Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Up Yours, Old Way of Doing Things

My friend, Jason Falls, co-hosts the 100 Proof Badass Radio Show, and his employer, Elasticity, is the show's sponsor. During the intro, Jason always says "the three founders threw off their corporate PR firm neckties, grew mustaches, bought a panda suit, and said "up yours, old way of doing things."

I always thought that was an odd thing to say, as if the old way of doing things was a single person you could talk to. And if you could, why would you say something so crude? That idea inspired me to write this story.



"Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things!" shouted the young man, throwing his arms open wide.

"Excuse me?" said Old Way of Doing Things.

"Who said that?" asked Disruption. He whirled around, looking for the voice.

"I did," said Old Way of Doing Things, stepping out of the shadows.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Old Way of Doing Things. You just called me."

"Oh, I didn't think you'd hear me," said Disruption.

"I only caught the last part. That's why I said 'excuse me.' What did you say?"

Disruption hesitated. "I, uh, I don't really—"

"Oh come on, kid. Now's not the time to be shy. You're already drawing attention to yourself with your hat and funny mustache."

"I said, 'up yours, Old Way of Doing Things." mumbled Disruption.

"What?" Old Way of Doing Things cupped his hand to his ear.

"I SAID, 'UP— uh, that is, up yours, Old Way of Doing Things,"said Disruption. "Sir."

"Interesting. Why would you say that?"

"I was declaring my independence."

"Ah, shouting your barbaric yawp, as it were."

"I don't know what that is."

"Never mind." Old Way of Doing Things studied Disruption. "Why me?"

"What?" said Disruption. This wasn't going as he'd planned. He was supposed to shout his slogan, make his grand gesture, and then unleash his Big Idea upon the world.

"Well, people rarely speak to me, let alone say 'Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things.' I've been around for a long time, and literally no one has actually ever said that before."

Disruption kicked at the ground, embarrassed. Old Way of Doing Things laughed.

"I mean, that's one of those sentences that has never been uttered before, and never will be again. There's over a million words in the English language, and no one has ever strung those seven words together in that order, let alone directed them at me."

Disruption stared at Old Way of Doing Things. "I don't follow you."

"Sorry. I'm just ruminating on the improbability of that sentence being uttered at all. It's a pretty weird thing to say."

"Hell, look at me," said Disruption, gesturing at his old-timey button down shirt and vest, bowler hat, and anchor tattoo on his forearm.

"Fair point," said Old Way of Doing Things. "So why'd you do it?"

"To declare my independence."

"Independence from what?"

Disruption thought for a minute. "Well, you."

"You didn't even know I was there a minute ago, and now you're shouting vulgarities at me."

"Well, not you, per se. I just wanted to shout to the world that I was ready to change it, to disrupt it. See, I even threw off the symbol of oppression by my corporate overlords."

"Really? What symbol is that?"

"That thing over there." Disruption waved his hand at a rumpled cloth snake on the ground. "It's my necktie."

"Shit, I haven't worn one of those in years," said Old Way of Doing Things.

"Why not?"

"I wear an ascot."

"Really?"

Old Way of Doing Things stared at Disruption, then snorted. "No, kid. No one wears ascots."

"Sorry."

Old Way of Doing Things pulled a book out of his leather briefcase, and started flipping through it.

"What's that?" asked Disruption.

"It's a book," said Old Way of Doing Things.

"I've heard of those. My parents had those. I think I used them once."

"You mean read them?" asked Old Way of Doing Things.

"Yeah, read them."

"You mean you don't read books?"

"Oh sure, a long time ago."

"And you've not read any since?"

"Oh no, I still — 'read.'" Disruption made air quotes. "Blog posts, articles, white papers, e-books. I consume all kinds of content on my phone and tablet."

"You do what?"

"Consume content."

"What the hell is that? You mean you eat it?"

"No, that's what we say these days."

"We who?"

"We, uh, disruptors. We say things like 'consume content' and 'value add.'"

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

"That's how people talk these days," said Disruption. "We're all about change and doing things no one else has done before."

"You mean like your handlebar mustache?" asked Old Way of Doing Things

"Yeah," said Disruption.

"And brewing your own beer at home?"

"You bet."

"And riding velocipedes, making artisan pickles, working out with kettle bells, and getting anchor tattoos on your biceps?"

"Yes, all of that."

"You know that's all been done before, right?"

"Well. . ."

"I mean, I'm the Old Way of Doing Things, but pickling and velocipedes? That's really fucking old. That's ascot-wearing old."

"But it's new and disruptive."

"No, it's ancient and dusty."

"Yeah, well, what about, well, typewriters?" Disruption said.

"You mean those things the hipsters have discovered and are collecting the shit out of? What about them?"

"Uh, never mind," said Disruption. "What about fax machines?"

"What about fax machines?"

"You use them."

"Of course. They're great. You can send a document all the way around the world. What's wrong with them?"

"It's a waste of time and paper," said Disruption. "You print out a long document, you fax it to someone else where it gets printed out, and you both store the document in a file, and stick that in a filing cabinet."

"Right. That way we always have access to it."

"Why not just put it in the cloud

"What clouds? How can you put things in clouds."

"Not clouds, you old fart. 'The Cloud.' Out there." Disruption paused, waiting for the penny to drop. Old Way of Doing Things didn't seem to get it. "You know, on the Internet? Where it's always available?"

"That doesn't seem real secure. Not like a good, old-fashioned filing cabinet."

"See, that's my point!" said Disruption. "That's 'your way' of doing things." More air quotes.

"You write a report and create as many paper copies as you have people who read it. But my way is just to share it online so no one ever prints out a paper copy. That way, you save money and help the earth."

"Really? Interesting. How much money would that save?"

"Well, it depends on how much you pay for pa—No! This is my thing. You can't be interested in it. It's not right."

"Why not?" asked Old Way of Doing Things.

"Because you're Old Way of Doing Things. I'm Disruption. You're not supposed to agree with me. We're enemies, like fire and ice, good and evil—"

"Puppy videos and kitty videos?"

"Stop that!"

Old Way of Doing Things chuckled. "Look kid, just because I'm Old Way of Doing Things doesn't mean I can't change, and it doesn't mean we can't get along. You need me, and I need you. Without me, the world would be in chaotic turmoil. Without something stable to ground the really good ideas, you'd just be change for the sake of change."

Disruption thought about this. "And I guess you need me, so you can grow and improve. Otherwise, you'd stagnate and die."

"True. You've always been around, making me change and grow. But I hang onto the good ideas too long, and I need you to shake me out of my reveries. Without change, I wouldn't have new traditions for you to screw around with. Remember, even the typewriter was new at one point, and people hated it. And if you go back far enough, handlebar mustaches, velocipedes, and kettle bells were all new too."

"The things I've been doing," said Disruption ruefully.

"Everything new is old again," said Old Way of Doing Things, philosophically.

"So, what would happen if we didn't have each other?" Disruption asked.

"I'd be like my father, We've Always Done It This Way."

"Then what would I be?"

"An intolerable asshole."

Disruption laughed. "Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things."



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