EVERY NOW AND then, on this crazy planet we call Earth, you come across a story so darned heartwarming that you need to take a prescription antacid.
This is such a story.
I found out about it from alert reader David Rankin, who sent me the Jan. 3 front page of the Sevier County, Tenn., Mountain Press ("Sevier County's Daily Newspaper"). On it is an article by J.J. Kindred about a Danville, Va., based textile company called Dan River, which was closing its Sevierville plant and laying off workers. Evidently, some savvy individual in management realized that the workers would be unhappy about losing their jobs. And so, to cheer them up, the company gave worker something extra in their severance packages -- something that would make these layoffs truly special:
I swear I am not making this up. According to The Mountain Press, the severance package included a $100 Wal-Mart gift card, a Dan River cap, a calculator, a plaque and "three red-headed Barbie dolls."
That's right: three Barbie dolls. And all redheaded! The Mountain Press published a photo of one worker's severance Barbies, still in their boxes, smiling with radiant perkiness and ready for some layoff fun. We can only imagine the reaction of the workers when they went to the plant personnel office and received these beauties:
Management Person: John, we're sorry about letting you go after 23 years at the plant, but to soften the blow, we're giving you these.
Worker: But ... But these are ...
Management Person: Yes! Barbies! Three of them! And they're identical!
Worker: Wow! These will be a huge hit with my four boys, ages 15 through 26! This is the best layoff ever!
Incredibly, according to The Mountain Press, some workers were not thrilled with their Barbies. The Mountain Press contacted a human resources official at Dan River headquarters, who wouldn't comment on the Barbies, but did say "We are doing our best to help the employees" and "We have the best management staff around."
No doubt. Probably some of them are MBAs. But this is one of those situations where, before implementing a plan -- even a seemingly flawless and airtight plan, such as giving dolls to grownups who are losing their jobs -- management should have consulted with a normal, non-corporate human, or even a reasonably bright hamster. ("We have good news and bad news: The hamster liked the Wal-Mart card, but it made doots all over the Barbies.")
Speaking of Barbie: I assume you have heard she is no longer with Ken. I'm serious. Mattel made an official announcement about this, which was all over the news. Barbie has apparently taken up with a new doll named Blaine, an Australian surfer with one of those asymmetrical surfer-dude haircuts, so he looks as if the various surfaces of his head were cut by different barbers with seriously incompatible views on how long hair should be. Blaine also has the kind of muscular physique that women actually do not find at all attractive according to my wife whenever I ask her why she is staring at a Bowflex commercial.
I'm not sure how I feel about the Barbie-Ken split. On the one hand, I can see why Barbie would not be satisfied with Ken. I have a 4-year-old daughter, so our house has a thriving, teeming Barbie colony. This colony is serviced by one lone Ken and, frankly, he is not up to the task.
I say this because Ken doesn't seem to notice that the Barbies are constantly getting naked. No, I don't know why the Barbies do this. I don't want to know. All I know is that often, after my daughter has been playing with her Barbies, I'll walk into her room, and there will be naked Barbies everywhere, and Ken will be displaying absolutely no interest in them. Lately, in fact, Ken has been off in a corner, sitting in Barbie's pink Jeep, with Pinocchio.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But my point is that I can see why Barbie has dumped Ken. But that doesn't mean I'm happy about Blaine. If Blaine thinks he's getting into my daughter's room, he's stupider than he looks, which is pretty stupid. With a better haircut, he could have a career in management.