RE: Irony Defined

Here’s a true story.

I quit the electric power business because of Jay Leno.

Here’s how it went. 

In my tenure at Wisconsin Public Service Corp, the emerging culture of the company was actively hostile to our own product. This was all driven by the Public Service Commission in Madison and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, of course, but the implicit (and occasionally explicit) position of the company was that we wanted to reduce the amount of electricity we sold. The idea of actively trying to sell more? Insane. We had a “marketing” department, but all they really did was administer various (economically stupid and ineffective) “conservation” programs we were required to offer.

Things like giving away blankets people could use to wrap their electric water heaters. Pure idiocy. No rational person would ever spend their own money on one of those blankets. The break even period (dollars saved vs dollars spent) was more than any human lifetime. (I would know. It was my job to do the math.) We also spent a lot of money nagging people to replace their 100W bulbs with 60W bulbs. Stuff like that.

And then one day I’m watching television, and there’s Jay Leno, pitching Doritos.

The tagline: “Crunch all you want. We’ll make more!

Hit me like a ton of bricks. It occurred to me that I had been sucked in to a corporate culture that was in a very real sense self-loathing. We didn’t see ourselves as doing good. We saw ourselves as actively harming society.

Which is pretty insane, when you consider what a society without abundant electricity is like.

I decided I was too young to spend my career in that environment. So I quit.


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