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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 6:12 pm | A Few Clouds 63º


Paul Burri: A Cockamamie Excuse

It should go without saying, but say what you mean and mean what you say

When I was growing up in the Bronx, there was a time when all of us kids got infected with the cockamamie craze. Cockamamies were our version of tattoos. They were colorful pictures of everything from pirates’ crossed bones to pierced, bleeding hearts and skeletons — all the things that would appeal to 10-year-old boys.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

You would wet your arm and then hold the cockamamie on it for a few minutes. Then you would peel off the paper backing, and if you were lucky enough not to have some of it stick to the paper, you would have a “tattoo” on your arm. It would last only a day or so, and in most cases half of the picture was lost, but we all thought they were cool.

I can’t remember exactly where we got them — probably free with every pack of bubble gum — but they were cheap. They were also ineffective and short-lived.

Because they were so cheap and essentially worthless, the word “cockamamie” became a synonym for anything that is cheap, worthless or ineffective, as in “what a cockamamie idea” or “that’s a cockamamie solution.”

Well, the other day I asked someone to do something for me, and I received a “cockamamie” excuse as to why he couldn’t do it. It reminded me of the story about the farmer whose neighbor comes over asking to borrow his ladder. The farmer says, “Sorry, my horse went lame the other day.” After the neighbor left, the farmer’s wife said to her husband, “What did that have to do with lending him the ladder?” The farmer replied, “When you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.”

So, if you don’t want to do me the favor I am asking, I would much rather you tell me the truth than for you to give me some cockamamie excuse. You know and I know that’s what it is, and you insult me when you do that. Not only are you refusing my request, but you are insulting my intelligence with your lame excuse.

Almost as irritating to me are the people who don’t even have the courage or the chutzpah to give me a cockamamie excuse. These are the people who promise to do something, and then never seem to get around to doing it.

When I agree to do something, for me it’s a commitment that I have made. In some recovery groups, they say “it’s not enough to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.” I take that to mean that if you say you will do something, you need to actually do it. I consider it a blemish on my character to promise to do something and then not keep my word.

An old — sadly obsolete — saying from my generation was, “My word is my bond.” I still believe that.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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