[I don't like to repeat posts, but this one has been much on my mind. It first appeared here in 2007.]
Well, the job interview was weird, but they offered me the job. I went to work, 22, living with my girlfriend in her summer rental on Mercer Street near New York University.
After two weeks, the Big Boss -- Mallory Factor, PR Man -- returned from a long business trip. Or something. I don't remember where he was, but I do remember that it was odd that I'd been hired without his inspection. I figured he'd give me a look now, on his first day back, and bless the decision or give me the heave-ho.
Mallory's first day back was a busy one.
Too busy to check out the geeky English major who'd been hired as an entry level goober. I could tell the place was busier and tenser with him back.
At the end of the day, Mallory hollered for me -- a friendly holler, as hollering goes -- and said, "I'm sorry that we haven't had a chance to talk. I thought we might be able to today, but the day was so busy. How about we share a cab home? That would give us a chance to get to know each other."
I said, "Sure."
And off we went.
This is when I learned that when you share a cab with the boss, the cab goes to the boss's place first and then the boss gives you money for the whole ride.
The ride from our offices in Times Square to his luxury tower near Lincoln Center was a 15-minute crawl. Mallory asked me all about myself. English major. Yale. Acted in college productions. Ohio. The Columbus Academy. Stockbroker father. Three older sisters. Staying with girlfriend down by NYU. Where else I almost got a job. Where I didn't. Rubino's Pizza. My job interview.
The taxi turns the final corner and his building is in sight. He says, "I guess I've been asking all the questions. Do you have any questions for me?"
Time For Only One Question?
"Uh, sure," I said, having no questions for him. So I threw out this one: "Have you ever contemplated suicide?"
I'm not sure where the question came from. I hadn't been contemplating suicide, at least not more than as a social phenomenon in the newspaper.
But Mallory was quite taken aback. He probably thought that the firm had made a terrible mistake in hiring me. I'm not blasting those who contemplate suicide. (They need our love.) But what kind of new employee, who gets one question to ask the Big Boss, asks that?)
His answer was an immediate and urgent, "NO. NO. NO. NO." His eyebrows were placed in that serious face you use when you are really, really serious. Like when you are training a puppy. He must have thought, "Why is this Ohioan asking me if I've ever contemplated suicide? Maybe he's despondent. Maybe he thinks I'm despondent. Maybe he thinks I should be despondent. In any case, I'm going to say 'NO. NO. NO. NO.' until the cab stops."
So the cab stops, Mallory puts money on the seat, and he backs out of the door. The cab starts rolling again, down the street, on the way to my girlfriend's apartment.
Suddenly, the cab stops hard.
The cabbie turns around, looks at me, and says in a great New York accent: "THAT was a great question. Whatever you learn about him from now on out, you already know one important thing: he's a liar."
Years later, Mallory bought a second dog.