This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!
This morning, Sunday morning that is, I was on the recumbent bike at my usual spot at the gym. In front of me were the line of TV’s and on CNN was the Fareed Zakaria show. His guests were Paul O’Neill (former Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush until he quit) and Robert Rubin (Former Goldman Sach’s chairman).
They were talking about debt and taxes and what America had to do but I just started reminiscing. Why did I do that? I did it because I knew Paul O’Neill and in fact I invited him to my wedding. Funny and unusual story attached to this statement? You bet.
I realized that I had never (I don’t think at least) told the story of my unusual friendship with Paul O’Neill. When I was 23, I moved to New York City and I got a job at International Paper Company. The story of how THAT happened is attached HERE.
I was hired to work in a new area called “the information center.” What was new about it? The first personal computer had just been invented (It was Apple) and now IBM was also making computers. I was hired because it wasn’t like anybody really knew about Personal Computers at the time. They were so expensive and cost about $4000 each to own. I know you guys can’t believe this but this was back in 1992. So they hired me because I had a computer background from college. Basically, I was a guinea pig for them.
So I was working at International Paper Company (IP) and I was told to go up to the “executive” floor to set up a computer for the Chief Financial Officer aka Paul O’Neill. I did as I was told, set up the computer and came back down to my office.
A few days later, I was told to go up there and do some more stuff and this is where the story gets funny. You see, the building itself was gorgeous, designed by some famous architect and decorated by some famous designer. The offices were so beautiful that they filmed Michael J. Fox’s movie “Secret to my success” in the executive offices. My point is that Paul O’Neill’s office was huge and gorgeous with views from the 44th floor of New York City.
I fixed his computer and then, being that nobody was around, I walked behind his desk and sat down in the chair. Remember that I was only 23 and honestly, didn’t give a shit about much of anything. Then I decided to lean back and put my feet up on his desk.
Of course, this is the moment that he walked into his office.
CFO: What are you doing?
Me: I’m sitting
CFO: I can see that. Why are you sitting with your feet up on my desk?
Me: shhhhh…can’t you just give me a moment.
CFO: (Just staring at me)
Me: … after all, this is probably the only time in my life that I’ll ever get the opportunity to feel like a big deal.
And what did he do? He laughed. He laughed and laughed and thus began an unlikely friendship.
You see, IP had a cafeteria; it was awesome and it was subsidized so everybody always ate there. They had a salad bar, a grill and hot food line. They had sandwiches and they even had frozen yogurt every single day. I’m telling you, it was amazing.
So occasionally, some of the executives would descend from Mt. Olympus and eat in the dining room. I guess they were trying to improve morale or maybe their Executive Dining room sucked; I really have no idea. So they would come down and get their food and sit down and NOBODY would join them. I suppose most people were intimidated and worried they would say the wrong thing but NOT ME. I always joined him when he ate down there and told him the scuttlebutt from the lower levels.
Slowly we became pals and so, when I got married, I invited him to my wedding. Eventually he became the CEO of IP but then he moved on to Alcoa. After that, George W. Bush drafted him to become Secretary of the Treasury. Of course, he quit because he didn’t agree with some of the stuff Bush was doing but that’s not my story to tell.
I just wanted to let you know why I started reminiscing when I saw him on TV. I like to think that it was my friendship with him that spurred him on to greater things. Wouldn’t you agree???