Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 1. To Disgrace or Ridicule the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.


ahancockDuring nine years of my corporate career I was employed by a prestigious and globally recognized design firm where I held the esteemed position of Director of Executive Service.  One of my fundamental responsibilities was to manage the execution of, or, if requested, provide service personally to guarantee the success, without fail, of any kind of celebration that a partner requested or attended. For example, one client favored Scotch Whisky so I was asked to produce a Scotch Whisky tasting of adagobabar35-year old Scotches: Bowmore, Tamnavalin, Berriach, The Macallan, and Laphroaig and pairing them with: smoked salmon, black bread, Roquefort cheese, venison, smoked duck, and Dagoba organic dark chocolates.  Another wanted me to hire handsome male and beautiful female models clothed in Hugo Boss black suits and Adrianna Papell  cocktail dresses so that his guests were surrounded by classic beauty and modern design.  Yet another wanted a nine foot by nine foot parcel of the reception area to display five hundred forced Paper Whites in full bloom during one of the harshest winters on record, so he could capitalize on his design theme, Fresh Air, and subtly reinforce his theme and that we’re capable of just about anything, including any ideas they may entertain. Paper Whites naturally bloom in spring, so we had to force them to bloom (by apaperwhitereplicating a spring-like environment) early.  But there are no guarantees when forcing bulbs to bloom.  But lo’ and behold all five hundred bulbs bloomed creating an intoxicating fragrance throughout the hot house, or so I was told by the gardener downstate moments after he informed me that their truck carrying my Paper Whites was caught in a white out, spun off the road, and landed chassis deep in fresh snow where my lovely Paper Whites shivered as they slowly froze.  But as luck would have it, the potential client canceled their appointment.  Rumor has it that they’d all ready selected a firm, and we were just a curiosity.  But my all-time favorite: Four hundred and ten Shamrock Shakes delivered precisely at 12:00 noon on St. Patrick’s day.

The occasion at which I was disgraced and ridiculed by friends and colleagues was a simple party thrown by a partner who wished to celebrate the winning of a new commission in China with his design and marketing team.  The celebration started after work hours which required me to stay late as my supervision was requested by the partner.  As team members began to leave and the last partner to depart for the day was the host of this party.  On his way out he bellowed, “give them anything they want!  Anything!”   A senior designer approached me to ask if I might open acocktailpartythe partner’s private stash.  (When I was promoted the Managing Partner said to me, “Your job is quite simple: First, make all the partners happy; Second, never question or deny a partner’s request no matter how preposterous it may seem.)”  So began my study of each partner from alcohol to zany; I interrogated their assistants to drill down to expectations, tolerance for substitution, and the senior assistant’s castigation should he/she book an airline ticket in the unbearable and reprehensible middle seat in coach.  I stockpiled their favorite liquors, pop, snacks, and wine as a precaution.  Most employees and partners were aware of the liquor cabinet but didn’t know its location, yet knew that I possessed the only key.  I followed my instructions and wheeled out a trolley cart filled with the nonpareil of spirits and wines that ever passed their lips.

And then the fateful question: “Hey, I hear you’ve got top-shelf snacks!  Like those thumb-sized cashews for Adriel,” (at $28.00 per pound, you acashewbet they’re for the senior partner I thought to myself.)  We want some of those to go with the liquor.  By now it was close to eight o’clock and I was beginning to tire as I unlocked the file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  I removed a two pound sack of cashews, opened it, and delivered it to Lacy, the marketing rep for the project.  Lacy and I had always been friends, the tit-for-tat type of friend.  She, like several others, based their success and traded in information.  My success was based on character, trust, and top-level confidentiality.  She failed to pluck any morsel of intel from me.

By the time Lacy stuck her petite paw into the bag of cashews, a small crowd gathered round.  At almost the same moment they all realized that the cashews were very warm (from sitting in a file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  And then Lacy said it first followed by taunting laughter; then another said it; then a small group in unison; and the wave of ridicule and disgrace rose higher and higher then tumbled, crushing me with its demeaning vitriol.  I grabbed my briefcase and left the office quickly hearing slowed apologies backed by more laughter.  The firm boasts about a zero-tolerance policy for harassment so when I filed my formal complaint against Lacy I was told by the HR manager that she’d already heard about the incident and that Lacy will face her comeuppance.  Oh yes, and that I should forget she said:

Hey everyone!  Hey look!  Warm nuts!  He serves them warm nuts.  He warms the Partner’s nuts!  You get that?  He warms the Partner’s nuts!