For Whom the Bell Tolls


Sad it is for me to report that Sheila Bell Messier, our beloved Superwoman, has succumbed to madness.  Ever eccentric, Ms. Bell has now crossed into the netherworld of complete insanity. Bats in her belfry? Perhaps.


So taken by her love of music, she has integrated into the workplace an upright piano, upon which she tinkles incessantly while her colleagues at Marshall Home Health Care languor in the lingering loudness of her melodies.  Cited by OSHA for Noise Pollution in the Workplace, the unfettered Bell forges ahead with her grand experiment - making millions by musical madness.


Metaphorical Messaging

Seeking to avoid speaking entirely, Bell has taken to communicating exclusively by piano with her subordinates.  So insulated from the oft-revealing spoken word, secure Sheila can now avoid the embarrassment of blunt outburst that haunt her from within.  Paranoia no longer threatens her, as she pecks away at tunes to convey her whim and wisdom to the workforce.  Managing musically, it is only through the keyboard that she now speaks. Her vocal silence is not entirely unwelcome to many.


Imagine working (if you don’t already) for Marshall.  Your telephone rings on the intercom line.  You pick up the phone to hear a piano tinkling out a strain of “Tulsa Turnaround.”  The message?  Very simple.  It means report to the travel desk to pick up the tickets and itinerary for a meeting in Tulsa, returning the same day.  Bizarre, perhaps, but it does make the workday a bit more interesting.


The theme from “Pump Boys and Dinettes” emits from your voice mail.  As Marketing Manager, this is clearly your charge to prepare a presentation to demonstrate the new Erecto Penile Implant Inflator to a team of urologists and their nurses.  It just takes a little imagination, but you’ll soon catch on.


A sales manager hears “Cajun Moon” streaming from his workstation.  Astutely, he recognizes a problem requiring his immediate attention.   The message conveys two elements; a) Information - The manager of the Thibodeaux, Louisiana store has shown his ass, and b) A Directive - You are to be there by dark to resolve the issue.  As you can see, this work is not for those of low intellect, as the implications of the tuneful communication can be quite subtle.


You, a sales person, are summoned to Sheila’s office after a trip down south.  The boss does not speak, but sits down at the piano and plays a few bars of “Hoochie Koochie Man.  Obviously she has gained knowledge of that unfortunate evening last week, dancing the night away with the blond bimbo in the Bamboo Bar in Baton Rouge.  No need to get stressed out, here.  Just sit down beside her and pick out the tune of “I’m Sorry.”  She returns with the chorus of “It’s All Over Now.”  You have been summoned on the carpet, sought and received absolution, and the matter will not be further addressed.  Maybe this musical madness is a good thing after all.


Other renditions would replace routine discourse.  “Take Me To The River” would indicate a desire of Ms. Bell to be accompanied to a riverboat casino for a round of gambling.  “How High the Moon” would suggest that it is time to update your sales projection for the coming quarter.  “Hit the Road, Jack,” a musical pink slip, is your cue to clean out your desk and report to the payroll clerk for your severance.  “Any Old Time You Wanna Come Back Home” on your home answering machine would imply that Ms. Bell dismissed you in a fit of uncontrollable rage and, fearing a wrongful discharge suit, wants bygones to be bygones and begs your return to work.


The Biedenharn Principle


A hundred and fifty years ago, the Biedenharn family owned a string of cotton plantations that extended across the delta from Monroe to Vicksburg.  Old man Biedenharn concocted a drink using caramel flavoring in a spritzer, laced with a pinch of cocaine.  He would serve a ration of the beverage to his Negro slaves each morning and at noon.  They would take off singing and dancing and would deliver four to five hundred pounds of cotton each per day.  He started a bottling company in Vicksburg and the product, so it is told, was later marketed as Coca Cola.  He was one of the most innovative and successful manipulators of mankind in recent history.


Sheila Bell has obviously studied the case of Biedenharn, fascinated by his commercial triumph.  Marshall employees may soon expect work songs to emanate from the big office in a constant stream to inspire their productivity to rise to the next level.  “Jump Down Spin Around Pick a Bale O’Cotton” will ring through the offices as “DessyBell (as in decibel) loudly bangs out cotton-field themes.  “Oh Lord! Pick A Bale O’Cotton” echoes throughout the building as busy clerks diligently shuffle through bales of unpaid Medicare billings.  The pace increases day by day, and then it is discovered that both the water cooler and the coffee pot have been adulterated with methamphetamine.


What the Future Holds


As the melodic flow of “Fur Elise” gives way to more metaphorically meaningful business tunes, Sheila has set the stage for the next phase of her musical experiment.  If the piano stuff works, the next step is a brass band playing stirring Sousa marches. 


And the best is yet to come.  The piano now mastered, Sheila is taking up the trombone.