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April 27th, 2017

The Village Idiot

Card counters

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published October 27, 2014

Card counters
"How's the decorating business?" I asked Beverly on her last visit.

"Oh, didn't I tell you?" she said, pawing around in her purse. "There was just too much running around, and the customers were driving me crazy. I can't deal with people who can't make decisions. I got so sick of people changing their minds. On Tuesday they'd want granite counters; on Friday, they'd want soapstone. I've moved on."

She found what she was looking for and handed me a business card. It read:

"BEVERLY FERGUSON

Social Media Consultant."

Beverly doesn't know any more about social media than I do. But she has a business card. It reminds me of that scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when the Wizard tells the Tin Man that he doesn't need a brain, he needs a diploma. Beverly doesn't need to know anything about Twitter or cellphone plans; she just needs a business card that says she does. It means that she can now charge for the advice I can only give for free. My advice is to look around for the best deal you can get, and take it. At least, that was her advice to me, so I'm passing it along to you.

I added her latest card to a stack of her other business cards, which I have been collecting for the last few years.

Beverly's never had the same job twice, but she's always working. I have business cards touting her as a "Mentor for Professional Women." One says she's a "Personal Shopper," while another one proclaims her a "Color Consciousness Coordinator." In the past four years, she has been a "Proactive Self-realization Facilitator," a skin care expert, a personal motivator, a public relations executive, a real estate appraiser, a voice coach, a window treatment specialist, a stock club organizer, a grief counselor, an interior decorator and an exercise-clothes designer. She has also worked for a newspaper publisher, a shoe importer and a plastic surgeon.

Her business cards were things of great beauty. The thought and precision that went into them was breathtaking. The ink on the card reading "Culture.com" was raised, and printed on a thick card stock that made one think the business had been around since men wore buckled shoes. You'd never know the firm was born, flourished and died between her Easter visit and her Labor Day visit, taking several million dollars of other people's money with it.

The one that said "Ciao Down: Contemporary Italian Catering" screamed ultramodern. It was printed on clear plastic, in a typeface so space-age you'd think she had just been beamed to this planet from the distant future.

That venture, too, tanked.

Some of the cards had logos on them, some were simple, some were baroque -- all fitting her fantasy professions perfectly. Beverly may have been totally unsuited for all of the jobs, but her business cards were quite impressive.

Still, she was becoming a menace to society. What if some poor sucker actually hired her? I wondered. Would it be my ethical duty to follow her around with another business card that said, "Please ignore the previous business card"? Should I become a one-man Better Business Bureau and warn people that they were dealing with a person who suffered from BADD -- Business Attention Deficit Disorder?

I decided that the next time Beverly handed me a new card with some new fly-by-night venture she'd got herself involved in that I was going to say something. I didn't know what, but something.

Sure enough, she showed up last weekend and announced she was out of the social media consulting business.

"Those people are crazy," she said. "I was spending all day on Facebook and Twitter!" Hmmm. Hard to believe that would happen in the social media business.

"So now I've found something I think I was meant to do," she said, handing me a brand-new, beautiful business card.

I was getting ready to tell her that she had to stop all this nonsense when I read what was written on the new card.

"BEVERLY FERGUSON

Business Card Designer."

I wonder if she'd do one for me?

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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