There's a new face here at the Mercury, and I don't like it. The face belongs to one dubiously named "Brodie Hylton," who it seems has been hired, without my prior knowledge or approval, to fill a position in some backwater "Sales Department" on the far side of the building.

I first encountered Mr. Hylton and his ill-placed vowels when he sauntered in and without so much as a single word began tapping away at one of the computers in my Production Department! For a full hour and 16 minutes he toiled in smooth-brained abandon, sifting through sheaves of meaningless minutia not five feet from me. Then, on some mysterious signal, he abruptly stood and departed for home. Not only had he left an open document on the computer screen, but across the desktop he had left an open sales folder, a pen, and a variety of sales sheets. I took pains to leave this tableau of carelessness untouched, as a silent, stinging rebuke in the face of his vulgar display.

The next day, concerned with the implications of such free-wheeling hiring practices, I called an emergency meeting of the upper management, where I was curtly informed that other departments have the power to hire any Johnny Q. Crabcake off the street without consulting me at all.

"Brodie hasn't said more than 10 words to you. Give him a chance! Lighten up, Sean!" they mewled in unison. No, my friends, I won't be "lightening up." Instead, I will share a principle that has guided me unerringly down through the years: You don't have to eat the whole egg to know it's rotten. Perky hellos and fashionable short pants may bedazzle the weak-minded, but I have met Mr. Hylton's kind before. Their breezy, affable manner invariably masks a stunted sense of morality and an insouciant disregard for The Way Things Are Done.

To those who prefer to view the world through the filmy gauze of self-deception, I lift my voice yet again in strident warning: If Mr. Brodie Hylton is any indication, we may shortly find ourselves neck and neck with Willamette Week in the proverbial race to the bottom.