Veruca Salt and getting what you want
Veruca Salt was a bad egg. Willy Wonka said so after she disappeared down the chute, shortly before her father dived in after her.
Salt – the spoilt brat from children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – wanted everything and she didn’t want to wait for it either.
The cautionary tale was simple. Just because you want it and you want it now doesn’t mean you should have it now. And best you learn that early in life.
Even so, Wonka was no saint. In the 1970s film starring Gene Wilder, Wonka claims hero Charlie Bucket forfeited the right to the grand prize of inheriting the chocolate factory because the boy along with his grandfather stole fizzy-lifting drinks from the factory. Nice work Wonka. You might have been further testing Charlie before dishing out the prize, but the process was a pretty mean trick. What a tiresome game-playing arse.
Set against Wonka, Veruca Salt isn’t such the bad sort writer Roald Dahl would have us believe. OK. So she’s a bit pushy. She’s a spoilt little cow. She’s also someone for whom wrapping her father around her little finger is as simple as it is vital in her day to day existence. But at least you know where you stand with her. She’s looking out for herself. She’s passionate. She’s clearcut. You wouldn’t mess with her. And she looks fantastic in a little red dress.
It’s Veruca Salt who is the focus of my thoughts. Like her I have a tendency to display a little impatience. If things are not working or things are not going my way I’ll resort to my oft-publicised method of handling problems: email first, instant message, telephone and then turn up at someone’s desk. If none of that works then it’s normally a meeting during which I will moan incessantly. I am your worst enemy. I am a tiresome individual. I’m an irritant. I’m an agitant. And worst of all I’m sarcastic. It’s what comes easy to me.
If I’m at one of the early stages (the ‘I’m going to go and visit that person at their desk’ stage) the vision of Veruca Salt pushing a trolley past a handful of bemused looking Oompah-Loompahs isn’t that far from the reality. Like Salt, I imagine my ridiculous impatience and seeming ease at expressing it must be laughable to observe. ‘Who does he think he is exactly?’ they must think, ‘doesn’t he realise quite how many other people are in the queue before him?’
I’m hugely impatient. I’m all about the grand vision and the need to get it done now. I want to see a dream turned into a reality at the click of my fingers. If there’s a problem and I reckon I’ve diagnosed it, talk of waiting whilst we gather requirements and schedule in a delivery time makes my eyes dry up and time suddenly stand still. Go as far as splitting the year into Q1,2,3 and 4 and then project your work lists on to the walls of meeting rooms and I’m going to start getting a bit grouchy. Planning and scheduling chips away at impulsiveness. Great things aren’t guaranteed from things planned within an inch of their lives, its just that its easier to measure their success against a cold set of criteria.
Similarly, Veruca Salt’s impulsiveness is reassuring. There’s something to admire in her feistiness too. There’s something of an example in her straightforward requirements.
On that basis I reckon Veruca Salt should have won the grand prize. That’s why the book really should have been ‘Veruca and the Chocolate Factory’. It’s not that it’s acceptable for spoilt children to continue exuding their petulance long into adulthood. More that in some – perhaps in the vast majority – of cases being able to state clearly and simply exactly what it is and when you want it isn’t such a bad thing. Cutting through the crap is far better than hiding behind excuses.
Those who plan and schedule would quite understandably disagree. They would argue that getting what one needs is achieved by influencing other people around you, persuading others that they could get behind your own individual campaign. Get a bigger voice and people will listen. If people listen the job will get done quicker. More voices equals a few steps higher in the list of priorities.
And what a tiresome process that is. Working on that basis, in order to get the golden goose Veruca Salt would have needed to get all the other kids on the chocolate factory tour behind her cause. They were hardly going to do that. Those other kids were in direct competition with Salt. And even if they weren’t, children are renowned for being fickle. They’re evil little shits. They can’t be trusted.
And quite apart from anything else, I haven’t got the energy nor the skill at influencing other people to support my cause. It’s me on my own. You either get me or you don’t. I haven’t got the energy to persuade you otherwise. If you don’t want to help me in my quest then I doubt your contribution to the project would be that spectacular if I’ve had to persuade you to get behind me either. And anyway – I can’t influence people. I’m not someone who plays his cards particularly close to his chest. I blog, after all.
Despite my rantings, there is one undeniable truth which I have to accept. Playing the game is vital to one’s success. That’s what everyone does. Call it unfair, but horse-trading or backscratching or whatever you want to call it is part of everyday life. That’s what everyone else does.
Those who refuse to play that game succeed in bringing attention to themselves first because they’re refuse to do what the rest of the crowd is doing. If they’re successful they’ll get even more attention because they’ve got they wanted. For those who don’t the prize is every bit as depressing as Veruca Salt’s demise – they’ll sink without a trace.
Best make sure you don’t sink without a trace.