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March 04, 2010

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My most embarrassing business moment also involves a Fred. Or a Freddie, to be exact.

I was a brand-spanking-new reporter for a weekly newspaper and got a great story assignment: interview a local rodeo cowboy who had recently won a championship. I visited his ranch, got some great quotes, wrote a fun and interesting story -- and called him Frankie all the way through. His name was Freddie.

But I've never made the same mistake again.

But of probably poor Freddie was never profiled again, either!

Yep, Holland you Murrayed that one good.

I'm sure you've heard it, but I'll say it again for the cause: My first week at my news job 2.5 years ago I had to write a headline about a competitor shuttering its sawmill. What I meant to write was "Swanson closes its studmill" but instead it went out as "Swanson closes tits stud mill."

Let's just say I had a nickname fromt he get-go.

Good topic, David.

As a very young lawyer, I was taking the deposition of my litigation adversary's president. The lawyer on the other side of the case apparently thought he could take advantage of my inexperience, so he instructed his client not to answer a question that was critical to our theory of the case even though he lacked even a plausible basis to make that instruction.

So, as permitted in that jurisdiction, I called the magistrate judge in the middle of the deposition to ask her to compel to answer the question. Unfortunately, in concluding my argument to the Court, I was so overcome with frustration that I told the Judge, "Your honor, their position is f***ing ridiculous!" The Judge was not amused (but made them answer the question anyway)

Dave,
My worst story happened at Ragan - in the old offices. Remember they used to have monthly birthday raffles? Those were some GREAT prizes and I was always at the edge of my seat praying they'd call my name.

Then it happened. Dan O. yelled out CINDY!!! Before he could finish I went tearing up to the front of the room, flailing about like a giant Gooney Goo Goo. It was like I was called to play the Price is Right. Seriously. As I giddily went up to accept my prize, he finished his sentence with "Gould."

Yep. The OTHER Cindy won the prize. He just said to me "you can sit down now." Awwwwkward!

Jason Murrayed the Magistrate and Eileen Murrayed the stud mill.

Which reminds me: A dozen years ago, I Murrayed an IABC Awards Gala.

By carelessly remarking in the keynote speech--the context is forgotten and irrelevant--that "senior executives have wives."

"And husbands!" came one cry, then another and another, from the largely female IABCers in the audience.

I tried to go on, until it was clear that I had to stop and apologize.

I recovered, barely, with an ironic remark about how "the speechwriter's head will roll" and I stumbled on along, in hot-faced humiliation and rage that I can still summon today.

Oh! Cindy! The early Ragan offices! Not a day went by in that place that somebody wasn't Murraying something.

Once I sat through an obnoxious meeting with the CFO, and afterwards, on my way down the stairs told my customer service pal that I had a mind to punch the CFO's fucking teeth out.

It turned out the CFO, classy and cool as he was maddening, wasn't far behind us. And he extinguished all hope he hadn't heard me when he passed by and asked, "Did you enjoy the meeting?"

After a half-sleepless night, I came in early the next day and handed him a typed note apologizing for my vulgarity and threats of violence, but then explaining to him how he drove me and others to such frothy fits of rage.

I handed him the note, in an envelope marked "Confidential," and walked back to my cubicle and waited.

He came by, told me he hadn't heard what I'd said, but then added that I was the only person in the company who wasn't afraid of him, and did I want to join him for lunch that day.

Murraying: Rough on the ego, good for communication.

I once wrote a news release in which I quoted a senior government official on the subject of improving border security. The quote was supposed to say "We need to be sure the steps we take don't do more harm than good." But I left out the "dont't" so I had him saying we should to "do more harm than good."

Despite the provocative quote, like so many news releases, nobody bothered to read it - except for a woman in our media relations department. I'd never met her before, but when she noticed the typo she called me "a knob." She's my wife now. So in this case, Murraying led to marrying.

I witnessed a near-Murraying once. Back in my corporate days, we had a director over our department who was tall and square-headed and had a laugh that reminded us all of the old TV character Herman Munster. One of my colleagues, who worked at another location but occasionally visited, did the best imitation of Herman's laugh. She was entertaining all of us one day with this when the boss stealthily walked up and then wondered what all the red faces were about.

Mur:

You may have Murrayed the cake, but you gave a hell of a speech at our wedding, too. You have to take the good with the bad.

Oh . . . you also put a cigarette burn on our brand-new boat. And you didn't give any good speeches that day.

Sometimes, you just have to take the bad.

Steve C.

That's right. I Murrayed the boat. I forgot. But didn't I also pump the piss and shit out of it later that summer?

Yes, you did. You were The Pumper. So there was good with the bad. By the way, we're only about a month and a half from launch date!!!

Steve C.

You Murray funerals, too. Don't forget.

Yes. I Murrayed a funeral. I also Murrayed a wake, associated with the same funeral, horrifying an old woman in the parking lot by talking noisily about rigor mortis. Life is complicated, what can I say?

The one that - to this day! - sticks with me and when I recall it [thanks a lot, Murray!] still makes me cringe with embarassment goes like this:

I was newly hired [and much younger and greener] as the lone communications person at a large organization in which one of my responsibilities was to do mass voice-message communications to our call centre reps [about 600 people] to advise them of any news, updates, information etc., because they didn't have email and were on the phones all day.

After a particularly insane day where it was one crisis after another and every demand under the sun passed my desk, it was 7 p.m. [I'd been in the office going strong since 7 a.m.] and I had one last voice-message update to send.

This particular message, because of its content, needed to also be copied to several of our internal partner management teams in other departments, as well as our call centre management team, and a handful of senior executives.

Thinking I was now an old hand at this voice-mail sending thing [and not realizing just how exhausted I really was] I duly entered all the required voicemail groups extensions, hit record and started talking. Well, I triped over my tongue a few times, so I hit *76 to delete and start again.

The fourth time I started to record the message and screwed it up, in frustration I yelled [while still recording, you understan]:

"OH FER CRAP'S SAKE! How many freakin' times are you gonna have to do it before you get it RIGHT, idiot!?!?"

And then, having blown off the steam, went to again hit *76 to delete and start yet again. Except - I bet you know what's coming, don't you?? - instead of hitting *76 to delete, I accidentally hit *79 which is to send.

Yep, that quote above got voicemailed verbatim to all those call centre reps, not to mention all those management people and their phones clearly told them it came from "Kristen Ridley, Call Centre Communications".

I was horrified when I realized what I had done. I called IT, I even paged them on the emergency number BEGGING them to pull back that voice message, or delete it from the system - SOMETHING to save me from an ignominious flame-out. But no. They told me there was no way to call back a voicemail message once it was sent.

I didn't get fired, but my boss who had no sense of humour was NOT amused. On the up side, several of the call centre reps. called or dropped by to tell me that it gave them a big laugh when they heard it, and that it was nice for them to realize that "managers make mistakes and get frustrated too."

That was almost 10 years ago, and I can finally smile [mostly] when I think about it.

That one was worth waiting for, Kristen. It actually takes a pretty humorless (or terrified) boss to stay stone-faced in the face of a Murray as thorough as the one you describe. Especially when overwork is the source.

You know what my mother said: Fuck them if they can't take a Murray.

(Also worth waiting for, by the way, will be the one about the time Suzanne Murrayed a women's room.)

Happy to oblige. I had just moved back to Chicago after having been in extreme isolation in rural PA for two years. While in PA, I was working from home out in the woods with snakes, dinosized spiders and the occasional bear as my only chat buddies. (well, and the cats, of course) So I had gotten in the habit of vocalizing every blessed thought that I had. You see, in isolation, there is no filtering requirement. And just to give yourself a little company, you find that you just speak every thought aloud. Nice to hear a human voice, you know.

Fast forward to my returning to Chicago and going back into the office. I'm still adjusting to civilization and humans and all that. (you know) And I go into the bathroom and the second I walk in the door I whisper in this loud, scary, desperately Satanic whisper, "I FEEL A SHIT COMIN' ON."

First: Who even says that? I mean, who fancies herself a poop prognisticator? What next? Me with a map of the intestinal tract, a long pointer thing and there I am on the morning news with the weather man?

Second: I THOUGHT I was in there alone. WRONG. When I was in the stall, I heard something. I quickly stuck my head down and was mortified to see a slick pair of shoes innocently parked a few stalls down. I memorized them. That's right. I'm no fool. I would find out who their owner was.

I went back to the office and watched and waited.

The shoes, the shoes belonged to the oldest, sweetest person in the company. Probably the only woman in the place with a modicum of dignity until the day turned that modicum into a turd.

That, my friend, is one satisfying anecdotal nugget.

Here's my latest Murray- While at work, I emailed my sister-in-law (Linda Hernandez), asking her if she could babysit for my "raging, whiney, bratty kids" for a few hours. I included a couple of recent anecdotes about the kids & my husband (her brother) which were pretty funny- but were (b/c I really AM a truck driver) laced w/ profanity. Shortly later I got a response back - from my customer (LUCINDA Hernandez) in Mexico. She declined to babysit for me, but did order some spare parts for her Vulcan Coiler. Luckily for me- she thought it was pretty funny too. I've changed my sister-in-law's name in my contact list to "Red-Hair Hernandez"

Kimmy, that's good.

And I'll see your Lucinda Hernandez, and raise you one Megan Waitkoff.

Megan was an angelic editor I had for a few years at Lake Magazine. (Her editorial direction was, "Write it as long as you want and put tons of your own voice into it"—-every writer's dream.)

She was perfect in every way, but once--ONCE--she was taking too long to get back to me on something, and I cleverly wrote the photographer that I couldn't get back to him until I heard from Megan "Hurry Up and Wait" Koff.

Yep, she was cc'd.

What an asstard!

Luckily she had a sense of humor and I'd built up a good relationship.

Unluckly, the mag folded a month later.

You win some and you lose some,

David "Murray" Murray

I finally had the time to read all of these. Good, good laughs. Great way to end the day. And now to sleep ... gotta rise early and clock in some weekend OT at the tits stud mill.

These are super funny.

Almost as funny as the time I was introducing a speaker (a business-book author of some small renown) at our analyst conference. As as I did so, I swept my hand by his glass of water, which went right onto the crotch of his suit.

It still gives me nightmares to think about it.

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