Not Quite Instant Karma
When I was eleven, I stole an idea.
It was 1962, and I was hospitalized briefly for a minor problem. Not being really sick, I was very happy to be in the hospital, where I could get all kinds of attention and sympathy. I was enjoying myself tremendously.
The girl in the next bed had broken her leg. She was also not seriously ill, and like me, was having a very good time.
As we were competing for the nurses’ attention (which they smartly refused to give us), we started to compete in general. Who had better grades, prettier clothes, worse brothers and sisters.
Connie (not her fictitious name) told me that she was a wonderful writer.
“So am I,” I said immediately.
So she told me about a story she wrote for school, and for which she had received an “A+”. She wrote about keeping an elephant for a pet–how much it ate, and how much room it took in the house, and the effect on the neighbors.
I pronounced that story as very silly.
I was discharged the next day.
Back at school, however, when it was time to write our monthly composition, I wrote the same story. I had an elephant for a pet. I kept it on the porch, and walked it around the block, and shocked the neighbors.
You may think that, at eleven, I didn’t really understand that this was wrong. But I knew. I knew it was cheating to copy someone’s paper, and I knew it was cheating to copy someone’s idea. When the teacher was delighted with my story, I was ashamed.
Sometimes Karma is patient.
A few years later… (forty years to be exact):
It was 2002. I was still working in television at the time. I had a lot of good years at my job, but 2002 was not one of them. So I was job-hunting.
I had an interview at Court TV. You may be of the opinion that Court TV would not have been classy enough for the likes of me. But let me assure you that I can be as lowbrow as it takes. Television pays well, and some of the most lowbrow networks pay very well indeed. (Of course, Court TV has now become truTV, home of “World’s Dumbest”, so maybe now it might challenge my sense of sophistication slightly.)
Anyway, the executive who was interviewing me asked me about my creativity. They didn’t want a financial executive to be just a numbers person. They expected all of top management to contribute creative ideas. So he asked me if I had any.
And I did. I gave that guy two suggestions that I thought could be moneymakers for Court TV. One was, I thought, a great idea, and one was only passable. My lesser proposal was a show starring forensic scientist Henry Lee. Dr. Lee was the head of forensics for the State of Connecticut, where I live, and he had become quite a celebrity for his participation in the OJ Simpson trial, among others.
The rest of the interview was pleasant, but I didn’t get the job.
About eighteen months later, as I am channel surfing, I come upon Court TV and a show called “Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee”.
Imagine my surprise. This show was the idea I offered to a Court TV executive in order to obtain a job that I didn’t get. The Idea got the job, I guess. I wondered if that executive got a nice bonus (that maybe should have gone to me).
But I didn’t sue. I didn’t even call the sneaky dude to protest or demand my cut. I knew it was my karma for stealing Connie’s idea forty years earlier.
And besides, the show was a flop. They made only seven episodes that I don’t even think registered a blip in the ratings. So maybe the sneaky dude got fired. I like to think so.
As for my other idea… I still think I have a winner there. And I’ve atoned for my childhood idea-theft. So this one is all mine.
So excuse me, Mark Burnett, but ‘Survivor’ is getting pretty old. So if you are out there trolling the blogs of middle-aged women: Call Me. We’ll do lunch.