I don’t remember the first time I saw him. But sometimes first times don’t matter.
“Do you have any [insert newest hard-to-get product name]?” he asked.
“No, we don’t.”
“Do you have any [equally hard-to-get product name]?”
“No, we don’t have that either.”
Being trendy and cool can sometimes be quite difficult. Especially when everybody else is doing the exact same thing.
Eventually the man settled for something less cool, albeit reluctantly.
Sometime later he was joined by a man with a strong foreign accent. The new man seemed a little uncomfortable, not only with what was apparently new surroundings but with the cool man as well.
Evidently it was the cool man’s job to teach this new arrival the ropes at his company. Software, technology, finance, it was really hard to tell what the business was.
“[Insert different-sounding name] is going to take over Bill’s position,” Mr. Cool said, laughing. “Just Bill doesn’t know it yet.” More laughing.
Apparently being trendy was part of the training. And Mr. Cool had decided that being condescending was the way to go.
“That’s not how you eat an artichoke!” he guffawed. “Is that what they teach you in [enter other country’s name].”
The new guy had to laugh that uncomfortable laugh that subordinates do the world over.
Mr. Cool managed to ridicule the new guy’s accent, his education and his lack of trendiness.
Some people are under the impression that just because they were born here, educated here and live here that they are better than people from elsewhere. They don’t realize that just because they drive a German sports car and have an Apple computer and eat chef-prepared food, it doesn’t mean that they themselves are somehow a German engineer or a computer whiz or a food specialist. But let them fix that car or program that computer or prepare their own food, and we then see how sophisticated they really are.
Mr. Cool took the cake in that department. Over the next few months he would come in periodically, always with a new recruit in tow. He then blustered and browbeat the new guy mercilessly. But he didn’t just think he was smarter and better than them; he thought he was smarter and better than everyone else, too.
“Hey, I see you have the [insert highly desirable, highly allocated wine name] on your wine list.”
“Yep,” I said, having grown tired of his shtick. “We get six bottles a year.”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. I will buy all six bottles, but you have to give me 50 percent off.”
“Let me see if I understand you correctly,” I said. “I get to sell you all of our allocation of this highly sought after wine, and at a discount?”
“We are not going to do that.”
“Because we will sell all of that wine, easily, at full price to several different people, some of whom might be coming here just to buy it.”
Then, elbowing his newest charge, asked, “Isn’t that stupid?”
“That sounds pretty smart to me,” the charge said.
“Then you’re stupid, too,” Mr. Cool said.
Over the next few months I saw them come and I saw them go.
Then one day it was different. The mannerisms and put downs were all the same. As was the condensation. The difference wasn’t readily apparent until after the requisite artichoke, and its subsequent put down.
“[Insert different sounding name] is going to replace, uh, who are you going to replace?”
The new recruit never answered. But as a result two things happened — I don’t see Mr. Cool anymore, and that last recruit comes in about once a month always with someone new. And we are on a first-name basis.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• Sometimes it is not the first time, but the last time that matters.
• There are people who have been born on third base and think that they have hit a triple.
• “Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit, for merit itself is offensive,” Friedrich Nietzsche once said.
• Access to resources doesn’t make you smarter than anyone else, it makes you luckier.
• If your livelihood is based on taking advantage of others, eventually those others will take advantage of you.
• Call it kismet or karma or any other name. It’s still a bitch.