercial just after the detectives briefly arrive on scene.  Invariably, Lennie would crack a wise one.

First scene, case in point:

Lennie’s partner, referring to a dead woman found in a hospital clinic: “She comes in for a biopsy and manages to get killed.”

Lennie: “I guess that’s why they call it managed care.”

ME lnoSecond scene:

A frequent foil for Lennie and his partners was the medical examiner Elizabeth Rodgers (wickedly, expertly played by Leslie Hendrix).  Here’s one of their exchanges.

They are talking in the medical examiner’s lab, nearby a victim on which the ME has been performing an autopsy.  The wall phone rings and the ME answers it and listens.  Then:

Med examiner: “Phone for you, detective.”

Detective, as he reaches for the phone and then suddenly pulls his hand back: “Is that brains?”

ME, pausing as she looks at her hand and then the phone that she’s still holding: “Egg salad, I think…”

Detective: “I’ll use the other phone.”

Finally, third scene – one of my all-time classics, with the dialog speed of a 30 Rock scene, again in the ME’s lab:

Lennie: “When can we get the final report, doc?”

ME: “Look, I’m busy. I got a body in the next room waiting to have a javelin removed from the chest.”

Lennie, dryly: “So… what made a nice girl like you get into this line of work?”

ME: “Free javelins.”

I know, I know – you probably saw that one coming.

In fact, I have no doubt that the appeal of the show was that most viewers thrived on that “I see it coming” element of the Law & Order plots.  A formula show, yes – the ultimate one, given its longevity and the fact that it still lives on, with differently titles variants, like Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.

There’s always next Christmas.

Professional Discretion: A Personal Reflection

I’m sitting on a plane returning to the US from Shanghai. As we were taxiing on the runway, this couple who obviously works in the same company, has begun to discuss personnel issues.

The man, who appears to be the superior to the woman, has begun to complain about information that she apparently shared with a colleague in another department.

“I don’t understand why you turned me in like that,” he said. “If we are going to build a different kind of culture, we’ve got to stick together and support each other,” he continued.

She seems slightly defensive, yet replied back to him with her point of view. I won’t include it here, tempting as it is, to avoid sharing embarrassment for the company and perhaps their colleagues.

The man has moved on to more philosophical HR topics with her – still specific about their company – about how decisions are made to target and lay people off.  He apparently deems the process arbitrary, capricious, and on the whole rather unfair. (Class action lawsuit, anyone?!)

Mind you, the guy isn’t whispering. He is speaking with a room-level voice, leaning across the aisle, because his colleague is in a seat across from him.

Since it is one of those transatlantic planes where the center seats are slightly staggered from the side seats and I’m sitting on the aisle directly behind the woman, we form something of an intimate, if unwanted, triangle.

I’m feeling like Harry Potter with his stealth cloak, standing right beside Snape or one of his cronies, conspiring some sort of dark, evil deed on Gryffindor.

They’ve kept going on so long that I’ve finally stuck my earbuds in, because we’ve taken off and reached sufficient altitude.

At least I can get some relief by listening to King’s X and drowning out the corporate dirty laundry being heaped in front of me – not to mention the other 15-20 people within two rows of easy earshot of the conversation.

Has something like this ever happened to you? A situation where you were in a very public place and two or more people started talking about what would generally be considered a confidential business matter?  Perhaps you were in the group.  Maybe you are one of the people that started or carried on the conversation.

In the age of public social networks and the generation of “always on” communications, it seems discretion has disappeared as a value that few, if any, of the American public, well… values(!) any more. And don’t get me started on the influence of reality TV!!

It hasn’t always been this way, at least not in the professional circles in which I’ve worked most of my life.

This summer, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first “real” job as a professional, when I started as a new-hire consultant in the Houston office of Arthur Andersen & Co.’s management information consulting division or MICD.

I had 7 job offers coming out of my MBA program at Texas A&M with AA&Co. offering the lowest starting salary. Yet, I took it for several reasons: the variety of projects, the outstanding career path to the partnership that all of the Big 8 firms offered (which few people ever stayed long enough to reach), but most of all the vaunted Andersen training.

From the moment you arrived at Andersen, you began your training, beginning with 3 weeks straight of 8 hours a day of Method 1 “Foundation” courses.

After that, you immediately shipped off to the Firm’s worldwide training center in St. Charles, Illinois, a suburb just outside of Chicago for 2 weeks of immersive, 16-hour days with other new hires from around the world. I found it completely invigorating.

A foundational driver of the training was equal parts professional training to the technical, skills-based training you received.

And, even though most of us in MICD were being groomed to be code-jockeys on systems integration projects rising up to eventually sell them (where you made the big bucks), every consultant got training in professional ethics and the basics of being an auditor.

This training included rather extensive readings, videos, and role-playing exercises on how to conduct oneself on behalf of the Firm.

Among the reading materials, as I recall, was a handbook written by the Firm’s namesake himself, Arthur Andersen. In it, he wrote of the near-sacred trust that the auditor assumes when he or she begins working on behalf of a client.

This trust included high ethical standards, among which were integrity, discretion, confidentiality, and generally conducting oneself  in the highest manner of loyalty, on which others could depend – others being your fellow “Androids” (as other Andersen co-workers and alumni re sometimes called), your family, your business associates, your friends, and most of all, your clients.

We role-played situations involving being discrete. We took tests about being discrete. Then, we watched each other’s backs when we saw Andersen colleagues potentially violating the ethos of discretion.

If you were in a hotel elevator with 1 or 2 colleagues discussing a matter – even if on trip away from the city to a training event – if someone not with the Firm got on, you stopped talking about the matter, or switched subjects.

There was no such thing as a “working lunch” in a public setting, meaning discussing client or other Firm matters at a local restaurant where people at the next table might overhear.

And you never – ever – discussed client business in an airplane, bus, train, subway, or any other public transport. It wasn’t done.

If you saw (or heard) it happening among any of your other colleagues – even if you didn’t know them – you were to counsel them, gently but firmly, to stop.

About the only time I encountered private or confidential information being shared in public was when there was a deep discussion about a particular issue being vetted.

In the process of crossing from a private location – say, a rental car – to a public location – say, the shuttle bus to the airport – occasionally the passion of wrestling with a topic would carry the conversation forward.

However, all it usually took was a nudge or a look, once someone realized the risk, and everyone immediately switched gears. That was it. No more talking – period.

To disregard these values was a major career inhibitor. (The great irony to all of this, of course, is the way in which AA&Co. suffered its demise at the hands of rogue partners in the Firm’s Houston office who aided and abetted the Enron debacle – ultimately, receiving a corporate death penalty vis-a-vis a felony criminal indictment for the Firm’s actions.)

I left many years before that, in the mid-80s, to begin my path as a start-up entrepreneur.  Likewise, the consulting partners of the Firm “left” their audit and tax brethren to form Andersen Consulting, later renamed to Accenture, now a global, management consulting giant.

I suspect some of the early partners who were around when the split happened still get down on their knees every night to say prayers of thanks for the vision, if not profound lucky break, from which they benefited by going their own way.

But, I have great fondness for my time at the Firm. I learned a lot. I transitioned from being a college kid in a three-piece suit to an experienced professional.

And I met some fantastic people who shaped my business persona. Many of them, I’m fortunate to say, are still colleagues with whom I stay in touch, with a smaller handful among my closest professional partners, still to this day.

One thing’s for sure, while today’s indiscrete public ethos has likely lowered my guard a bit, I doubt you’ll ever  hear me talking in public about what my business partners or clients are doing …that is, unless I want you to know about them. If you do, nudge me – the ghost of Arthur Andersen will do the rest!

Now, let me get back to that couple’s discussion on the plane. Yes, they are still at it.

In fact, the guy has written out a whole list of employees by name on a sheet of paper that is plainly visible, with different categories of assessment.

(Here’s a picture I took – I tried to be discrete when taking it.)

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