I was talking to a friend the other day, and she told me she just said to her sister, “Yes, well, you know what they say when you assume.”
Her sister said, “No, what?”
My friend said, “Are you kidding?”
I’ll assume you all know the expression. But since the point of this blog post is to not assume, I’ll say it. “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” Get it? I can’t believe there was someone in the world who had never heard that. You have, right?
We say it a little differently in my family, though, and it requires explanation each time someone new hears it. So I’ll explain it to you.
This goes back to when I worked on the Chapman University account. I have two or three more Chapman stories waiting in the wings that I think you’ll like, by the way.
With Chapman, we had a client we worked with directly. Great guy. He was in charge of communications, and he would take us around to the different schools that needed any ads or radio or anything and be our liaison with the deans of the schools. When I say “schools”, all the work was for Chapman University, but they have different schools of education, like the School of English or the School of Business. In this particular instance, we were doing some work for the School of Law.
As part of the ad, the dean wanted us to include a current student. Name, year of upcoming graduation, short quote. So they gave us the student’s picture, name and quote, but not her year of graduation. When I wrote the ad, I just put in a placeholder for the year. For example, “Sabrina Pearson, Class of 2002” or whatever it was. (Not her real name.) I think I guessed that she was going to graduate the following year.
What typically happens is when the copy goes over to the client, the client looks at it and corrects anything that’s wrong. But what happened in this case is a whole lot of assuming.
I assumed the client would correct the copy. The AE assumed I had found the correct year someplace, so didn’t ask the client about it. The dean assumed we had found the correct year, so didn’t do any follow-up. Our day-to-day client assumed the copy was correct. When the copy came back unchanged, I assumed the client had verified it, given it the stamp of approval, and I had guessed correctly. The art director dropped the copy into the ad, assuming it was correct. The client approved the final ad, assuming it was all correct. And the ad ran that way.
But it was not correct. I had guessed wrong. Sabrina Pearson was set to graduate that year, not the following year. And when she saw the ad, she was livid. I mean pissed.
She felt incredibly insulted that we would characterize her as a lowly underclassman, and she was humiliated. Or so we heard, as relayed to us by our day-to-day client.
We thought it was funny. Not funny that we made a mistake, but funny that she reacted, or rather overreacted, the way she did.
We were all discussing it after the fact and trying to figure out what happened, and we all shared what we had assumed. So I summed it up by saying, “Well, you know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of Sabrina Pearson.”
So that’s the way the saying goes now. When you assume, you make an ass out of Sabrina Pearson.
I was recently laughing about this with the AE on the account (whom I’m still friends with), and I wondered, whatever happened to Sabrina Pearson? After all, she’s been a familiar phrase to my family for the past 20 years or so, and has provided us with many moments of amusement.
“Garrett, you know what happens when you assume, right?”
“You make an ass out of Sabrina Pearson.”
So I Googled her. And guess what? She’s a lawyer, and she lives right here in San Clemente! What are the odds? I might have stood in line behind her in the grocery store sometime. I might have sat next to her at church. I’d never recognize her, and of course she never even met me.
Funny how someone can become such a part of your life like that, or at least your vocabulary, and they’re never even aware.
Maybe I should tell her. Maybe I should look up her practice’s address, show up and introduce myself and tell her the story. If the roles were reversed, I’d love to hear the story and I’d think it was funny. I assume she would, too.
Ahh, maybe not. I’ve learned my lesson, and I know what happens when you assume. And now, so do you.