Are You a “Big Picture” Person?

I am a “big picture” person.  In a good light, that means that I am great at stepping back, being strategic and adding value by seeing “the forest through the trees” where others cannot.  In my life as a songwriter/musician, I write accessible pop songs.  I earn a living by helping companies hone their overall marketing messages, and by transfoming those messages into small sound bites for the people.  I tend to work with executives and entrepreneurs with a lot of great ideas, but whose ADHD makes them act like out-of-control lunatics.  Sometimes it gives me a big headache, but mostly I have a lot of fun working with some very talented individuals.

While I make my plight sound very cool, it’s a fancy way of saying that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to detail.  Here’s a story to illustrate my point.  After college, I lived for two years in Tel Aviv, Israel.  For those of you who have never been, it’s one of the greatest cities on earth.  The weather is beautiful; the people are beautiful; you can walk from downtown to the beach in a few minutes.  It is full of great museums, restaurants and clubs.  And people fly with a lot of style. 

I somehow managed to land a job working for the Israeli Postal Service.  I sorted international express mail and worked behind the counter in the post office.  This was an awesome job for learning about a country and the way that society works.  For example, in Israel you can pay many of your bills and bank at the post office.  I worked there for 8 months and it really helped me to acclimate to life in Israel.  But I was not cut out for the detail-oriented life of a pakid doar (postal clerk), and this is where our story begins.

I was sitting at the counter when suddenly the phone rang.  I answered.  The man on the line explained that he sent an important document to London, and it never arrived.  This document was crucial to a court case involving the man’s brother.  I asked him for the tracking number, and walked to the back room to try and find out what was going on.  Now, as modern as the post office was, we still documented international overnight letters in loose-leaf notebooks (by hand!).  I looked in the manifest, and found no record.  My detective work led me to check the documents that were sent to Paris.  Sure enough, the letter had been sent to France.  It was written there, plain to see… and in MY HANDWRITING.  I took a deep breath and walked back into the post office.

Picking up the phone, I said calmly, “Apparently, the document was sent to Paris.  But usually it just takes an extra day to get from Paris to London.”  Needless to say, the guy started freaking out.  He started saying things about my mother that (fortunately) ran far outside my understanding of the Hebrew language.  I tried to calm the man, but to no avail.  He demanded to speak with the manager (who, I explained, was out of the office until the next day).  But the man just wouldn’t stop screaming.  So, I did what any other red-blooded American boy with a college education working as a postal clerk would do: I hung up on his ass. 

Yeah.  I felt bad about it, but there was nothing I could really do.  Was there?  It reminded me of that scene from the movie Animal House where they just destroyed Flounder’s brother’s car, and Otter says, “You fucked up - you trusted us.”  …or that scene in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead when Treat Williams (aka Critical Bill) says to Andy Garcia (aka Jimmy “the saint”), “When you think about it, it really was sorta your fault. I mean, everybody knows… I’m out of my tits.”  I mean, they put me through a battery of psychological tests to get that job.  (I’m not kidding.)  They should have known I was going to fuck something like that up, and that I wasn’t exactly cut out for customer service.

Well, every good story deserves a climactic ending–including this one.  So, about two hours after the phone incident, I again sat at the counter.  I finished selling an elderly Russian woman some stamps, and without looking up I blurted out my staple “yes, please” to the next customer.  Suddenly, the man shouted, “IT’S YOU!” and lunged across the countertop.  Mayhem ensued.  Fellow postal workers immediately attempted to peel the man off of me as buff security guards wielding Uzis came running from the Customs Office.  He was ushered out the door, never to be seen again; my co-workers had a good laugh at my expense.  My manager wasn’t laughing, however.  She just stood there with 3 puffs worth of ash dangling from the end of her cigarette, staring me down with bloodshot eyeballs.  She mumbed, “What happened, Dahveed?” 

I thought: you fucked up; you trusted me.

5 Responses to “Are You a “Big Picture” Person?”

  1. jonny goldstein Says:

    Funny story.

    Um, I don’t know if “Accessible” is that adjectives I’d use for your songs. I mean, they are accessible, but they are a lot better than just accessible! I don’t know what the right adjective is, but accessible sounds like a building with a wheelchair ramp.

    Can anybody familiar w/Dave’s awe-tastic songs help me with a more suitable adjective. “Awetastic.” Mmmmmm. OK let’s keep trying.

  2. jonny goldstein Says:

    “That adjectives,” Yikes. The internet is leaving a brutal record of my typing debacles.

  3. Dave Alpert Says:

    yeah… maybe accessible was a pretty wanky adjective to use; i guess i was trying to back up my point about being a broad strokes kind of fellow, not always getting down to the pubes of an issue. But perhaps I’m wrong. It’s always the hardest to see yourself clearly.

  4. jonny goldstein Says:

    I like the idea of accessible. I think your songs do appeal to a broad swath of people. But it’s also a lot of other things: wry, bittersweet, poppy, rockin’. Maybe one adjective isn’t enough. I’ll give it this: shizznit is dizzope.

  5. Dave Alpert: I Know Where You’re Going with That » Blog Archive » Confessions of a Street Performer Says:

    […] My first experiences as a working performer were as a street musician in Tel Aviv, Israel.  As I previously wrote about, I spent my first eight months living there working as a postal clerk.  When that job ended, I needed a way to pay the rent.  I whored myself out as a freelance translator and decided to try my hand at street performance. […]

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