In the late eighties, when I started working, in India, there were a handful of car models to choose from and very few cars. An air-conditioner (AC) in a car, though not unavailable, was a rarity. After all, a car was a means to an end. It served the purpose of transporting you from Point A to Point B. Its reason for existence was not to make you comfortable in an AC environment while transporting you, or to ensconce you in a cocoon while shutting out the external sounds, or to enable you to watch your favourite TV programme while travelling, as seems to be the case today. At that time, it was a big deal for a person to have a car with an AC.
One of my many early management lessons was from a senior colleague, who had a Sales job in the company and who believed that it was important to keep up appearances, who once told me “It does not matter that you don’t have an AC in your car. You should still drive with your windows rolled up. After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not. Hence, when someone outside sees you inside a car with the windows rolled up, he will naturally think that you are travelling in an AC car, and your position in his eyes will grow manifold.”
That lesson stayed with me. And I spent many joyful road-trips inside the car with windows rolled-up, feverishly wiping sweat off my brow and everywhere else my hand could reach, happy that my stock was rising in the eyes of the people outside the car who, of course, I did not know from Adam. Those joyful days of steadily rising in the eyes of the world came to an end as soon as I got a car with an AC.
A few years back, when Blackberry handsets had started becoming popular and one could do emails “on the go”, it was fascinating to watch senior people carry them around and keep peering into them or typing on them, especially when they were inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place. It imbued them with an air of importance. At least they must have felt important. Of course, I could not afford one.
On one of these occasions my early days lesson came back to me and I heard the prophetic words again “After all, you know that you don’t have an AC, but the guy outside your car does not” which morphed to “After all, you know that you don’t have a Blackberry handset but the guy receiving your mail does not. And I sent the next email from my PC with “sent from my Blackberry handset” as the last line.
Thereafter, whenever I sent an email from my PC, I made it a point to type at the bottom “sent from my Blackberry handset”. So much so that it became a part of my email signature. Not sure if anyone ever noticed that I sent emails only from my Blackberry handset. Certainly my stock would have risen with all the people who received my emails in those days and they would have placed me in the same category as the important people who need to respond to important emails only from their handset even if it after three days of receipt, especially when they are inside the elevator, or in a restaurant, or generally in a crowded place. After flirting with the Apple iphone message for a short period, these days I am increasingly getting into the habit of typing “sent from my Windows Phone”, the one that I don’t have.
I am constantly window-shopping for newer and more expensive technologies and lifestyle rages that I will never buy.
This stuff is addictive. I am hooked onto it.
When I am unable to accept an invite for golf I always text saying “Sorry cannot make it. My Honma set will need to lie in the closet for another week.” Of course, if I accept an invite I send no such message because of the Honma set that I don’t have.
I have now even started writing “written by my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” on office documents which one needs to write on. Even where just a physical signature is required as proof of authorisation, I add “signed with my limited edition Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen with an 18K hand-ground gold nib with a platinum inlay” after every signature or initial. I did the same when I signed on the form I had to fill for renewing my Passport. My application got rejected. Seems like the government folks don’t get it.
Not only that, during meetings in office, whenever I speak or need to concur / differ, I make it a point to remind others who the concurrence has been given by. So, if the meeting organiser were to ask at the end of the meeting “do you agree?”, if I agree I would nod my head and immediately hoist a poster (prepared in advance) above my head that reads “this agreement has been given through a shake of the head that solved innumerable Calculus problems at MIT”. If I disagree verbally I would say “I disagree” and follow it up with “this disagreement has been voiced by the vocal chords that spoke out aloud at Oxford”.
And it helps one aspire. For example, I am already planning my next email message line which will say “sent from my diamond encrusted Vertu handset”.
I feel great about what the external world may be thinking about me….