Since I was impressed into suburbia like a drunk in a waterfront bar by a cadre of redcoated Dragoons with the onset of the Plague about 25 months ago, I've noticed a few things I really never saw while in the city.
For one people in the country hang flags outside their homes. Many even have full-fledged flagpoles.
There were flags in the city, of course. The most prevalent being the plastic yellow and orange ones announcing the presence of cerveza at a neighborhood bodega. Second to those were the American flags, found outside of post offices, public schools, the occasional museum and the Mayor's mansion which is just six blocks from my apartment.
When American flags outside of those institutions were half-mast, I never really questioned what they had been lowered for. More likely or not, they hadn't been raise since the Maine was sunk in Havana harbor or the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was lost or Alex Trebek died.
In the city, the efficiency of public works is dilatory at best. As a lifelong resident, you learn to accept things as they are. Even when a waiter has his calloused thumb in your mashed-potatoes, why complain. He's probably helping you build up some sort of immunity to something.
Up here in the burbs, however, people take their flags with the gravity of a lieutenant colonel hoping to impress the big brass. And all the dozens of flags seem in synch. When one is lowered, they all are.
My wife and I read a couple newspapers and stay in touch with world events. But when we go out for a walk in the morning and flags are lowered--which is about half the time, we almost never know why.
I suppose they're lowered now for Madeleine Albright. But they way things are going they could be half-mast because the drummer of the Foo Fighters died or perhaps, somewhere, there's a memorial service for Bert Convy or some-other non-luminous luminary.
If I had to find a point from this prosaic observation, I'd say that not only are we lowering our flags more often than in the past, we've lowered our standards along with our standards.
Funny enough, when I go over to LinkedIn, I see pretty much the same thing, pretty much every day, and pretty much with the same lowering of standards.
Of course, I'm exaggerating. But it seems that literally every day some agency or network has been named Agency of the Year by some governing body I've never considered, like the Amalgamated Dry Cleaners of America.
Along with that, there's a similar number of Networks of the Year. Content Providers of the Year. Animation of the Year. Media Plan of the Year, and more. Then there are individual awards that seem even more plentiful.
Project Manager of the Year. Creative Director of the Year. CEO of the Year. Copywriter of the Year. Sound Designer of the Year. Team of the Year. A 30 Under 30. A 40 Under 40. A 50 Under 50.
The lists and the awards and the flag-waving are oppressively ubiquitous. Once many years ago when I was working on commercials for IBM's ThinkPad, the client was trying to make me say in the Voice Over, "Winner of over 700 Awards." I refused to do it. If you've won that many awards, awards no longer have any meaning.
But my real point is not that there are too many awards.
It's worse than that.
It's that all these awards are awarded and the work I see still sucks. I rarely see a commercial that I feel isn't shouting at me, that connects on an emotional level and that provides me with the useful information I need to bring me closer to a purchase.
The last one I was was the Apple Underdogs long-form piece. And that was probably a month ago and I haven't seen anything close since.
It all feels like a sham to me.
People being celebrated because we need people to celebrate to get clicks. Meanwhile, I see no real-world evidence of what they're being lauded for.
It's like winning Salesman of the Year.
But you've faked all the receipts and the warehouse is still full.
It's bound to catch up to you.