It never ceases to amaze me how people approach random conversation with strangers. Some people make inconsequential chit-chat with random questions like "What do you think of this weather we're having?" and "how about that game last night?" It's boring, mindless stuff, but fully appropriate when speaking to somebody you don't know.
And then there are the people who pull such bizarre questions out of their ass that you have to doubt their sanity. For example...
A while ago, I was meeting with a prospective client. This happens all the time, and I'm not really bothered by it. I enjoy meeting new people and have pretty good schmoozing skills. But this time, the potential client brought his "spiritual advisor" with him. Well, I don't know if that's what he was actually called, but he had no business input whatsoever, so I assumed that he was some kind of spiritual or ethical advisor. This didn't bother me much either, as I have dealt with a wide variety of people from all kinds of different backgrounds, beliefs, and walks of life. The more the merrier.
Except this time was different...
Prospective Client: So how would you approach a reworking of our image?
Dave: Well, from the brief overview I've had of your company, there are many positive strengths we could draw on to better position you in the market. In particular, the quality of your products is very high compared to your competition, yet your current marketing strategy doesn't seem to leverage this as a reason to purchase your merchandise. Your price point is higher, which can sometimes imply quality, but you should definitely be more overt in stating it to your consumer base.
Prospective Client: I see. Yes. I agree totally that this is something we need to do.
Spiritual Advisor: Tell me Dave, have you ever killed anybody?
Seriously, WTF? How do you answer this question? Do you play it for humor and say "well, not today" or get all serious and say "absolutely not!" As I sat there in stunned silence, a million things were running through my head...
"Is this guy serious?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"Is this one of those questions where they don't expect an answer, but want to see how I react to it?"
"Hey... HAVE I ever killed anybody? I don't think so."
"Wow... you don't think that they are wanting to hire me to kill somebody... do you?"
"Oh crap! The longer I wait to answer, the less credible I am going to be when I say no!"
"HOLY SHIT... THESE GUYS ARE GOING TO THINK I AM A HOMICIDAL MANIAC!!"
In the end, I realized that I simply had to say something...
Dave: Uhhhh... no?
Which sounded incredibly stupid, but it was all I had. The Spiritual Advisor just said "hmmm..." and shook his head in agreement. Then, as the meeting continued, he would randomly insert other bizarre questions like "If you had to choose between wanting something tangible or wishing for something idealized, which would you choose?" and "Do you feel that we as a society are ready for where technology is taking us?" And each time I answered he would simply nod his head and we would move on to actual business again.
I didn't get the job.
I can only guess that it was due to my ethical failings (or whatever the Spiritual Advisor was judging me on), because my concepts were killer, and the person they chose instead of me did incredibly shitty work for them.
And this morning I found out that the company went out of business.
Despite the fact that I didn't get any work from them, I am still sad when I hear of somebody's business failing. That was somebody's hopes and dreams... somebody's hard work and ambition... somebody's life. I take no joy in it at all.
But deep down I know I could have made a difference. Maybe they still would have gone under... maybe there were problems so deep that nothing I could have done would have helped... but I certainly would have given them a better shot as success than what they went with. Of that much, I am certain.
But now I am left with the question of whether I respect them MORE because they stuck to their guns and hired somebody who was more compatible with their beliefs and philosophies... or respect them LESS because they were so thoughtless as to hire somebody who "fit" but did a crappy job.
I don't know.
But I'm still relatively sure I haven't ever killed anybody.