Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Enter greaseball

It's Saturday morning.

They decide to release mom from the hospital. She is looking better than I have seen her in some time: Clean, rested, and with a little more meat on her bones.

The doctor makes mom promise to keep taking her medicine, and to get to a 12-step program. Mom agrees.

Mom rides with dad; Jenn and I ride together in my car. There's a lot of uncomfortable silence. Jenn didn't take it well when I told her about Lila.

"So, you're kissing me, and...touching me, and all the while you're in LOVE with someone else?" she says, curling her lip.

"We were fighting," I say.

"So you were just using me then," she says.

"No! I really do care about you, Jenn! It's just....weird, that's all."

No, it's not, but that might shut her up.

"Yeah, it is kinda weird," she says, finally. "I guess nothing was ever gonna become of it, right?"

"Well, isn't that illegal?" I ask. "I mean, if we ever wanted to get married or something."

Of course not. Well, not in most states. But if I say that, it will look like the only reason I wasn't more into her is because of the cousin issue.

"Yeah, I guess so," she says.

"Jenn, I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean for it to happen; it just happened!"

Wink, wink, guys.

"I know. It just kinda happens with us," she says.

"You've been SO great with mom - so incredible - I would feel awful if I drove you away somehow," I say, trying to look sincere.

She sighs. "It's ok, I guess."

That conversation took place last night, Friday, and today it still seems unresolved. She and I are not having one of the animated discussions that we usually have. She just stares out her window, brushing black curls out of her eyes.

"You ok?" I say, finally.

"It's just this whole rollercoaster. I was starting to think these crazy things."

"Like what?" I ask.

"Like you and I being together. Like just going for it, no matter what anyone said. And I liked the idea!"

"But like you said, Jenn, our moms..."

"Oh, I know. They would never deal. But I was just kinda..daydreaming about it."

"Me too."

Nah. Not really.


It's Monday. Ross calls me into his office (soon to be my office).

"Steve, Dan Johnson is on the phone," he says.

"Good morning sir."

"Good morning to you, sir," the speakerphone blares back, tinnily.

"Steve, as you have probably realized, there is going to be a position opening up here when you get promoted," Ross says.

"Right. My position," I say. "I have a few people in mind. There's Andrew from underwriting; he's been around for a while, and he knows so much about the industry-"

"Steve, moving you up to DM took a bit of....political capital," Dan says. "Do you know what political capital is?"

"You had to call in a few markers."

"In a manner of speaking, yes. Some people were uneasy about it. And, if we were to put yet another newbie into YOUR old job, well, that would cost us even MORE political capital."


Shit. It sounds like they want me to hire someone they hand-picked.

"I see. So who did you have in mind," I say.

"Dominick Marinelli," Dan says.

Dammit. Dominick is my counterpart on the west coast. He's about 10 years older than me, and has 20 years in the business. He's about 6 feet tall, and scarecrow skinny, with thinning brown hair, huge hazel eyes and swarthy skin. His clothes look like something out of an Armani ad, and he drives a Maserati, I think.

He's very successful with the ladies: Every time I see Dom at a convention, he's always bragging about some bimbo that he nailed the night before. I always say that guys who brag about it aren't really getting any, but in Dom's case I think he is.

He always talks in a silky-soft tone of voice, as if he were trying to seduce you, even if you are a man. You have to lean in to hear him. And he walks around drenched in cologne. Yeah, I know, I do that too, and I am (was) a skirt-chaser, too, but with the bragging and the soft-talking, Dom strikes me as a true greaseball. I get a very bad vibe from him. I get the sense he would do anything, step on anyone, to get ahead. I was always secretly glad I didn't work with him.

And now he's going to work for me.

".....a really great manager," Dan is saying. "Dominick runs a tight ship. I've already spoken to him about moving out your way, and he's very excited."

"You offered him the job?!" I say.

Am I in charge here or not, asshole?

"Steve, I don't mean to step on your toes. And if you tell me you really disagree with this choice, well, I'll let you decide. But Dominick is eminently qualified. EM-I-NENT-LY!" Dan says.

"You know what Bill Parcells says," I say. "If you want me to cook dinner, you've gotta let me buy the groceries. I'm going to be held responsible for the success or failure of this office, and that's as it should be. And I understand why this choice had a political component to it. But I would respectfully request that all future hiring decisions be left up to me."

"WELL put, Steve! Excellent!" Dan says. "Yes. Yes, of course!"

"For the record, I do believe Dom is very qualified," I say. "In fact, I'd like to call Dom and make the offer myself."

"Oh. Yes, of course," Dan says.

Tuesday, 10:00. Dom sweeps into our office, pulling his wheeled laptop mini-suitcase behind him, his big, gliding strides swallowing up the carpeted floor beneath him easily.

Work stops. Heads rise over cubicle walls. Hands cover mouths, hiding whispers. I walk out to meet him. "Dom!" I say, happily. We shake hands. He squeezes viciously, his white, easy smile never breaking. I squeeze back, just to keep him from breaking any bones.

We sit in my office, exchanging trivial details about travel and weather that neither of us care about.

"I should have gotten this DM job," Dom says.

I smile. What a fucking asshole.

"I mean, no offense to you, Steve, but I've been here a lot longer than you. And my record is just impeccable. I let Dan know I'm very unhappy about it."

Some people push the envelope whenever a new boss comes around. It's the substitute-teacher phenomenon: Our regular teacher is not here, so let's harass the new guy. Let's see if he's got the balls to stand up to us.

One order of balls, coming up.

"While we're baring our souls, Dom, let me tell you something. You weren't my first choice for this job, either. But you're there, and I'm here. And let me tell you, I am extremely enthusiastic for MY job. And I won't tolerate anything less than extreme enthusiasm in yours."

"Steve, I didn't mean-"

"If you didn't want the job, you didn't have to take it. I know you got a nice raise, and a bonus, for coming out here. But if you've decided you don't want to do it, tell me now. Otherwise, Dom, I don't want to hear about this again. Deal?"

"I didn't mean anything by it, Steve, I was just saying-"

"DEAL?" I say.

"Deal," he says.