To this day I remember the feeling of defeat; walking in and out of lobby after lobby applying for jobs in my cheap suit. I bought it at Sears because they were the first store willing to give us a credit card and because it came with two pair of pants. I felt like the only person on the street who didn’t know how the world worked. “How did all you people find jobs?” I slipped and said once, aloud in a crowded elevator.
When I finally stumbled onto a position in the employee communications/video department of one of the largest banks in the state, I promised myself two things. Number one, I would learn how successful people got successful, and Number two, I would buy another two pairs of pants so I could put together five different looks.
Considering the economics of the early 80’s, (mortgages rates hit 18% APR), you would think that a new employee with a new baby at home in his first house, would keep his head down and his mouth shut; but no such luck with me. Within months I had a brilliant idea and was sent as a sacrificial lamb to pitch it to the “40th Floor.” I soon found myself sitting quietly at a giant table on the top floor of the bank’s headquarters. In this walnut paneled room were me, the CEO, the President and three Senior Vice Presidents. I was there to pitch them on the idea of appearing in a wacky motivational video for the employees, about their fake part-time jobs. If memory serves, I believe I cast them as a fish monger, a taxi driver, a porno theater owner, ….you get the idea.
I sat waiting, looking left and right without turning my head. It was the first time I had ever seen diamond cuff links on perfectly starched white french-cuffs, peeking out from the sleeves of $10,000. wool/silk blend suit coats. Apparently their Sears store had a wider selection. One of them gestured to the paper in front of me. I saw my name printed on the meeting agenda. I was first and they were waiting for me.
I began. “We fade up on the eye of a dead fish…” I think I made it through a few more lines in my hilarious script before the CEO got up in the middle of my read, without saying a word, and walked away from the table. He stood, silently surveying the city from the window in the corner. I searched the faces of the remaining executives and gave them a, “Should I continue?” gesture. One of them mercifully shook his head, “No.”
From the window I heard, “Jim, the shareholders of this Bancorporation are paying a rather steep hourly rate for the employees in this room, so I’ll ask you just one question, “Are you going to make us look like assholes?” “No, Sir.” I gulped.“Okay, then. Thanks for coming in.” Out I went.