When far above the bottom line

I made an exciting discovery the other day. It came, as many things do, during a committee meeting. The committee meeting was being held to plan another committee meeting and, I confess, my mind was wandering. My eyes were wandering with it. Outside, in a field across the road from my place of work and committees, I saw a 1947 Minneapolis Moline.

You may well be inclined to ask how I knew it was a 1947 Minneapolis Moline. I sympathize, but I'm not going to tell you. It's a long story and, when you come right down to what is nowadays called "the bottom line," a family matter. You may also be inclined to ask what in heaven's name ism a Minneapolis Moline. Now thatm I will tell you: it's a tractor. The 1947 Moline resembles a modern tractor in the same way an ichthyosaurus resembles a Canada goose.

All this is what is nowadays called background info. The exciting discovery came right after an elegiac sigh and words which formed in the mind but failed to make it to the lips. "Ah," I thought, "the Minneapolis Moline, last of a dying breed."

There are some nice things in thoughts like this. First, they're a better way to spend your time than listening to committees planning committee meetings. Second, you can be pretty nearly meaningless and still make sense to yourself. "Last?" Come now. Last tractor? Last Moline? Of course not. But precision is unimportant. You can mix up any recipe of metaphors you want: breed tractors, manufacture breeds. You can weep deliciously as the mixed metaphors migrate into the setting sun, like ichthyosauri, like Canada geese. No one need know.

I migrate more and more these days, but only on rare occasions do my migrations lead to discovery. On this particular occasion, however, discovery answered like an echo: "Not only is the 1947 Minneapolis Moline the last of a dying breed. Im am the last of a dying breed!"

Thinkm of it! I was so distrcted with excitement at this discovery that I let down my guard for a moment and listened to half a sentence of committee language. Luckily, the phrase "effective interpersonal interaction" claimed its place in the dialogue, which saved me from the predicate and complement, so I could get right back to the exhilaration of being the last of a dying breed.

It's heady company. As the last of a dying breed my soul selects its own exclusive society. I acquire qualities I'd never realized I possessed: the strength of the buffalo, the grace of the peregrine falcon, the articulate courtesy of a Southern gentleman, the energy of the capitalist, the crispness of an unpolluted stream, the dignity of a small farmer, the unobsolescent durability of a Bendix on cast-iron legs. Gosh.

From far away came a voice, faint but clear, calling me back from prairie and sky to the deliberations at hand. The committee was approaching the bottom line. But I still had more work of my own. I had to find out what dying breed I was the last of!m I became slightly panicky, and lapsed again into listening.

Now this is the strange part: the committee gave me my answer. The word "expertise," buried among the sonorous jargon and the requisite passive voice, rose up by itself, echoed noisily among the calls of the Canada geese. Expertise. Expert. Expert.

And then I knew. I am the last of a dying breed called "amateurs." Piltdown amateur shuffling about among joggers and experts. Cro-Magnon mixer of metaphors in company with smooth facilitators of interpersonal interaction. No expertise of any kind. None. Think of it!

I smiled, and turned my attention to the bottom line.

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