Tuesday, February 7, 2012
KARMA COMES KNOCKING--
And it's your turn to open the door.
(You gulp. This sounds ominous.) "Karma who?"
"Karma. You know who. I have you on my list as 'unfinished business'. We need to talk."
Although you have no idea what's heading your way, you're sure it's not good and that you deserve it. You don't question Karma. You take a deep breath, meekly open the door and peer out with ample caution.
Karma is dressed smartly in the unmistakable Cake fashion--short skirt, long jacket and all the other accoutrements that go with it. If you need a refresher on the Cake look please have a listen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1gShXIO6pk&feature=related or scroll down to see the lyrics.*
Not only that, Karma looks extremely smug. She's going to tell you a story and she's changing the names to protect the innocent.
(Cue dreamy flashback music as Karma's narrative unfolds...)
You are a biologist and you have for an idea for a new drug-- it may have crystallized 7 or so years ago--something like that. You hold on to the idea because it seems like a good one. You worry if it's such a good idea someone is probably working on it already but you haven't heard or seen anything that would indicate that. Although you work for a large pharmaceutical company, you are not in a position to discuss it there because you work in an oncology research environment. No one is paying you for ideas about anything other than cancer-related therapies. So you sit on it.
Years go by. You finally get fed up with being invisible and inaudible at your pharma-global-opoly. Your husband is making daily declarations that you must quit, and because it does finally seem to be the right thing to do--you resign. A bit more than a year later you finally find yourself working at a small pharmaceutical company that cares less about large profits and more about small unmet needs (orphan diseases). This means that among other things, your new company specializes in enzyme replacement therapies.
It just so happens that your drug idea is one involving enzyme replacement. So you go and talk to the guy in charge of "discovery" about it. He's intrigued. You send a few emails back and forth. You talk about your idea with others at your new company until someone mentions that your idea is in fact so good, it's already in clinical trials in Asia. "Check out the pipeline at Torpedo Pharmaceuticals," you're told.
Sure enough, there it is. Your brainchild is on its way to fruition with no help from you. Mostly, you're glad. How great is it that someone else identified the same problem and had the same idea? Pretty great! Still, you've been scooped. So you continue to talk about it with others in your company.
A few weeks later you're in a conversation with a colleague who mentions he not only knows about the nascent drug, he knows the guy who hatched the idea and brought it along. The guy's name is Todd Cooper. That's weird, you think. You went to junior high, high school and college with a Todd Cooper. So you start asking questions. How old is this guy? Where did he go to college? Where is he from? What does he look like? Everything you hear makes you think this might be the same Todd Cooper you went to school with, but let's face it, there has got to be more than a few Todd Coopers out there. Not only that, what are the chances that someone from your own high school would think of the same idea for a drug? Certainly not bloody likely.
So you go to the next level and check out the Torpedo Pharmaceuticals website to see his picture--he is president of the company. It's been ages since you've seen Todd so you can't be sure that's him--although it certainly could be. So next you check Linked In. The picture there is not of great quality but you think it really does look like your Todd Cooper so you move on to see if FaceBook has anything on him. At this point you realize a few of your high school connections are also attached to Todd, so you message them to see what they know. The answers come back leaving no doubt. The Todd Cooper who had your same idea for a drug is also the same Todd Cooper you went to school with.
Crazy! Unreal!--you think. That's just too weirdly coincidental.
In trying to process this, you continue to talk about it with your colleagues until one of them mentions she knows him fairly well and would you like her to set up lunch for the three of you?
Now you're in the soup.
The truth is, you are generally not shy about reconnecting with folks. You would have already sent an email to Todd to hear about his discovery and give your congratulations if it weren't for one very embarrassing story that happened when you were in 8th grade and Todd was in 6th grade. But here's the problem: You did something not very nice to Todd Cooper back in junior high. Not only that, two years later when he showed up at high school you decided the best way to handle it was to just pretend you didn't know him. That worked for two years until you left for college. Two years later--to your mild horror--Todd showed up at your university. So what did you do? That's correct. You continued to treat him as a persona non grata. Nice. Very nice.
You haven't lost sleep over it but you've owed this guy an apology for literal decades.
Karma continues: You look puzzled. Must I rehash that mortifying tale from when you were fourteen and he was twelve? Oh, all right. You are a glutton for punishment.
You were in 8th grade. You were tall, gangly, and yes, let's face it, your looks ran to the homely side. (Hey babe, the truth hurts sometimes. What were you thinking hanging out with 6th grade boys when you were in 8th? What self-respecting 8th grade girl does that?) Anyway, it was towards the end of the year and some dance was on the horizon so you arranged to meet not only Todd Cooper at the dance but also one of his classmates, Miles Jefferson. You thought you had it all wired until a savvy girlfriend said, "How's that going work? You can't meet up with two guys." You hadn't really worked out the logistics. All you knew was that if one meet-up was good, two had to be better.
When the night of the dance came you suddenly felt awkward and uncomfortable. You feared someone's feelings might get hurt. So you did what any average eight-grader would do in a similar situation.You spent the rest of the night ditching both 6th-grade boys.
Youth, as they say, and you so aptly demonstrated, is wasted on the young.
And indeed, after that you pretended not to know either Todd or Miles when two years later they rejoined you in high school. And if that weren't bad enough, two years after you started college, Todd showed up there as well. At that point it didn't make sense to admit your error and apologize. There was just too much time gone by.
So now you have the opportunity to not only meet and congratulate the inventor of what might have been your drug, you also have the chance to apologize for your bad behavior from too many decades back.
You give your colleague the go-ahead to set up lunch. What have you got to lose? Maybe Todd will give a resounding, "NO!" when he sees your name pop up in his email and then you'll know where you stand. However, he accepts your co-worker's invitation and on a sunny Friday the three of you meet for lunch.
You've been advised by those in the know (read: another guy who has keen memory of being a 12-year-old boy back in the day) that you shouldn't dredge up history--he's probably forgotten all about it. So when you see Todd you again pretend like nothing untoward ever happened. You say hello, shake hands, go inside, order lunch and proceed to talk about the drug idea as well as do a shallow 30-year briefing. Todd agrees that it's an amazing coincidence that two people from the same high school and college would have the same idea for a pharmaceutical.
In the last five minutes of lunch you can't stand it any longer. You mention the momentous dance and your idiotic, disgraceful behavior.
Todd is a very nice guy. Thankfully, he's also a guy's guy. This means that he doesn't remember any of it. Not only that, he doesn't remember you either. FaceBook has pimped your name to him from time to time but if not for that, you'd be just another nobody who wants to claim title to his great idea for a medication. Phew!
You're reminded of Miles Jefferson's name during the conversation with Todd. And on the subsequent email to Todd where you actually submit your belated but very heartfelt apology, he suggests tracking him down. You think that's a good idea and (for a change!) you beat him to the punch. With very little trouble, you find Miles on FaceBook and send him an investigatory email telling him his name came up when you were having lunch with Todd Cooper. His interest is piqued and in the next email you retell the tale of your shabby behavior, you apologize and wait for his answer.
Like Todd, Miles is a very nice guy and has no memory of the event. Also like Todd, Miles is a guy's guy and is quite sure he doesn't remember you either.
Karma is finished telling her story. And there you are taking it all in. While you stand at the door looking like the idiot she's just illustrated you are, she's turns to leave. Somewhat stunned, you can't even muster a wave.
She clicks her exit down your walkway in her red-suede, kitten heels. (How Cake left the details of her footwear out of their song goes beyond your understanding.) Just when you think she's done with you, she turns back around, waves her finger at you and says with a smirk, "Don't get too comfortable, honey. You know I'll be back."
Sheepishly, you close the door and close your eyes. You really hope you've learned something.
*"Short Skirt / Long Jacket" by Cake (known by myself as Karma's song)
I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what's best
I want a girl with shoes that cut
And eyes that burn like cigarettes
I want a girl with the right allocations
Who's fast and thorough
And sharp as a tack
She's playing with her jewelry
She's putting up her hair
She's touring the facility
And picking up slack
I want a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnng jacket......
I want a girl who gets up early
I want a girl who stays up late
I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass
She is fast and thorough
And sharp as a tack
She's touring the facility
And picking up slack
I want a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnnng.... lonnng jacket
I want a girl with a smooth liquidation
I want a girl with good dividends
At Citibank we will meet accidentally
We'll start to talk when she borrows my pen
She wants a car with a cupholder arm rest
She wants a car that will get her there
She's changing her name from Kitty to Karen
She's trading her MG for a white Chrysler La Baron
I want a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnnggggggggg jacket