DeMeer: Sometimes we all need a little Harvey in our lives

Andrea DeMeer is the editor/publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.

The number one, sure fire, feel good, warm-your-cockles film of the twentieth century has got to be the 1950 gem Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull, and based on the Pulitzer prize winning play by Mary Chase.

Take it to the bank, nothing brightens a gloomy or anxious day like a date with Harvey, a 6’ 4” invisible rabbit known as a pooka.

The full version of the movie is available on YouTube for a mere $3.99. You will not be sorry.

The role of Elwood P. Dowd is the most quintessential of Stewart’s career. Harvey contains no special effects, no car chases and very little action. It is mostly Dowd, wandering around his hometown in gentle, eccentric and sometimes slightly inebriated fashion, having conversations with his best friend Harvey, whom nobody else can see.

It’s an odd but enviable relationship that creates confusion and consternation for the people in Dowd’s life and there is much to glean about goodness, and priorities, and the right way to treat others.

One of Dowd’s character’s defining habits — other than daily trips to the local tavern — is his insistence on handing out business cards to people who don’t want them. Each time he points to the card and explains: “If you want to call me, don’t call me at that number, that’s the old one. Call me at this other number here.”

That’s ridiculous right? Printing a business card with an old phone number on it?

Who would do anything like that?

As it turns out, most people have a little Elwood P. Dowd in them.

There lives a good example on one of the computers at The Similkameen Spotlight, which runs the design software used to produce the paper each week. Something like three years ago the style sheets for various typefaces and sizes were updated, to give the paper a bit of a facelift.

The person who set up the new system carefully created sheets for new body copy, new cutlines, new headlines and new bylines. To this day, right beside them, are sheets called “old” body copy, “old” cutlines etc.

The old style sheets are completely useless, somewhat ugly, and they often lead to font mix-ups on a production day.

The paper’s own Elwood just couldn’t throw them away and no one else in the office knows how to delete them.

Many years ago at the invitation of senior managers in my company (invitation, insistence, you say tomato) I attended a series of seminars designed to hone organization skills.

The one lesson that proved to be a worthwhile take-away was an exercise involving keys. The presenter asked each of the 150 attendees to take the key rings from their pockets and purses and remove all of the keys that belonged to houses and apartments where they no longer lived, and vehicles they no longer owned. The pile of keys accumulated on the centre table was impressive. There were hundreds of keys handed over that day.

The facilitator said old key collecting was a regular part of his seminars, and while at one time he carried a satchel of keys to each new course, he soon lost the ability to lift them all.

It’s entirely possible that today the aforementioned organizational expert is a successful housebreaker and car thief. But he had a good point about how hard it is to let go.

A completely unrelated aside: the only other course in the program that was at all memorable was called something like “Time Management for the Professional Woman.”

After dropping the kids at day care, stopping at the office to send a few emails and fighting commuter traffic for 90 minutes it was maddening to hear the session leader introduce her topic by sharing that she had recently returned to the workplace after choosing to be a stay-at-home Mom. “I’m not here to judge anyone,” she condescended. “For me it was important to spend those most formative years with my child.”

Women and all parents need to stick together regardless of their choices and circumstances. Stay-at-home mothering or fathering is a great thing, and so is being a Mom or Dad who works outside the home. If another woman expects to be heard on the issues of time management for her gender, she needs to bring something more to the table than guilt — like practical tips for removing baby spit up from a pair of dress pants while driving a car, applying lip gloss and talking on the phone. Ugh.

Indeed, some feelings are just hard to let go.

Think maybe a dose of Harvey is in order.

Andrea DeMeer is the editor/publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.

 

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