My friend is a professor of print-advertising sales at the Rouge River Community College in the eastern suburbs of Toronto, which I find intriguing. Imagine, if you can, an entire post-graduate curriculum devoted to ad sales. I can’t — but, then, my scope is limited. The only lecture I’ve ever taken it upon myself to deliver pertaining to this worthwhile field of endeavor has been directed to our company’s staff, and it tends to be short: “Sell more advertising, ya lazy bastids.”
This illustrates how possession of certain character traits will recommend an individual to one line of work, and exclude him from another. Terseness can be off-putting, but is advantageous under some circumstances. For example, while dangling a practitioner of advertising sales out of a window by his well-polished Florsheims, one’s Socratic inquiries, of necessity, must be pointed and unadorned: “How about it? Are you gonna sell more advertising? Are you?”
My friend, on the other hand, is more naturally inclined toward circumspection, tolerance, and soft-spoken consideration for the feelings of others. His name is Grantland Mark.
A vital and compelling figure at the age of threescore-and-five, Grant Mark is widely recognized as the Founder and First President of the Men of Utmost Probity, the international social order of distinguished educators, businesspersons, and professionals who have pledged — to quote the organization’s charter — to always conduct themselves in “a manner above reproach, and exceeding established norms, whilst adhering to the very highest standards of behavior.”
As the so-called Primum Mobile of the association (or “Ut One,” in the group’s unique lexicon), Grant is the bearer of Membership Card #000,000,001, an artefact that would doubtless command a handsome price if traded through E-bay, or offered on consignment through a Cash Converters pawn shop, but, as Grant says, “To consider such an act simply would not suit, and would ill-befit a Man of Utmost Probity.”
Having been required, on the occasion of his 65th birthday, to accept mandatory retirement from the post of Founder and First Officer of the international group, Grant retains an equivalent position with the group’s local chapter, the West End Toronto Men of Probity (WET-MOP). Grant observes, with his familiar chuckle: “They say a new broom may sweep clean, but in Toronto, we know that a WET-MOP always gets the job done.”
One of the promising young minds under his charge recently asked him: “Say, Professor? Professor Mark? What, y’know, qualities might you associate with a Man of Utmost Probity — that is, in your view?” After considering the question for a moment, and then for several more moments, he provided the following reflections, thus demonstrating the generosity of spirit, and the tone of civility, that speak clearly to his high character:
“Any Man of Probity will take the time to help a friend or colleague when that friend has attended a company reception, perhaps over-indulged, and possibly passed out while attempting to exit the elevator. If the friend is positioned halfway out of the elevator, the Man of Probity, by dragging his friend’s head away from the path of the automatically-closing doors, will prevent the discomfiture inflicted by having the doors continuously opening and closing, smashing his friend’s head, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. I cannot tell you how many times I have been called upon to perform this service. Many times! I need not add that I have always found it advisable never to laugh, or to excitedly clap one’s hands, during such occurrences.
“Any Man of Probity will strongly resist the urge to butt out his duMaurier on the forehead of his passed-out friend or colleague, to teach that person a lesson about maintaining probity in public. Indeed, smoking cigarettes is a vile habit, and smoking in public elevators is likely to be against the law in many jurisdictions. I don’t care if it happens to be the same brand of cigarettes Fred Davis used to advertise. It’s just wrong.
“On the other hand, a Man of Utmost Probity will go the extra mile, by refraining from helping himself to a gratuity from his prostrate friend’s wallet or money-clip, after the good deed has been completed. Even though a double-sawbuck or at least a ten-spot would seem to me an appropriate fee for services performed.”
Looking back upon his years of exemplifying the Man of Probity, Grant observes: “I am sometimes asked, ‘Can the wrong sort of chap aspire to become a Man of Probity? Yes, I think so — though disappointingly few out-and-out rascals have applied, and fewer still have met our stringent requirements of membership. Can such a person aspire to ultimately become a Man of Utmost Probity? Hmpf. I hardly think so.”