We were in one of our monthly operations reviews a while back. Various operations managers held court, putting up on the wide screen arrays of numbers that numbed and points that seldom made a point. My mind tends to wander – as do my eyes – in such meetings and I noticed, to the left of the screen, an easel with a pad of 3M self-stick easel paper. On the sheet was a technical drawing left over from a previous meeting.
I had no idea what the drawing was supposed to represent. It looked like some kind of compressor with tubing and a circular object coming out of the loop. Perhaps it was a balloon. Of course it couldn’t be a balloon but, in the absence of more information, why not? For the ignorant, nothing and everything are possible.
The thing about the drawing is that it I’m pretty sure it was there when we met for the same operations review one month earlier. Yet another month went by and I – and, apparently, only I – noticed it was still there gracing the left corner of the conference room. Well, grace is probably a large word, because the drawing was as crude as it was curious.
Anyway, at a break, I sauntered up to the easel when no one was looking, took a marker and wrote Helium Machine under the drawing.
I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame – and then I drew that too.
A week or so after that, I went up to the easel and, when no one was looking, took a marker and colored in the balloon looking thing. I made it a bright orange, just so no one from Minsk to American Samoa could miss it. A few days later, I drew a pin with the no (circle-backslash) symbol around it. Underneath, in print letters, I wrote NO BURST.
This went on for a long while, new elements being added to the sheet with each passing month. On the lower left, I drew the edge of a table, onto which were placed, in sequence, some very colorful balloons, a party blower and, finally, an invitation to Jane’s birthday party. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame – and then I drew that too.
To be fair, every element looked sort of technical. I even wrote in a mathematical formula with a sigma, a cosine and several square roots. Not once, in the seven months since some engineer first drew some device on that easel did any of the senior managers say anything about it or the absurdly complex and highly suggestive post-modern piece of artwork that it had now become.
I guess broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow was right. The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.