AdLand goes to Miami ... What does "dime" and "Sony" have in common?
7:30am CSD Saturday, 03.08.08
I board an airplane that sits alone among four gates - It is our beloved Northwest 508 at the shiny and new Bismarck Municipal Airport (slogan: Nicer than Fargo's™). The sky is cloudy and grey but the general twitter of my fellow passengers is cheerful and polite, like all good North Dakotans are wont to be. It's hard for me to believe that just several days earlier, I accepted a secret mission of great importance from a mysterious stranger in the UK. The details are sketchy at best, but it appears that I am to witness and be part of an event of such magnitude, such global-culture-shifting power, that knowing any more at this point would trigger a psychological cataclysm, leaving me huddled in the fetal position under the nearest table, rocking back and forth and whimpering softly.
At least, that's what I speculate at this time.
All I know, as the pilot waits for a herd of local buffalo to finish crossing the runway before we can take off, is that I'm heading to Miami, and the code word is "Dime".
Ah, it appears that our airplane has a weight balance problem, so they're shuffling a few of the larger passengers around. Just as well, as the herd has decided to reverse directions and is recrossing the runway. The dutiful airport pie-boys are standing at the ready on either side of the airplane, ready to scrape away the "tatanka-ca" that now polka dots the runway, releasing a concord of steam into the cold morning air.
The way now clear, we take off into a low cloud bank. It is 8:10am, with nothing to see but God's mighty tighty-whities.
The unknown lies ahead. Well, first Minneapolis, then the unknown. In Miami. You know what I mean.
As we now rise above the cloudline, composed primarily of what appears to be Class-3 Cumulostatanimbuloidobunnies, I ponder...
"Dime." What could it be? Ten of something? Something that stops well? A bag of something that's good for Glaucoma? Do I have a brother who wants me to spare something?
Why me? I'm from Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota (slogan: A state since 1889™), smack-dab in the heart of the North American continent and nestled between buttes and wind-swept rolling prairies. Ever since the P. Bunyan Paper Company logged the state back in the 20s, we've been blessed with an unobstructed view of the sky and horizon found nowhere else, which gives us our unique perspectives on things. Perhaps that was why I was chosen - only a mind unfettered by the East Coast / West Coast rap wars of the 90s and unspoiled by restaurants serving seafood the same day it was caught could handle witnessing and coming to grips with this "Dime," whatever it is.
Did I pack underwear?
8:45am Touchdown in Minneapolis in twenty minutes. Ahh. They still have ginger ale. Why is it that I can always get a ginger ale when flying Northwest Airlines, but can't ever find it in a restaurant? Does is only taste good at 30,000 feet?
Hmm. The Sky Mall catalog... Is there any other catalog that succeeds in such a perfect combination of dubiously-useful products and blatant overpricedness? Well, perhaps Sharper Image. I wonder what kind of cut the airline gets for such prime placement. I also wonder if the newish discipline of behavior economics ever researched the consumer influence of having a company's product catalogues placed in such intimate proximity to barf bags.
We're sinking slowly into Minneapolis. Soon, I will have my eagerly-awaited Caribou Coffee and pick up a fresh pack of Hoof Mints for the mission ahead - One should never face the unknown without fresh breath. It's 0°F.
10:10am Caribou Coffee in my belly (3 shot capp, which was a mistake since the waiting/boarding area had turned mighty warm from all the people wedging themselves so closely together - iced next time) and Hoof Mints in hand, I'm sitting in the airplane and finally cooling off thanks to that little air nipple on the airplane ceiling. Ahhhhh..... I'm glad left my mukluks and parka at home.
I'm still flying Northwest, but according to the departure boards, this flight is "partnered" with CO, which I think is either Continental Airlines (slogan: Because we're scared of oceans, that's why.™) or Compass Airlines (We know where north is.™). And then the pilot makes it better by announcing the partnership as "Sky Team Alliance Partners." That's a triple word score of redundant! I suppose it's safe to assume that it might just soon become "Sky Team Alliance Partners Associated Cooperative Squad of Togetherness" or something of a similar ilk.
Back to the mission, my contact in the UK mentioned that she was working for Sony Europe. So, like any good reporter and researcher, I went to Wikipedia to find out more.
Sony as we know it today got its humble start in Ireland back in 1840 thanks to a forward-thinking gentleman named Seamus Mahony. Like George Washington Carver and the peanut, Mahony saw great potential in the potato, His first success was in development of potato butter, soon followed by his legendary Seamus' Famous Potato Crisp Biscuits. His coffers soon spilling over, he then focused his attention to progressively more eccentric fare, including an intensive foray into the budding discipline of electrical science. It was here where he createst his proudest achievement, although it is mostly forgotten today except as a minor curiosity in the footnotes of long-out-of-print tuberosumology textbooks - The WalkSpud.
After discovering that certain strains of potatoes naturally generated and held electricity, he had an Eureka! moment while in a daze from minor solanine poisoning (he liked to eat green potatoes) - a spudtacular epiphany, if you will. By combining the clockworks of a music box with halves of a positively-charged Russet and negatively-charged Yukon Gold, he created the world's first self-winding and portable musical potato.
It was an immediate hit in Ireland. Soon it seemed as if every single person had a WalkSpud of their own. While each potato only had room for one song, the fact that it would rot after several weeks eliminated this seemingly huge disadvantage - people could then just go buy a fresh WalkSpud containing a fresh song! Serendipitous, indeed.
Now confident that his device had global appeal, he decided to go international. Because an early form of focus group research (called Talking To People in Pubs, or T.T.P.P.) indicated that some people in other countries were a wee bit silly with what they thought about folks from Ireland, he decided to shorten his company name from Seamus Mahony's Electric Über-Tubers to simply Sony.
Once again, sales took off and Mahony soon found himself to be the 23rd wealthiest man in the world. However, his success would prove to be short-lived.
In 1845, after programming a next generation WalkSpud with the musical sequence to Ring Around the Rosie, an anomaly happened which soon became known as "The Anamalous Happening." It was the spontaneous generation of the first-ever clockwork virus. And unable to detect or prevent the virus, it soon spread all across the country, causing the great Irish potato famine and devastating Mahony's entire homeland.
Soon penniless and loathed by his countrymen, he was forced to sell what remained of his beloved Sony to a visiting Japanese diplomat for peanuts. Literally. He was hungry. And no, it wasn't a peanut diplomat - just a regular diplomat. Don't question my sentence structure.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
It's 11:15am and we're finally in the air. Earlier, almost to the point of getting airborne, the plane had to turn around and go back to the gate because of a "documentation issue." Turns out a passenger left his folio behind, so they ran it to the plane. Great customer service! However, the interruption also caused them to lose our flight data so we had to sit for awhile while they tried to find it and punch it back in. We're running about 45 minutes late but at least we're up and heading in the right direction. Thanks, Mr. Papers-Forgetter!
Hmmm... So what if it's not Sony the spiffy electronic and technology biggie, and instead S.O.N.Y., an underground collective of spies and world-saver types? Secret Organization of Nifty Yachtmen? Saving Otters from Nasty Yodelers? Savant Overlords of the Neutered Yeti?
I'll have to ponder this as the beverage cart arrives.
12:15pm Pilot: "Off to the left side of the aircraft, St. Louis Missouri." Half of the plane looked to the right. I don't judge. I just observe.
1:05pm Hooray for turbulence while waiting in line to use the bathroom after two ginger ales and a triple cappuccino!
2:30pm Descending into Miami. 78°F
3:31pm EST I can't see my house from here
As I leave the plane, there in an unmistakable and very palpable sense of Sony-ness in the air.
I head down to the baggage claim area. Waiting there is a man holding a sign with "DIME" printed on it. What does that word mean? We shake hands and exchange pleasantries. Then I tell him about how when I was a child I used to get nightmares where my toys would come to life and float over and start tickling me and how somehow later in life it caused me to develop an irrational fear of tapioca pudding. He tells me that this isn't that sort of baggage claim area. We stand in awkward silence until my luggage arrives.
We walk outside and soon a town car arrives to take me to the command center of my stay. As we drive, I wonder how soon things will be answered, if at all...
What is DIME?
What is going on here?
What's up with Sony?
Did they find out I laughed during the "Sony. Bony." part of the movie Crazy People?
Did I really forget to pack underwear?
What do toys have to do with tapioca pudding?
I was kidding about the buffalo, right?
Part Two is coming in just a bit.