Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Note to self: Buy clothespins

May 30, 2005, 8:00am
Steve's office
(Don't panic, I'm not falling behind)

Those of you who work in offices might be shocked at the amount of time it takes to get to your desk and get settled before any work gets done. Someday when you're not too busy, keep a notebook next to you all day, and write down every task you do, and how long each one takes. The wasted time will run into hours.

That's probably why I'm so obsessed with arriving at my office early in the morning. When the clock hits 8:30, I want to be busily at work on some critical project, not pouring coffee or waiting for Outlook to download my 36 new emails.

Today is no different. I climb the nine flights of stairs (elevators are for lazy people), and make the turn down the hallway toward my office. I'm no less than 20 feet from Bonnie's desk when I smell cologne. I get a little closer, and see that Troy is already sitting there, waiting for me.

He smiles brightly and pops out of his chair, rising to his full six-foot height. I extend my hand and he snatches it into his, pumping vigorously. "STEEEEEVE," he shouts, entirely too loudly. It's a primal growl, straight from the throat, the way fraternity brothers greet one another.

"Morning, Troy. Come on in. Let's sit down for a few minutes."

Troy takes a seat in front of my desk. He's wearing a black, pinstriped, crisply-pressed suit, and blindingly shiny wing tips that probably cost $500. His chest is puffed comically outward, like a singing bird; huge biceps bulge from beneath his Egyptian brushed cotton Oxford shirt.

His hair is blowdried straight back, so smooth and seamless that it might be carved out of wood, and as I take note of his angular chin, nose, and cheekbones, I know right away that, whatever problems this guy might have, getting laid is not among them.

Dom and I have discussed Troy's internship thoroughly. Since there is no way to stop it from happening, we are going to make the most of it; Troy will learn all about how this office works, and he will do it by handling as much of our busy work as humanly possible for the next eight weeks.

"Dom and I are looking forward to working with you, Troy. But I want you to remember that this is sort of uncharted territory for us. We've never had a.... boss's son to train before. We've had to design-"

"Steve, can I ask you a favor?"

"What's that?"

"I would appreciate it if you didn't talk about how Dan is my father. I don't want that to be the focus. Whatever I do here, I want to do it on my own."

I am instantly reminded of why we call him "George W". I recall reading an interview with one of Bush's ex-girlfriends from college, in which the girl said that Bush drove around in a old, beat-up car, even though his father could have bought him a new one. It appears that George didn't like the idea of getting handouts from his parents, and wanted to earn everything himself, you see.

But this chick didn't mention the fact that, when she dated him, Bush was attending Yale, possibly the most prestigious university in the world, even though neither his grades nor his performance on the SAT's warranted admission there. His father was a wealthy, influential alumnus, you see, who arranged it for him. Of course, this girlfriend, whoever she was, totally missed the larger irony, as did the magazine carrying the piece: That admission letter from New Haven, Connecticut was a bigger handout than most of us normal folks will ever get in our lives.

Troy's situation is much the same. He eschews association with his dad because he wants to do things himself. Of course, if he really wanted that, he wouldn't have taken this nepotism-laden training assignment, which will leapfrog him ahead of a dozen or so qualified candidates with years of service to the company, any of whom would do a better job than he would.

"Troy, let me give you some advice. That's what you're here for, right, to get advice from me and Dom?"

"Yeah..." He's leaning over in his seat, bouncing his knees up and down, like he wants to get up and run laps around the office.

I look down at his knees. "Too much caffeine?"

The knees stop.

"Troy, don't hide who you are. Don't announce it, but don't go out of your way to avoid it, either. Everyone knows who you are, and if they don't, they're gonna find out quick. If you act like you're just some kid off the street, you're not going to fool anyone. Just ignore it. Don't make it a big deal either way, and no one else will, either."

"I'm not sure I agree with you."

"Trust me."

Dom knocks on my door frame, then walks in and shakes Troy's hand. The smell of cologne is overwhelming now, a sickening mishmosh of competing manly scents.

I wave my hand in front of my nose. "Jesus! We've gotta be careful about all of us being in the same room!"

"Hope nobody lights a match," Dom says, smiling. We laugh.

"Troy, we're going to go over our plan for your training in a minute. But first, I want you to know how important these next two months are going to be for you. If you're really going to run one of our regions, even a small one, a great deal of responsibility is going to be in your hands. This is a great opportunity, but it's just like every other great opportunity: You can either be a hero, or you can fuck things up royally."

He nods.

I gesture towards Dom. "Dom and I, we've been in this business a long time, and we know that there is NO possible way that we can teach you all you need to know in two months. The best we can do is give you the tools you need to figure it out for yourself. It's not going to be easy. It might be impossible."

"I can do it."

"I'm glad you're confident. But if you start to feel like you're in over your head, SAY something. We're here to help you. And if you still don't feel comfortable when you leave here, say something then, too. You're what, 25 years old? There's plenty of time to run an office."


"You're gonna be looked at under a microscope, by everyone, including people who are angry that you got the job before them. Once you become a DM, you better be sure you know exactly what you are doing."

"I will."

Dom and I exchange glances. I'm trying to give this cocky son of a bitch a reality check, and all I'm getting is macho bravado. Obviously, he's been watching too much Top Gun.

"Just remember this, Troy. For the next eight weeks, you work for HIM," I say, pointing to Dom, "and ME. You don't work for your father. You work for US. LISTEN to us, and TRUST us, and you'll be ok. Is that understood?"


There go the knees again.