©2015 Mark Henderson
Prologue: This position paper is the result of a wager between the lovely and talented Wendy—and the smarter half of the Henderson Enterprises writing and editing team—and I. She bet that I couldn’t write a cogent persuasion based on this line from a 1970s-vintage made-for-TV-movie.
So, back when I was a boy, we used to gather the entire family ‘round the console TV set and howl laughing whenever a rerun of the western comedy aired called Evil Roy Slade, starring the late John Aston and about a dozen other well knowns.
There’s a scene in the movie where the main character, Roy (a.k.a. Evil Roy) wades out into a maelstrom of bullets being fired by the “good guys”(who were really not that good) to kill the “bad guy” (who was really not that bad). As Roy runs into the open, he’s clutching a book yelling, “Pow! Pow! Pow!”
Then he looks at the book—bullet storm still in full force—and asks, “Why am I pointin’ this book at them yelling, “Pow, pow, pow?”
His love interest (who was supposed to be handing him a loaded gun to aid his escape) replies, “Turn to page 9!”
“There better be a stick of dynamite in page 9,” Roy mutters, thumbing through the book amidst a hail of bullets.
“Read it. It’s a prayer book!” she yells.
“I can’t read it. All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’, and it don’t say, ‘See my new doll house,” Roy replies, the welling angst obvious in his voice.
“It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’,” she yells back.
Roy, out of options at this point, takes the only action he can think of: He tries to “Exit stage left, even” holding the Bible up yelling, “See this boys? It says, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’”
Of course, Evil Roy Slade gets captured to end the scene. It is a hilarious scene in a hilarious movie chock-full of hilarious scenes.
Yes, it was a 1970s vintage comedic classic, but I think Roy’s words of exasperation have become a sort of a mantra of Everyman/Everywoman today. No, not the “There better be a stick of dynamite…” line (although some have thought something similar, I am sure). No, the “All I can read is ‘See my new doll house’…” line. I am convinced that for many of us, if something doesn’t read like our version of “See my new doll house,”—whatever our version looks like—we can’t (a.k.a. don’t) take the time to read it.
Whether it’s filtering through scads of emails, scanning through documents to get to “the bottom line”, or hurriedly reading user assembly and installation guides, if we’re honest, most of us can admit to missing the “See my new doll house” for which we were looking. I, myself, am guilty and I am a seasoned (a.k.a. “old school” or old) editor! Just recently, I initially rejected a draft contract when I read their “nuclear option” clause, because I skipped over the caveat clause that made the termination clause “fair and reasonable”.
My point is this: We—as receivers of information—need to be cognizant of the fact that we live in the Age of Information Overload, with a constant barrage of information pumped at us through all manner of media. And, as a survival or coping mechanism, our brains have learned to filter out information not germane to our mission-of-that-second. I previously wrote a corollary blog aimed at communicators called Information Overload; it highlights how communicators need to be aware of the phenomena, taking special care to present information so that their target audience will receive that information and will receive it correctly.
For us, as information receivers, we need to be aware of our filter defense systems; we need to try to be more intentional in our information filtration when appropriate; and, we need to be able to learn when it’s important to stop, drop, and roll. In other words, we need to be ready and willing to hit our internal “SLOW SPEED” button, and intentionally receive (i.e. read, study methodically, etc.) information presented to us.
Maybe then, we’ll be able to read more than “See my new doll house.” Or better, maybe we’ll be able to successfully receive our “See my new doll house” for which we were searching on the first pass.
Epilogue: I believe I won the wager. What do you think?