My client's client, those of great functional and political knowledge, occasionally ask some highly sophisticated analytical questions. This is one of those times.
"Hi this Emily with Policy. I understand you're the data guy. I was wondering if you could tell how many left-handed, red-headed, girls born on a Monday are in our system?"
I don't know whether to play dumb or actually give her an answer. However, I can guarantee 100% customer dissatisfaction. You see, I don't know the answer. And, sadly, I don't know how to retrieve it. Seeing as how, we have no data on hand dominance or hair color, I am at a loss. Horribly lacking words, I stare dumbly at Emily and let my mind wander...
It wasn't always this way. There was a time when I could shoot facts from the hip. I knew it all. Years of Full Contact Jeopardy and Extreme Trivial Pursuit with the siblings trained me to be a lean, mean, answer machine. Blurting out the correct answers becomes so easy when you practice under the gun. By under the gun I mean sisterly body slams and brotherly head locks for wrong or untimely answers.
I knew, way before 1981 arrived, I had to make the show. Eldest sister was on it. And there wasn't a chance in hell that I would let her stand on that achievement podium solo. When Jim Labate was looking for contestants for Answers Please, I eagerly signed my name. It was time to take my trivial skills to the big time.
It wasn't a huge turnout for the tryout. Maybe ten. Eyeballing the competition, I reminded myself, "Yeah, they can be smart. They could be quick. But smarter and quicker than me, no bleeping way." Hey and if all that fails, I still have a forty percent chance of getting on the tube.
I could sit here and type out who else tried out. It would be lies. all lies. I only remember one. And fancy that, she's female. Oh Cathy, ye of gigantic glasses, rapier wit, and rapunzellian hair! How I would love to hold your braid in my teeth whilst I read to you from Lady Chatterly! Wait a minute! Where the hell am I going with this?! Cathy Tremblay was cool for two reasons: one, those just mentioned above; two, I have yet to see her frown...ever.
And that's the team. Cathy, me, and two others I can't recall without consulting the archives (Sorry!). We're on our way! Full of promises of Tim Welch accolades and local media glory! Our opponent would be the E Street Academy. I privately told myself that victory would be achieved in short order.
You know what? It was.
We get to the studio and I'm checking out the competition. Muttering to myself, "Idiot. Dullard. Simpleton...wait a minute. WTF?"
And there he stood. Rail thin, Wally Cox glasses, and a speech impediment. He fits the profile.
I turn to Cathy and utter, not the first time nor the last, "We're screwed."
The game is on and your heroes answer the first question with ease. I think we skated on the team question as well. From the very next question and continuing on for the next twenty two minutes, that villain with the Coke bottle glasses ruined Cathy, mine, and the two nameless folk's shot at immortality! Damn you Coke bottle glasses! Damn you to hell!
Wally Cox knew everything. And he knew he knew everything. Tim couldn't finish a question. Wally interrupted him.
Tim: What is the capitol of...?
Tim: That is correct. Who holds the record...?
Wally: Joe Dimaggio.
Tim: Correct. What speech...?
Wally: (yawning) The Gettysburg Address
Tim: That is amazing! And correct.
And so it goes. Forever playing in my mind. A nightmare where I can't get a word in edgewise. A fever dream where I futilely press my buzzer while Einstein across the studio has locked me out. Oh how unfair! Oh the humanity!
Time heals the wound and conceals a lesson. In the ensuing years, I discovered that if you are the data guy people will lean on you. They will not seek answers themselves. They will lazily turn to you for the answers. Thus, today's morale to this little passion play is that YOU DON'T WANT TO BE THE DATA GUY! There is way too much responsibility. Eventually, every slack bahstahd in your office looks to you for answers. Trust me. Tell your little ones to stop showing off. Use Wally Cox as an example, I think his teammates only opened their mouths to yawn.
If, unfortunately, you are the data guy, I feel for you. It is a heavy burden. You must be ever vigilant and correct. And God forgive you if you come up empty. Just ask Emily. I think I can hear her now, telling my boss that I am useless.