notquiteold

Nancy Roman

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.

24 Comments

  1. What goes round … comes round … eventually.

    Y’know, I have never watched one episode of the Survivor. Just don’t get reality tv.

    DS

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  2. bigsheepcommunications

    Okay, you’ve piqued my interest, but you’re probably not going to reveal your other idea, right?

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    • Nope…. if I never see another tv executive, maybe there’s a book hiding in this idea….

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  3. I love Lisa’s question. But I can understand if you want to keep it under wraps. Who knows when you may be able to use it in the future…and others will appreciate its brilliance. Timing, it’s all about timing.

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  4. I once offered an idea to my boss (an asshole of major proportion). He pooh-poohed the idea and continued to make the lives of everyone around him miserable. I found another job and on a visit to chat with my former co-workers, was amazed to see my idea put into operation. Staff raved about the change and how “A-hole” had come up with it and implemented it, all on his own.

    Sometimes I will have a thought cross my mind and I will have to ask myself – didn’t I read (hear, see) that somewhere?

    I hope you can get your other idea out there.

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  5. I completely believe in karma – and you’ve definitely paid your dues by now, it sounds like! This is quite a story.

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  6. I agree with your decision to keep your other idea under wraps. Who know if “Connie” might still be out there somewhere, just waiting for a chance. . . . Loved this story so much!!

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  7. Great post!

    No wonder we have so many trademark and patent lawyers crawling all over the earth. Stealing ideas seems so easy and subjective. Just a couple of years ago I had two ad agencies come in and pitch to me and my internal client. We agreed to go with one agency–hands down brilliant presentation. But then my client wanted to take an idea presented by the agency that we didn’t hire. I gave my client a brief diplomatic lesson in business ethics and suggested we go back to the agency and offer to pay them for the part of their idea that we wanted. Imagine the surprise of the partner of the agency I approached to pay. He was stunned. He said no one had ever done that for him. We agreed on a price and we all felt good in the end. (This is why I hate having agencies come in an pitch without compensation in the first place. There’s too opportunity to steal ideas you didn’t pay for.)

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    • How refreshing! I love that you did the ethical thing, and that your client agreed.

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  8. (My last sentence should have read: “There’s too much opportunity to steal ideas you didn’t pay for.)

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  9. I used to think, as a kid, that I would have an Idea Store, where I would just sell ideas to people who walked in off the street. I couldn’t figure out, though, how I could get someone to buy my idea without hearing it, or to follow through with paying for it once they heard it. So my Idea Store idea hit the skids. I still dream of that store, though…

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    • In a way, our blogs are idea stores, aren’t they?

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  10. Loved the blog, that Karma can get you when you least expect it!!

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  11. Great post

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  12. I have my experience with a person who took work as his own. People in power do it all the time. So, maybe it was Karma in your case. I think it was Creepy Unethical Person doing what he does best. Your guilt probably atoned for your childhood error.

    Great post and title, as usual, though!

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  13. Just came over to check out your blog after noticing you left a comment on mine (thanks for that, by the way!). Anyhow, I’m loving your blog! I think you and I could be friends, for sure… keep writing!

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  14. Now that I think about it, don’t we all WONDER? Was that MY idea? Did I hear it somewhere else? Not in the moment of crafting.

    Of course NOT! Someone else’s idea usually leads to another. Maybe even a better one. Ha. At least that’s how I hope I’m involved, if ever. . .

    Great stuff to think about / to talk about too.

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  15. What goes around might take its time, but eventually it comes around. . .and I’m quaking in my boots! 😆

    BTW, where in Conn. do you live? I lived in Westport/Weston for a long time – from age 12 to 26. After I was married, Ashley and i moved around lot, but I still consider CT my home in many ways. Miss it a lot. I went to UCONN. Class of ’73. Graduated Staples HS (in Westport) in 1969! You?

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    • I live in Litchfield, in the northwestern part of the state. I was at UConn at the same time your were! Lived in Merritt Hall in South Campus. I would have graduated Class of 73 also, but I changed my major – (about 4 times).

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      • I know Litchfield well. A good friend (and former sister-in-law) lives in Goshen. (She was from Deep River!) How did the recent snow storm affect you? Did you lose power? We have a good friend in Weston who just got hers back. . .

        I started out as a Freshman livng at McMahon (West Campus). I was a music and theater performance major – spent most of my time at the Fine Arts section of campus – right across the street from the Deli. remember the great CBGs they made there? If you attended any of the theater productions or music concerts – you might have seen me! I also did summer stock at the Nutmeg (at UCONN) one summer. For my Soph and Jr. years I lived on South Campus too at Stowe B. Loved it – we had the best cook on campus, bar none! My Sr. year I lived off campus at an apartment complex in Willimantic. Don’t remember the name – but they were fairly nice, in a wooded area.

        Maybe we are long-lost friends. . . 😆

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  16. This made me laugh! And then think about how childhood memories can stick with us, especially the guilt ones. Powerful stuff. Thanks.

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  17. Great Post, Nancy.

    Somehow, the snow knocked off my subscription to your blog. I have lots of catching up to do.

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  18. Nancy, you have no idea how much this post has helped me to heal a bit today. Phew. So cathartic!

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    • Childhood and plagiarism seem to go hand in hand.

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