Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Big companies can be a touch inhuman, despite Mitt Romney's insistence that they're people too.
They have rafts of lawyers who want companies to behave like, well, lawyers, who tend themselves to behave in frightfully inhuman ways.
This doesn't always work out. Ask Oscar Muñoz, CEO of United Airlines, after he initially blamed Dr. David Dao for the infamous dragging incident.
Legal issues can be fraught, especially when it's big company versus little people.
Too often, big companies come down on small individuals with nasty letters. Cease-and-desists, for example, that threaten rather than, say, cajole.
This happened to me once, when I featured some ads I'd done for a certain large brand on a personal website. A couple of years later, I received a nasty letter telling me to take them down, as the ads featured the company's logo and this was somehow an unauthorized use.
That's why I cannot help but admire an email sent by Netflix's lawyers to a Chicago pop-up bar last month. (I've posted the whole thing below.)
The bar was called The Upside Down. This was an homage to a TV series you might know: Stranger Things. The Upside Down is an alternative world, one in which we might all be currently living.
One tiny kink about the bar's name was that the owners hadn't got around to asking Netflix's permission.
Perhaps they'd simply forgotten in their enthusiasm.
Still, you know how protective brands must be about their properties.
Many an entity would have sent a strongly worded, slightly nasty, condescending missive.
Instead, Netflix's lawyers realized they were talking to fans. So they penned something that is quite glorious.
It began: "My walkie-talkie is busted, so I had to write this note instead."
It goes on to mention that Netflix has heard about the Upside Down bar.
"Look, I don't want you to think I'm a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I'm living in the Upside Down, I don't think we did a deal with you for this pop-up," wrote the lawyers.
How many times have lawyers been quite so thoughtful about tone?
"You're obviously creative types, so I'm sure you can appreciate that it's important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build," the email from Netflix's counsel continued.
"We're not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you, but we ask that you please (1) not extend the pop-up beyond its six-week run ending in September, and (2) reach out to us for permission if you plan to do something like this again," said the actually legalistic part.
If you've never watched the show, Dr. Brenner isn't the most, well, humanistic character.
To me, though, the last line is the sort of delight that surely made the bar's owners want to comply.
"We love our fans more than anything, but you should know that the Demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don't make us call your mom," ended the letter.
Yes, the Demogorgon is even more unpleasant than Dr. Brenner.
Tone matters. A little aforethought, revolving around the idea that you're talking to people, can lead to remarkably pleasant results.
Ones in which you don't have to pay your lawyers a fortune.
The bar's owners, according to DNAInfo, totally got it. They wish it could have lasted a little longer, but they will stop.
How soon, though, before Netflix itself starts opening themed bars?
If they do, I hope they'll pay The Upside Down's owners something of a creative consultancy fee.
I'm sure Netflix's lawyers can draw up a fair contract.