Famous Last Words: Do the Obvious!
One of the savviest women I know is a lawyer at an A-list Philadelphia law firm. Recently, she invited a new young male associate to join her to observe a meeting with two very important clients.
In the middle of the meeting, the kid pulled out his smartphone and began texting.
When a coffee break was called, my friend motioned for the young man to follow her into the hallway. "Give me your cell phone," she snapped.
"Hand me your cell phone," she repeated. "We are in a meeting. These clients pay us a lot of money. They expect our full attention. What you did was very, very rude."
The guy sheepishly handed her his cell phone, which she took and said, "I'll give it back to you at the end of the meeting. Meanwhile, don't ever do that again."
When the 9/11 tragedy hit Manhattan, Peggy and I decided to get cell phones in order to communicate in an emergency. We got perfectly OK, serviceable phones.
Since then, Peggy went on to become president of the Target Marketing magazine group and found that she needed texting and email capabilities. She started with BlackBerry and recently upgraded to a razzle-dazzle Android.
I am a lone wolf writer and am never very far away from a computer—desktop or laptop. I have zero need for an iPhone, iPad and incessant interruptions.
At Peggy's Android store, the smartypants young salesmen dismissed my ancient Samsung as an "interesting relic."
What triggered this column is the ad below from a May issue of PARADE with the headline: "Finally, a cell phone that's … a phone"
The thing looks vaguely like my sad-sack Samsung, but with big numbers on the keypad for geezers like me with lousy eyesight, and the wonderful retro name, "Jitterbug"—a dance that took flight in WWII and preceded the Twist and the Cha Cha.
In checking the pedigree of Jitterbug, I discovered it was created by Martin Cooper and his wife/partner Arlene Harris. Amazingly, Cooper had been the engineer at Motorola who invented cellphone technology 39 years ago and made the very first cellphone call on his clunky, 2.5-pound model.
With cell phone companies fiercely trying to outdo each other with bells, whistles and apps, Cooper—long since retired from Motorola—hit on the obvious idea for a simple cell phone that works for simple, non-technical folks like me, of which there must be millions. "When in doubt, do the obvious," said my first boss and mentor Franklin Watts of the book publishing company that bears his name today.
Jitterbug also reminded me of a wonderful 1912 short story by Robert R. Updegraff, "Obvious Adams," who became rich and famous by always doing the obvious.
Google "Obvious Adams" and download it. It's only 16 pages and could change the way you think about business-and life!