Tag Archives: theChive.com

Can Stories be True When They’re False?

So it turns out that Jenny whiteboard quitting was a hoax. The Jet Blue guy with the chute exit and the beer wasn’t. I posted about both of them here Wednesday. Jenny Whiteboard CorrectedYou can read in that post that I suspected Jenny was fiction. I said so then, and I hedged my bets.

The two brothers who run thechive.com contrived the Jenny whiteboard story, hired an actress, scripted it, shot it, and put it on their site as a real thing. TechCrunch has all the details, with more on the actress and the brothers.

The Jet Blue guy, meanwhile, has been charged with a couple of felonies.

The coincidence of Jenny and Jet Blue together is a great example of stories: the power of stories, and the truth of stories.

William Blake wrote:

Anything which is possible to be believed is an image of truth.

And Harvey Cox wrote:

All human beings have an innate need to hear and tell stories and to have a story to live by.

So I ask: don’t you think Jenny’s story, although it was contrived, had useful impact?  Wasn’t it contagious media at its best? Doesn’t it have real meaning in business, a lesson about how and how not to treat people, a morality play, with relevant details like the part about the online snooper utility? Isn’t there a golden rule lesson in there?

And what’s the impact of the element of hoax? Did they lie to us, and does that make us angry, and make the story less true? I have no issue with that with Jenny because of the way it was presented. If I’d read it as fact in the  New York Times or Huffington Post I might react differently. We don’t like to be lied to. But if you go back and look at the original, nobody’s really lying there. They are not claiming it’s fact. And maybe I’m not all self righteous about it because I guessed it early and didn’t get burned.

And then there’s the Jet Blue guy: didn’t it strike a chord as well, in about the same way? I noticed CNN had a whole piece on flight attendants venting, which wouldn’t have been news without his spectacular exit. Would this one have been less valid as a hoax? Maybe, right? But this one actually happened.

And those two related flurries of attention: is the one based on story less valid than the one based on fact? There is a journalism element to this combination of stories, I believe. We expect truth, not stories, when it comes from professional journalists. Right? But John and Leo Resig, authors of the Jenny whiteboard story, don’t pretend to be journalists.

My point here: good stories told well communicate a very important variety of truth. That’s true for business and the rest of life too. Even if they aren’t true on the surface, they can be true in a deeper and more important way. Did The Godfather or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Moonstruck have to be documentaries to be true and useful? Are Othello or MacBeth only valid if they’re factually true?

(Image credit: thanks to TechCrunch.)

3 Stories of Spectacular Trash-and-Burn Job Quitting

Talk about letters of resignation! Burning bridges? Well, maybe one of these bridges needed burning. Still, maybe we need to review the 1950s blockbuster movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, on the merit of burning bridges. There is job satisfaction, and end-of-job satisfaction.

There are two great quitting stories in today’s news (or maybe just quasi news) as I write this. First, the girl with the white board quits spectacularly well, an amazing piece of work (fiction or not). Second, the Jet Blue flight attendant who fought with a passenger, cursed all the passengers on the PA system, grabbed a beer, and exited via the emergency chute. Stories like these just have to be told.

QuittingIf you haven’t seen the girl with the white board, take a minute, click the link, and see it.  Have you seen the movie Love Actually? Do you remember the scene in which the guy stands at the door with written messages for the girl? It’s like that, but (if it’s real) different, maybe even better (but only if she ends up with a better job). As I write this I don’t know for sure whether it’s staged or not. I kind of hope it’s fiction, because if not, then she’s had a miserable time and he deserves to be dragged in the muck. But it could be a well-staged hoax. Here’s a link to part of that discussion.

And then there’s the Jet Blue flight attendant’s spectacular farewell. Here is the New York Times summary:

After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective.

Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career.

On his way out the door, he paused to grab a beer from the beverage cart. Then he ran to the employee parking lot and drove off, the authorities said.

Another Web story said what the NYTimes called “a string of invective” including telling the individual passenger to f*** off, and then, microphone in hand, over the PA system, telling all of the passengers the same thing. Then the beer, and the exit chute.

And the third story is one of my own, from way back when I was on the night desk at United Press International (UPI) in Mexico City. This was in the early 1970s. We communicated via the same teletype machines we used to send the news. The rumor, or company legend, was the guy in some Midwest bureau who walked off the job after sending the following as his last transmission to the wire: “too much work, too little money.”

Which brings me back to the theme of burning bridges. I’ve always believed that you should never ever burn bridges when you leave a job. My advice is never to complain about your last job when looking for a new job. It just sounds bad.

Still, in the case of Jenny with the whiteboard, and what she describes as her work situation there, I think that could be the exception that proves the rule. And, furthermore, she’s done it so spectacularly well that I expect she’ll get a lot of much better job offers as a result. That’s already coming up in the comments to her pictures where they were posted on thechive.com.

And the UPI story? Rumor has it he had another job waiting. So he got some end-of-job satisfaction, for sure.

But with the Jet Blue story, he did get some fame out of it, including his name and picture in national media; but he also got criminal charges, and I think we pretty much call that a bridge burned. Or dynamited, perhaps, like the one over the River Kwai.  Maybe he’ll get on reality television?

(Image: a screen shot from theChive.com. Click it for the original.)