Things Are Looking Up!
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Ever have one of those days? Missed the early-morning train? Got yelled at by some numbnuts with more stripes on his tie than you? Ate a bad piece of fatty tuna and couldn't think at all for the rest of the day? Lost your job? Dog died? Stuff like that? It's been that kind of decade so far. But there is one thing you've got to know after all we've been through. From here on in, it's got to go up. That's why I'm looking forward to 2002. All indications are good in just about every way imaginable.

We had a really bad Christmas, for instance. The stores never filled up with people the way that retailers wanted. That made a sorry end, at least economically, to a year that was distinguished, more than anything else, by the fact that we survived it. This year, there's no question that the holiday season will be a lot better. People will be out there filled with a new confidence, looking for cameras and stereos and computer games and guitars and high-definition television sets and diamond bracelets, you name it--all the stuff they didn't quite feel comfortable picking up last December. This time they'll be eager to spend their money on themselves and their loved ones as we all come out of this depressing little fiscal funk we've gotten ourselves into. In short, the recession will be over, ladies and gentlemen, or if not over, at least, you know, better. It's got to get better, right? That's just one of the things we have to look forward to, then. And I do.

Last year my friend Rafferty was fired. He was in his 50s and an expensive slab of personnel for his corporation, so they saved some money at the end of a very bad year, one in which business grew only in single digits. That's not as good as anybody thought it should be, and so Rafferty's company told him to be gone by Christmas. The fact that he can work longer and smarter, travel farther, drink harder, and stay up later than any corporate officer I have ever known will certainly help my friend Rafferty land a very good job in 2002, even though he's already been told by the placement agency that his age makes him all but unemployable vs. guys 25 years his junior who cost 30% of what he does and know less. The day my friend Rafferty lands a job from a smart corporation will be a happy one indeed, and it's coming soon. I can't wait.

Don't get me wrong. Short term, the first part of 2002 will feel a lot like the end of 2001. The new mayor of New York City, for instance, a businessman to the bone, decided he would kick off the new year by showing how disciplined he would be, and declared that he would shortly be laying off 20% of his office staff. For a while we're going to see a lot more of that kind of stuff, especially from managers who want to show that they're managing. Once that's over, however, it will be well and truly over, and then all business organizations will have to go out and find new people and even consult-ants to get jobs done that need doing. For while it is possible that there are some fat organizations left on the planet, does anyone really think that after decades of Gerstners and Giulianis and Welches and Dunlaps and Fiorinas, and tons of Pyrrhic mergers and cutbacks, there is still a lot of excess body weight out there? Nonsense. There isn't. People will have to be hired. Flesh will be need to be added to the bone. Life will be good again, and soon.

In 2001, a lot of silly companies decided they could do without advertising. Maybe they ran out of money or thought that giving people coupons would do the trick--I don't know. But for the first time ever, advertising was down and out across the board, and it helped make absolutely nobody happy throughout the year in just about every commercial category you can think of. In 2002, all those short-sighted companies are going to make the connection that advertising less means selling less. No ads, no revenue. Get it, you morons? Anyhow, that little light bulb going on in marketing departments and corporate suites all over America will turn on the big green machine in every ad-based business, and it can't come fast enough for those who love capitalism. As we do, one and all.

At the same time, the Internet is going to come roaring back, or if not roaring, at least humming. Two years ago it was going to replace life as we know it. No activity had any meaning unless it was prepared to cede its birthright to an Internet counterpart. Chuckling entre- and intra-preneurs flooded the business cosmos like debutantes at a ball, and their dance cards were filled to the limit. By 2001, however, there was thought to be no business in the new medium at all. It was dead. Those who tended it were invited to seek Grande opportunities at the local Starbucks. Is it possible that an entire business sector that once drove growth throughout the world can have no prospects at all? No, it is not. Just because the gold rush ended back in the 1890s does not mean that gold has no value in the 21st century. In 2002 the Web will be with us once again, and people will be able to discuss its future without laughing. Won't that be great? Particularly for us bullshit artists?

And speaking of that, with the return of hope and the gas it produces will come the end of the rational stock market. Remember when Wall Street was an irrational beast that nobody could predict or understand? Weren't those the days? You bet they were. Sober prognosticators thrive only in times of failure and decline. With success comes the unpredictable. That is Life, ladies and gentlemen, and in 2002 let us pray for its return in all its foolish and inexplicable glory. The only losers here will be the pundits, and that's something we can anticipate with pleasure as well.

Right now it's very cold here in the Northeast. You have to bundle up in overcoats and scarves and sweaters. The good news is that it was the warmest autumn in living memory. So every indication is that global warming is continuing, and perhaps even picking up steam. That means we can look forward to the warmest year ever in 2002 and I, for one, can't wait.

Finally--of course--2001 was the year we looked in the mirror of our civilization and saw our own mortality. At first all seemed lost. Now we're not so sure. Things don't look so bad at all. We know another blow may be coming, and it could be a bad one. But maybe it won't be the worst, not the way we imagined. Maybe the next time a guy shows up looking like a psychotic bird of prey, with frizzy, greasy hair, a deranged expression, and a fuse trailing out of his shoe, he won't even get on the plane. I'm betting he won't. I'm actually feeling that unless something very unfair and unexpected indeed comes along, we just might be fine in the year to come. And that's saying a lot.

So let's have a great '02, folks. Why shouldn't we? We've earned it.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at