Arguably one of the most renowned professional Quitters in the biz, Ron Parquetta finally agreed to meet with me for an interview. This took some doing. It’s no secret that Mr. Parquetta is an eccentric, illusive type, tight with his business, so what he’s really doing, what he’s really about is anyone’s guess. And he likes it that way. The buzz is that he’ll be retiring from Quitting soon, and I’d initially wondered if granting this interview is tied to that somehow. It is. So this interview is a big deal, and not just because of that.
Parquetta’s credentials are impressive. He held the Quitting King title in 2006, was featured in the Who’s It…Not magazine three times between the start of his career in 1978 and now, and won the acclaimed Quitters International award seven times, also during that timeframe. This is a rare opportunity. As I alluded, Parquetta despises interviews, has granted only the bare minimum in relation to awards acceptances.
No surprise, then, when I called Parquetta to schedule this interview, that he sounded impatient, irritated. But he also sounded confused, which was a surprise. I tried to make it easy for him and suggested we just do a phone interview. But he mumbled something about overcoming something and threw a place and time at me—the Lucky Diner on Cordovan St at 11am, Friday—and hung up. Fine with me.
On the big day, I left early since I wasn’t sure exactly where the Lucky Diner was. Good thing. It was tucked back from the street into the alley. I went by it twice. Creepy little place. But I bucked up, excited to pop the lid on the psychology of Quitting, to find out what makes a Quitter tick. I walked into the joint and spotted him right away in one of the cramped booths. I approached confidently, arm outstretched, ready for a hearty handshake, but I could see his gaze was fixed on the two big black bags hanging from my shoulder, my laptop and oversized purse. They seemed to unnerve him. He recoiled, looked at me with a sort of “How could you?” expression on his face.
OK, so much for the handshake. In so many words, I apologized for blustering in with fierce black bags and he relaxed a bit, “Sit down…please,” he said. I stuffed the offending bags under the table amidst the toast crusts and jelly blobs and slid onto the ratty red bench seat. I leaned over to dig in my purse and emerged with just a small recorder. He didn’t seem to mind. But I asked anyway, “Do you mind if I record us?” He raised one eyebrow and said hesitantly, “Ah, no…”
So there we strange folk were, and here’s how it went during the course of a round and a half of coffee and a BLT:
MISS A: When did you first realize Quitting was what you wanted to do professionally?
PARQUETTA: Ah, well, it’s the only thing that ever came easily to me. Everything else I tried was too difficult.
MISS A: What other things did you try?
PARQUETTA: Oh, I dunno, lots of things. [shifts nervously]
MISS A: So you just kind of fell into it?
PARQUETTA: Yes, the ease of it.
MISS A: What do you think is behind this ease—psychologically and maybe even physically—that, for you, facilitates Quitting?
PARQUETTA: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never thought too deeply about it. That’s too difficult a thing.
MISS A: You’re right. Let me ask you this, then: how do you feel right before quitting something?
PARQUETTA: Well kind of like I feel right now—very uncomfortable, threatened, like too much is being asked of me, much more than I can handle. My brain begins to feel like it’s in a vice, I get panicky and I just have to quit and run away… Shit… Maybe this interview’s not such a good idea after all…
MISS A: Sorry. Give me another chance?
PARQUETTA: Well, OK, but I tell you I’m getting mighty nervous…
MISS A: OK, tell you what: let’s shift gears. I want you to know I understand the concept of Quitting. I had to fight hard to make myself go to school and get this job. I just went another route than you, that’s all, and I’d really like to know how it was for you. Will you share that with me? And afterward it will be up to you what we use out of this session or if we even use it at all. OK?
PARQUETTA: Yeah, that sounds good. Fine. OK.
MISS A: Super! Tell me then, how does it feel to you to quit? Like what goes on within you—feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc?
PARQUETTA: That’s the catch, where the rub is. The quitting part is easy. The aftermath is emotional hell.
MISS A: Mmm, what is this emotional hell?
PARQUETTA: It’s regret, it’s shame, it’s spending my whole life wishing I wasn’t a Quitter, wishing I could face difficulty, work through it, and persevere to personal victory. Some people make that look so easy… Look, going back to the first question you asked me about realizing what I wanted to do professionally, this is about an idea I had as a kid that one’s profession is supposed to come easily to them. You know, natural talent. You’re born with a skill, you don’t have to practice it, you’re just great at it. I’m not sure how or why that idea developed for me, but when I found out Perseverance wasn’t easy for me and Quitting was, naturally I deduced that Quitting was my natural profession, and it just went on a roll from there. Too easy to keep going, too hard to stop. That’s all it was.
MISS A: Yeah, I can see how that’d be. What about relationships? What are they like for you?
PARQUETTA: Oh, it’s the same thing with them. With people in general, I deal with the ones I have to deal with, in business for example, and I quit the ones I don’t have to deal with that I don’t want to deal with. Romantic relationships are a disaster. I can only go about a year before I get that brain-in-a-vice, panicky feeling and have to quit them.
MISS A: Really? Wow. So it’s always been that way with people? Not even one good relationship over the years?
PARQUETTA: Man, you’re pain in the ass, you know it? [laughs]
MISS A: [laughs] Yeah, I know. I really want you on record with this. I think it’s integral to the development here.
PARQUETTA: Alright. Well, of course there was a good relationship, a marriage. And that’s all I’ll say. The ending of it was sheer clinical, psychological perfection: it messed with my head and ruined me going forward.
MISS A: Enough said. Thanks for that. So I understand you’re preparing to retire from Quitting, is that correct?
MISS A: No? The whole Quitting industry is abuzz with that rumour! Will you tell me what the real deal is, Mr. Parquetta?
PARQUETTA: I’ve already retired! Yes, I’ve quit Quitting! [Laughs] Today’s the day, and today you’re the lucky reporter.
MISS A: Oh my gosh! Really? Thank you, sir! [Laughs] Hence, the Lucky Diner! [Laughs] What brought this on?
PARQUETTA: It all has to do with what I said about the hard part of quitting, the emotional hell. After a bazillion years it finally dawned on me that Quitting is just as difficult as Persevering, that I can’t run from difficulty. Even the smiling ease of quitting has its frowning face of difficulty. I’ve just not wanted to deal with it…because it’s too difficult! So what the hell! If Quitting’s difficult, if everything’s difficult, then what the hell! If it’s all the same, and Quitting hasn’t worked for me, well, why not toss a dart, flip a coin, spin the globe and try something, anything else. What’ve I go to lose? Not a damned thing, you know?
MISS A: Yeah, exactly. So then what’s next for you?
PARQUETTA: I’m gonna join P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth and stick with it if it kills me. [Winks]
MISS A: [Laughs] I get it. OK Mr. Parquetta, we’ll be watching for you anywhere, everywhere, then! Thank you so very much for spending this time with me. I’ll let you have a look at the transcript as soon as it’s available. And going forward? Don’t forget about me if you’re feeling talkative, OK? [winks]
PARQUETTA: [laughs] You’ll be the first to know, Missy. You’ve been great.
And with that, he shook my hand heartily…with a smile.
So that’s how it went down—way better in myriad ways than I thought it would when I first sat down in that sorry diner. True, we now know why Parquetta doesn’t do interviews. He’s no good at them. They make him look less than his accomplishments suggest he is, and he doesn’t need the hassle of the media pointing up the contrast. Well, until now. He’s retired. It doesn’t matter. He’s come clean and let us print all of the interview. Successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, princes, and kings of Quitting are just people fighting their own foibles like anyone else. And my instinct to lighten up on Parquetta paid off with the hope of future interviews. All in all, it was a good day. I had to wash the bottoms of my laptop case and purse when I got home, but it was worth it.
Click here for more on prompt “#112 – Quitting” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.