Steve Eaton: Grateful for the gift I didn't receive from Steven Spielberg or anyone else

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 11:44 a.m. MST

A scene from "Undercover Boss."

CBS

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One of the coolest presents I got for Christmas was a gift I didn’t get from Steven Spielberg. It’s also a gift I didn’t get from my wife.

There is a lot of stuff I need that lives on eBay. Not to brag, but I’m pretty good at winning stuff on eBay. My wife, Barb, just thinks that means I am willing to pay more for the things I buy than thousands upon thousands of other people. My eBay talent is unappreciated in my home.

One thing I started needing in early November was a very cool pen with gold-plated shock absorbers. It was handmade by a woman in Alaska, which is apparently a great place for people who make these futuristic pens. I lobbied for it for Christmas.

Barb did not get it for me, but I have no complaints about that because she did buy me lots of other fun things. (Much of it was stuff I showed her on eBay.) On Christmas day I discovered, however, that when I combined money I had received from family and coins from our couch cushions, I could get the pen I "needed" anyway.

When I went to order it I found it came in a nice box that you could have engraved for free. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I would have this inscription made on the pen box. “Steve, Thanks for the great ideas. — Steven Spielberg.”

Now I know what you are thinking. You are wondering what great ideas I’ve given to Spielberg that would motivate me to buy a gift for myself from him.

I’m the one who came up with the idea to do a movie about a magical, singing nanny with an umbrella who brings happiness to some banker’s kids. He made that into “E.T.” I’m the one who came up with the idea of doing a long, boring, melodramatic movie about the South and calling it “Blowing In The Wind.” He took that and made it into “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

I tell people these stories when they see the inscription. I want them to know I’m just kidding because I was taught from birth that to take credit for blockbuster hits I did not create was wrong. And yet, the truth is, I’ve had a lot of ideas that Steven Spielberg could have brought to life. You think he’s famous now …

Even though a relatively small percentage of us are credited with being outstanding people of great worth, I believe that each person has talents that are uniquely their own. Each person has something deep inside that makes them worthy of red-carpet treatment, even though most will go through life without that talent or ability ever being recognized.

That’s why I like the television show “Undercover Boss.” While most enlightened managers, supervisors and CEOs would deny this, there is an unwritten assumption that people who outrank you in the workplace are not just serving in a different capacity but are, in fact, better than you in nearly every way.

In the television show “Undercover Boss,” a CEO or top-ranking company official will change his or her appearance and go work undercover on the plant floor, in maintenance, or at the front desk. They nearly always discover that they could not hold such a low-level job and they gain great respect for employees who were only days before considered very replaceable.

I think that once in heaven, fame will be about different things. You will be standing in the pizza buffet line and someone will say to you, “Isn’t that Jimi Hendrix standing right in front of you?” And you’ll say something like this: “Yes, it is, but do you know who is in front of him? It’s Gordi Swartz, the janitor who worked for 30 years at North Mayberry Elementary School. They say his capacity for compassion was in the 90th percentile and his humility scores were off the charts! He is a legend. I can’t believe we are that close to him.”

For now we will recognize and honor, instead, women singers who wear silly costumes, men who dress like vampire women, and people who have invested millions of hours learning how to play golf better than anyone else.

I’m not going to get an engraved pen box from Steven Spielberg and my unique ability will not be much appreciated in heaven, either. I have an unmatched ability to imagine I have unmatched abilities. That’s less useful in the big scheme of things than even being able to play your guitar with your teeth like Jimi could do.

I do have one thing, however, in the here and now that almost no one else has: a pen with gold-plated shock absorbers that I can pretend was given to me by Steven Spielberg.

And now you can see why I needed that.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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