Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

The Devil & The Details Work Hand-in-HandWhich one of the following business situations is worse?

A. Engaging in a deal with no understanding of the details?

B. Engaging in a deal with too much understanding of the details?

Don’t laugh. Both bombard us every day.

We encounter Situation A any time there’s a radio or TV within earshot or eyesight and a commercial comes on. Usually, it’s a commercial for cars, medicine, loans, phones or credit cards. At some point in the pitch, certain legal T’s must be crossed and I’s dotted. Thus, complete nonsense takes over.

On the radio, it sounds something like this: “Cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!”

Not so coincidentally, it looks pretty much the same on TV: “Cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!”

(Actually, “cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!” in both instances is an abbreviation. I’m merely using it here as an example. The Real McCoy “cghswmtxotisnquhtbslths!” are decidedly more difficult to understand.)

On the radio, “cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!” rattles on for a good five seconds. It is delivered in a rapid, muted tone.

Perhaps if this noise were slowed to the speed of a drunken sloth and then filtered through a high-tech listening device—like something the CIA uses to decode enemy communications—it might begin to make sense.

Much the same with TV. Except this time, “cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!” appears on the screen in lettering the size of an atom. It remains visible for approximately one-tenth of a second. Then it vanishes.

Only if this message were freeze-framed, then enlarged to the size of a pool table, would it even begin to be legible.

The perpetrators of this horse manure are following the law, of course. Consumer protection regulations require that John and Jane Doe be “informed” (insert laugh here) and “warned” (more laughing) this way.

Trouble is, there’s not one consumer in 500,000 who comprehends what “cghswmtxotisnquhtbslth!” means. And every politician, bureaucrat and government official knows it.

The polar opposite is just as ridiculous. Which brings us to Situation B.

Recently I received a copy of the “Plan Coverage Package” from my health insurance carrier. It is an 8-by-11-inch book. Stuffed with more than 300 pages, it measures nearly three-quarters of an inch in thickness. Lord only knows how many trees gave their lives for its creation.

In theory, this tome spells out the specifics of my health plan. But it would take teams from the American Bar Association and American Medical Association to navigate it.

Which of these situations is useful for John and Jane Doe? Neither. Both are pure gobbledygook.

But, by golly, they sure deliver the details!

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).” He may be reached at