As I walked from my car to the steps of my new office, I felt like Jane Goodall must have before plunging into the wilds of Tanzania to live among the great apes. Granted, downtown Reno isn’t much like Tanzania, nor are my coworkers much like chimpanzees (for the most part). I just mean I felt the same sense of trepidation I imagined she felt before setting off on a new adventure, to live among a group she did not belong to. At least the chimps didn’t expect Goodall to actually do anything. I on the other hand had been hired to do a job, and if I was going to do it right, I would have to study the behavior of this small troop, learn their ways, and blend in so that they might accept me as their own. Though my time with them has been brief up to this point, I’ve learned much from them already.
Field notes in hand, I cut my way through the foliage of the lobby (maintenance really didn’t like that), arriving to face the tribe’s sentry and gatekeeper, the one I’ve come to know as “Colby.” There was no fear in his eyes when he saw me. To my surprise, instead of raising an alarm warning of an outsider, he instead greeted me warmly and offered me something called coffee, one of the tribe’s talismans. He guided me through the bright passageway to the den of one of their great chieftains, she who I now know as “Megan.”
I greeted her in the customary way befitting one of her status, with a handshake and a respectful utterance of “How’s it going?” She took her seat and gestured for me to do the same, then proceeded to lay out a complex array of scrolls over her desk, something she called “new-hire paperwork.” I was astonished; they had a written language! What’s more, it seems my new role would be that of a scribe, or “copywriter,” a position Megan explained to me in detail, along with words like “PPO” and “Wellness Program” and other strange things I did not understand.
The scrolls bearing my signature, Megan led me further through the halls, arriving to another den that was to be mine, with a desk and a flat silver device with a symbol of an apple emblazoned on it surface. Their advanced technology surprises me; clearly, they have had contact with the outside world before.
The troop is small, numbering no more than ten. These findings will put to rest previous assumptions of the PR professional being a carnivorous selfish spin-doctor; they work together for the good of the tribe, collaborating on everything, and depend on each other for survival. Initially, I was worried about overcoming the language barrier, but I quickly learned how easy it was to understand their strange jargon, and soon I was joining in multiple instances of a ritual they call “brainstorming.”
No day is like the one before here; the tribe’s activities shift throughout the day, and mine with them. In the morning, I write a short story about cigars, and by late afternoon, I write a full course plan. In between, I meet with the shamans upstairs, those they call the “creative team,” discussing character archetypes, plotlines, and production budgets. Later, I gather around a great table with another subgroup in the tribe, the “PR team,” and discuss course curriculums, assessment rubrics, and one of their idols, a tortoise god they call “Sage.”
Every task is performed with a sense of urgency. I find myself constantly accepting calendar invites, splitting my time between writing in my den and attending meetings. Far from being left to work alone, I am offered help and guidance from each member in turn; they are all eager to teach me their ways.
Today we celebrated the tall, ancient one called “Patrick.” All week he has worn a series of the most outlandish headwear, though as a display of dominance or for punishment for incurring the wrath of those they call “the Alli’s,” I cannot say and dare not ask. We surround him at the table where they hold conference, with offerings of sweet bread adorned with many candles and three old beers found in the back of the fridge. He exhales with an impressive vigor for one as old as he and extinguishes the flames, divvying the sweets equally among all of us gathered there, but keeping the beer for himself, as is his right as an elder of the tribe.
I spend the morning gathering images of cats asking for cheeseburgers to be somehow “shared” the following week, before joining the tribe at their temple, a bar and grill across the street called “Brickies.” There, they invite me to join in a ceremonial cleansing of the sins, buying rounds of drinks as penance for mistakes made that week. We toast our victories, and they share with me stories of the tribe’s past. I am among warriors, I realize, and it is with great honor that they accept me into their ranks.
Clearly, further research is necessary to fully understand the ways of the tribe at Amplify Relations. I will continue to work among them, to study their behavior, and to contribute to the group to the best of my ability. For science. And a paycheck too, but mostly for science.