I was a tad bit early for work, exactly one hour to be exact. Maybe I should actually check my work e-mails-especially the ones marked important-that way I’d be aware of things like company parties, schedule changes and daylight savings.
My early arrival did allow me to view the early, early evening clientele, some folks that I don’t often see. The first wave of the evening, especially in upscale eating establishments, are usually the stockbrokers and bankers. Shortly after the market closes at 1 p.m., the first of the power tie-checkered shirt-backslapping former fraternity brothers begin to arrive. And they usually arrive loudly. Somewhere along the line loud swearing and juvenile behavior has become the province of financial investors. At least it used to be.
The boys were all there, Donnie, Tommie, Johnnie, Dougie and all the rest, just this time they were as quiet as door mice. Apparently an up and down market and all the explaining associated with it takes the “loud” right out of you. It was like walking into a library; in fact I almost felt the need to whisper. Furthermore they were all drinking inexpensive domestic beer. No ultra premium vodka? No single malt scotch? After years of excess it was now Coors Light in the bottle.
In the midst of this pall a lone bright spot emerged. One gentleman, a decade older than the others practically skipped in. He bid a fond hello to the just arriving hostess, complimented the cocktail waitress on her new hairdo, causing her to touch it self consciously, before Fred Astaire cross stepping to a seat at the bar, far from the grumbling fraternity. I would swear that he had been actually whistling.
“Jeff, my boy,” he said. “How are you today?”
I looked at him skeptically. I knew he was an attorney and I knew he was involved in finance but that didn’t explain his jolly mood.
“You’re in a good mood,” I said carefully assessing the situation.
“Sure am,” he replied.
“I don’t get it,” I said.
“You know what I do for a living?” he said.
“Sure,” I responded racking my brain for non pertinent info.
“You are a lawyer,” I said, hoping that would suffice.
“But, what kind of law do I practice?” he asked with a great flourish.
“Something in finance?” I said
“That’s right,” he said.
I still didn’t grasp what he was getting at. I knew that he had told me exactly what he had done for a living at least twice before. But being a bartender I tend to remember things that are relevant to my job. Ask me what he drank last week, last month or even last year and I will probably remember. Ask me what his last name is and I couldn’t tell you.
“Your usual?” I asked.
“No, he said. “Today I’m celebrating; give me one of those new fancy vodkas.”
I posed a question that I hoped wouldn’t expose the fact that I couldn’t remember his exact employment.
“Did you manage to survive the market crash?”
He gave me a look that made his disappointment in my memory apparent.
Dropping his head a little lower, as if the intellect it supported was too much weight for his poor neck to handle. Shaking the burden slightly from side to side he sighed.
“My specialty is securities fraud,” he said causing the “ie” boys at the end of the bar to turn their heads in his direction.
“In the last two weeks I’ve added nearly 20 new clients,” he said. “This year might turn out to be my best year ever.”
When he finally waltzed out I watched the contemptuous eyes of the “ie” boys follow his every step.
When Mr. Cheerful stopped to pluck a flower from the bed outside to adorn his lapel, I got the distinct feeling that it was just a matter of time before he was sitting across a courtroom aisle from one of those boys at the bar. Just proving the case that one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor.
In light of these two perspectives I thought I might offer some advice for both sides.
On an economic downturn?
- Instead of super deluxe vodkas, try a medium priced name brand like Smirnoff. You’ll be surprised at how similar they all are in taste, especially when chilled.
- Instead of single malt Scotch, try a blended Scotch. They are much more cost effective and smoother to boot.
- Skip chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Try sauvignon Blanc and zinfandel instead. For $40 on a restaurant list you can get one of the best of the latter, instead of a lower end entry offering of the other two.
On an economic upswing?
- Premium bourbon is all the rage. Try a 16 to 20 year old option. Whiskey gains smoothness and drinkability from age. Be prepared to spend, old bourbons are hard to find and when you do you’ll pay for it.
- Try one of those $50 a bottle super deluxe vodkas, you might not be able to taste the difference, but nothing looks more like success than excess.
- Liquor companies try to increase their profits by increasing their high end products. Look at Crown Royal, originally introduced in 1939 to honor the first Royal Tour of Canada by reigning British King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth. Today it is the low end product of the Crown Royal line, behind Crown Royal Special Reserve and Crown Royal Cask No.16. If the original was designed for two of the most powerful monarchs in history, who are the other two designed for?
Perhaps for your new attorney.