Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


The voice at the other end of the phone was frantic.

"We need to talk," it shrieked.

"Harrison, you're not supposed to say that phrase. A top psychologists says it's the most frightening one you can use," I replied.

"I am frightened," he said. "I'm very frightened. You should be too."

I listened, with just the slightest of shivers.

Harrison runs a successful communications business. He explained that he'd been reviewing seasonal promotional material sent to him by email.

"And there it was -- Santa Clause," he said, through gritted brows.

Harrison replied to this email by suggesting this might not be the correct spelling.

However, the millennial staff member who'd written it offered insistent incomprehension.

"What do you mean? Santa Clause is totally acceptable."

"To whom?" asked Harrison.

There was then an awkward technological silence, followed by the young woman explaining: "To everyone."

Harrison had a dilemma. He opted for a calm exposition of Santa's background.

It wafted through Sinterklaas, Samichlaus and Sankt Nikolaus. Harrison (not his real name, you understand) is intensely educated.

His explanation was, however, met with an email that emitted both pity and righteousness.

"I Googled it," said Jocasta (of course not her real name. Who calls their child that?). "And it seems like it can be spelled both ways. Kind of like grey and gray."

Should there be a gray area in debates like this? Or should there be a grey area?

Don't all of us carry things in our brains that we think are right and then turn out to be wrong?

For Harrison, however, the problem was less in the idea that someone might have a gap in their mental programming.

It was that she'd Googled it and truly believed that Santa had a subordinate Clause.

It seems that Jocasta may have been fooled by a Tim Allen movie. It's happened to everyone once.

But having Googled it and then not imagined for a moment that this was a mistake was worrisome to Harrison.

To equate it with "gray" and "grey" was to not even realize that "gray" and "grey" are merely American English and, well, English.

Personally, I have sympathy with millennials. Not only are their futures more uncertain than any generation's for 40 years, but the pressure on them to relay their whole lives online daily surely saps their minds.

They reach for Google because they're tired. They're prepared to believe there's a Santa Clause, because they've witnessed so many strange things in their lives already.

And at heart, they just want the earth to survive for another 50 years or there won't be a Santa Clause anymore.

I also have sympathy with Harrison. It's hard when you run a company to be confronted by the excessively self-confident who are only too ready to explain why the CEO is wrong and why they themselves, indeed, should be the CEO.

Words then become symbols of so much -- of basic knowledge, of a feel for the roots of things and of Google being not merely a crutch but the complete brain of the unthinking.

Still, soon we'll all be talking in emoji with our personal robots at hand, so conflicts like this will be settled by those personal helpers, rather than by us.

It'll be like having our personal translators with us all the time.

It'll be the best, most harmonious gift Santa Claus has ever brought us.