Friday, August 28, 2009

“The Damned Devil,” Joyce Rolf von den Baumen

If “the devil is in the details,” then I am that devil. Just consider the devilish bad luck I’ve had, as a detail-oriented person, in trying to attain my reasonably expected outcomes of my well-planned, well researched personal projects.

Here is one of many typical experiences. Once, in a letter to a school principal, I precisely outlined an offer of free educational software. He assured me that it would be gratefully accepted. When I arrived at the school to deliver the software to his upstairs office, his secretary at ground floor lobby level had a question from him. Did I want help carrying it upstairs?

It evolved that he’d thought that I was donating a computer, and he was none too good-natured about his confusion.

Another time, I thought that I would help a friend who was complaining about the high management fees for the mutual funds in her investment portfolio. I took her as my guest to the annual general meeting of the fund company that I favoured. Its niche in the financial world is its extremely low management fees. The merits of this fee structure were expounded in the meeting presentation. However, it turned out that these funds did not interest my friend “because of the high management fees.”

Then there was the time that I did the detail work on optional day trips for a cruise that I would be taking with a friend. It would be advantageous to book these ahead of time. Therefore, well in advance, I gave her a print-out with the choices and price chart. Based on her decisions, I pre-booked the outings. Once on the cruise, she blamed me for booking her on a certain outing “that was too expensive”.

Now and then, I take my turn at scoping out the choice of restaurants for friends who want to get together over lunch. Typically, once we sit down, someone looks at the menu and complains that everything is too pricey. So nowadays, when they opt for an upscale eatery with corresponding upscale menu pricing, I follow preventative measures. Once seated – before they can even open the menus – I remind my friends that they knew what they were getting into.

So I’m improving. But poor devil that I am, I’m still no match for the Canada Revenue Agency. I had made a polite telephone enquiry, as a senior, about some fine print in one of their brochures. Not only was our government representative ignorant that such information existed; he huffed that the brochure was intended for seniors only. That was before he hung up on me.

For future encounters, this detail devil will be armed with more than the facts. She plans to grow and use longer, sharper horns!


Joyce Rolf von den Baumen is a grandmother who enjoys walks in her local Bronte area of Oakville. She has found it beneficial to pay attention to details in financial, legal and consumer rights areas. However, these detailed documents are crowding her out of her home office.

Note: For information about Brian Henry’s upcoming writing workshops and courses see here.

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