draining the swamp

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jan 4 17:18:49 UTC 2002

Sometime circa 1960 the syndicated columnist Inez Robb wrote a column aboutthe "Popocatepetl" and "Ixtaccihuatl" (names of Mexican volcanoes) showing up on a spelling test and how they would have had to burn the school down to get her out if that had happened to her.  If you can somewhere find a indexed collection of Inez Robb columns, you might be able to locate this particular piece of whimsey and thereby get a dating.

The quote

"The objective of all dedicated product support employees should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to
their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and move swiftly to solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp."

(frequently reduced to the final sentence) was popular in the Pentagon when I was there (1969-1975) and I recall seeing it posted in several offices.  I don't recall if the signs were commercially distributed or hand-lettered.

Other popular signs in the Pentagon in those days:

"You want it by when?" illustrated by a carticature of several people laughing hysterically.  I am pretty sure this one was commercially distributed.

"No job is finished until the paperwork is done" illustrated by a picture of someone sitting on a toilet or potty.  There were at least two versions of the illustration; one, which used a photograph, was commercially distributed.

"I must be a mushroom.  They keep me in the dark and feed me nothing but bullshit".  I seem to recall hand-printed versions and at least one version commercially available as a poster.

      - Jim Landau

my then signature block

       U.S. Army Management Systems Support Agency
       The Pentagon
       Washington DC 20310

Note that the Pentagon is in Arlington County, Virginia, but has a DC mailing address.  If Congress had not absent-mindedly given what is now Arlington County to Virginia (it was until then part of DC), then the Custis-Lee plantation would have been in DC and Robert E. Lee would have stayed with the Union Army.

P.S. to Fred Shapiro:  since the outfit I was with in the Pentagon was a computer installation, you are welcome to add the above to your collection of computer proverbs.

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