On Flies

You’ve heard the old saying: “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”? Well I’m here to tell you that shit works even better!

-Harland Ogrebreath –

Old Harland ran the parts warehouse out on Highway 55 in Plymouth Township. As you might imagine from a man expressing such sentiments, Harland was an MBA. He studied his craft in an airy academe somewhere out east and, in 1966, came west to torment the schleps. The company’s upper management, also infested with MBAs, had come to the conclusion that treating us parts-pickers with anything but contempt was simply coddling company enemies. Harland had been sent thither to crush the spirits of the recalcitrant yahoos and nose-pickers who, two years before, had the temerity to unionize.

Not long after the NLRB had certified the union’s election, the pashas were sitting in their private club. Belting back double shots of the world’s finest single-malt Scotches and dragging deeply on fat brown $12 cigars, they were working themselves into a righteous fury over the ingrates out in Plymouth. Imagine, they said, louts with nothing but highschool educations demanding – demanding I tell you – wages sufficient to obtain mortgages in a subdivision and new school shoes for their snot-nosed little urchins. Great gadfry, they wailed, that union contract could not only depress the price of the company stock, it could even affect year end bonuses. The fattest one in the group, the Chairman, no doubt, said that would screw up his plans to acquire a spiffy new solid gold Rolex for Christmas. He’d been drooling over one of those things for years and had earmarked his bonus for the purchase. And now those rotters in the warehouse were going to spoil it all.

Something had to be done.

That’s when they discovered Harland. On a rainy afternoon, one of the V.P.s happened to be passing by the mail room on his way to the garage when he heard angry bellows coming from the office. Peeking in, he saw a small young woman hunched in her chair and choking back tears while being viciously berated by her boss, a man who turned out to be none other than Harland Ogrebreath.

What a sight he was. Standing well over six feet, Harland had an enormous spherical head squashed down tightly onto broad, ape-like shoulders. He wore his hair in a quarter-inch stubble whose hairline descended almost to his brow. His face consisted of two pig like eyes set above a large rubbery mouth filled with large teeth. Spittle flew as Harland swung his thick arms around in expansive gesticulations while he shrieked and cursed the hapless woman: “I hear that elevator music coming out of that radio one more time and you are through. You understand me?” Harland roared. The woman’s quivering lower lip testified in assent. Satisfied at having completely cowed the poor thing, Harland swung his mass about and returned to his office.

“This is our boy,” the Veep said to himself. Within days, Harland had been promoted to Branch Manager and handed an airline ticket to Minneapolis. “Go get `em, son,” beamed the Chairman as he slapped his protege on the back and bid him bon voyage.

Settling into his new office, Harland summoned his staff. Among those presenting themselves for inspection was Jerry Daffer, the warehouse superintendent. Jerry had been with the company for over thirty years and was beloved by all. A slight man full of years, Jerry led his team of shleppermen with kind and considerate authority. There wasn’t anyone who could ever recall Jerry raising his voice in anger or even reproach. Indeed, Jerry’s admonitions were such that the recipient invariably did better out of chagrin at being reproached by such a good and decent boss. Under Jerry aegis, turnover was non-existent and production was among the best in the company.

Harland Ogrebreath saw this and was displeased. He saw Jerry Daffer as weak. He immediately called Jerry into his office and began to ream his ass for such sins as fraternizing with the troops and excessive softness that, in Harland’s mind, could only lead to sloth and slacking. “Jerry,” Harland said, “You use too much honey.” Jerry was demoted and replaced by a kiss-up/kick-down kind of fellow named Mel London who began to use shit.

The warehouse was a long, wide 2-story building with a flat metal roof. Were it not for the half-dozen or so skylights, which Jerry Daffer ordered to remain open unless it was raining, the place would be a killing oven in the dog days of August. Ah, but citing some bogus insurance requirement, Mel and Ogrebreath ordered them shut. This being the late 1960s, blue collar folks were not entitled to air conditioning so the gang simply sweltered. Other indignities soon followed as we “flies” were fed our diet of shit.

Sure enough, there were repercussions. Pilferage began. Sick calls increased. Turnover hit 30%. Orders were improperly filled. Petty retaliations took place (someone twice let all the air out of Ogrebreath’s tires) and eventually, the union began to file grievances. Within six months of Ogrebreath’s arrival, a union election was held and the rest, as they say, is history.


A week ago last night, my buddy, Dale, and I were gabbing over some wine when I recalled Ogrebreath’s infamous dictum. Dale and I had a good laugh and recounted other unpleasant characters we have met.

But I began to wonder. Oh, we all know Harland was wide of the mark when it comes to human beings but just how accurate was he when it came to flies? I decided to find out. Early on Saturday morning, when the weather forecast promised warm, clear skies, the kind that brings out a profusion of flies, I set up a test.

On the lower deck, out of the way of direct sunlight, I set down two strips of waxed paper. On one I smeared a tablespoon of fireweed honey. On the other, I spread an equal mass cut from a fresh turd fetched from Kitty’s sand box. Between the two strips I set a small bowl of balsamic vinegar. Upwind of my experiment, I sat down with a cup of coffee and a clipboard and prepared to count the numbers and kinds of flies. (Man, I wish I’d thought of this back in Junior High. I could have won the state Science Bee.) I decided an hour’s observation would be enough to tell the tale.

Here are the results of the experiment.

Gross Count: The strip with the shit won hands-down. For every ten flies visiting the honey, fifteen visited the shit. The vinegar, of course, got zip.

Length of Stay: Here too the shit easily won. The average stay at the honey was 13 seconds; at the shit, it was 17.

Kinds of Visitors: A surprise came when this researcher noticed the population of honey-eating flies included flies of all description while the population of shit-eating flies contained a heavy preponderance of the big blue-assed kind. Why the lack of heterogeneity? The causes are unclear and need further study.

Conclusion: The Ogrebreath thesis is vindicated: You can indeed catch more flies with shit than you can with honey. We invite our peers to replicate our protocol and submit their results for peer review.

But wait! A thought occurs! I could use this study as the basis for a whole new line of consulting work! Why not travel the country, preaching the results of this study to CEOs as the new business paradigm? I could even open a retreat up in the hills where I sit the CEOs down at the training table and feed them shit – hose shit, dog shit, cat shit and even a helping of pudding-like shit from a milk-fed baby – and get them to love it. I’d be like those gurus who get these saps to fork over a wad so they can hunker down in the woods to spend a week living on weeds and nuts and sleeping in the rain.

After matriculation, my clients would then take this new shit-eating paradigm back to the office with them and put it to use. And why not? If Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil can pull off stunts like this, why not me? Why should some putz at Harvard cash in and not Merlin Sprague? After all, are not MBA programs based on comparing apples to oranges and extending to the general from the particular? Indeed they are. I‘m confident a whole new breed of management consultant will soon spring up and I’ll be the progenitor! Sure, we all know it won’t work but by the time these geniuses catch on, I’ll have made my wad.

With lots of coin from my new consultancy and book deals, I’ll be able to stop driving school busses and start sleeping in `til noon once again. I can buy some new duds for the wife and, jezus, even get a new car. Hell, maybe I can build a cedar home out in Telluride just like that clown who predicts the future.

And just think: All this from a little piece of shit.


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