A few days after we arrived and settled into our work enviroment, I got a phone call from the company president. This was 1990, and drafting tables were still more prevalent than computers in most engineering offices. The phone at my desk rang and I answered.
“Hi Dave. How are you guys doing? Are you making headway?”
“Yes sir. We are doing okay. Things are good.”
“Great. Listen. I wanted to let you know that I’m not interested in working you guys to death. I know the OT is there, but you’re in New York City. I want you guys to get out and see the place.”
I was surprised and slow to respond. “Thank you. We are going to get out tomorrow and explore a bit before coming in, if that’s okay? ”
“Absolutely. And please, get Mark to go with you? I heard you put the fear of God in him. What did you say to him?”
Oh shit. Think fast. Careful wording. Careful wording… “Well. He was wearing us out on the plane sir, with stories of how being a part time cop made him ready for anything. So I kind of mentioned a rumor that gangs pick out the tallest guy and stab him to death without warning. And since Mark is the tallest of our group, well…”
Laughter on the other end, followed by a quick stop and throat-clearing, “That’s terrible! Make sure you fix that and get him to relax. I want him to enjoy it too.”
“Will do. Thank you sir!” I usually call people who sign my paychecks “sir” or “ma’am”.
We hung up and I went back to work.
The next morning, I tried my best, but Mark wouldn’t go with Kevin and I to see some places around town. We stood on the corner of 7th and 31st trying to decide where to go first. Kevin suggested the NBC studio tour and off we went. It was a clear day and we felt like walking, so it worked out that it was only a few blocks North and East of the hotel.
When we arrived we got our tickets and got in line with a group. A tour guide called us over and began the tour. We stopped at a couple of offices and sound stages, including the SNL stage (viewed through an observation window though). Throughout the walking around, Kevin and I were chatting and so forth, but noticing how unfriendly one particular middle-aged lady seemed to be with everyone else. At one point, she let a door slam in my face, instead of holding it like everyone else had done for her and others.
I paid her little mind and focused instead on the pictures along the walls and Kevin’s ideas for what to do afterwards. At one point, while standing in a long corridor, a different tour guide walked up to me and quietly tapped me on the shoulder with a smile.
“Hey buddy. Say. Is that yours?”
He pointed at my left foot. I looked down, and there was a $100 U.S. bill sticking out from under the toe. Being my usual cautious self, I froze, looked around carefully and thought to myself: “I’m in the NBC building and an NBC employee smiles while telling me I’m standing on a one-hundred dollar bill. This is a setup.”
I hesitated too long, and looked at Kevin for help. Kevin looked back with the same confused look I had. And the NBC guy, still grinning says, “Well, it’s obviously not yours or you’d have grabbed it already. I tell you what. I’ll ask if anyone lost some money, and if they can identify how much, I’ll return it to them. If no one claims it, it’s yours. Deal?”
Our group continued on to the next room: The Green Room demo. We sat in a half-circle of chairs facing a green screen. A lady gave us a well-scripted monologue and demo of how they work, and at the end she brought the tour guide up who found the $100. He asked the group if anyone lost some money and waited as everyone sifted through their wallets and purses. After everyone else was done and shaking their heads, one person was still checking: The bitchy lady. She had a bill fold opened and was carefully flipping bills one by one. It must have been a quarter-inch thick with $100 dollar bills!
Finally she says, “Me! It’s mine. I lost a $100 bill.”
When the tour ended, we took the elevator down to the street and ended up on the sidewalk. It had rained a bit while we were inside, and there were puddles everywhere. I opened my wallet and realized I didn’t bring enough cash along, and only had 2 dollars. I looked up and there was a pretzel wagon selling big pretzels for $1. I bought one and held it while recounting the whole series of events.
As I recalled how stupid I was for not immediately claiming the money, and how unfair it was that the bitchiest person in the group; with the most cash already, got to keep it, I started getting more and more animated. Yes, I knew I was thinking completely wrong, but I was younger then. Anyhow, I was flinging my arms around as I was talking and my pretzel broke off and all but a tiny piece fell into a deep puddle of water.
I stopped for a second, and then I started shouting out “OMFG!” (spelled out of course) over and over. Kevin stopped me and pointed at the tour bus unloading a dozen or so elderly women from a nursing home. All of them were slack-jawed, staring at the nutball screaming bad words with a broken piece of pretzel in his hand.
More to come.