Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I was the Director of a small division at Blue Shield of Massachusetts. My Assistant to the Director, Dave, was just too young to remember the 1950s. He was also gay, although this aspect of his life virtually never surfaced at work.
  • Dave was the wittiest person I've ever met, and once his tongue outran his brain for the sake of humor.

    We were meeting in the office of our VP, Rick,and a little pre-meeting chatter somehow got around to the 1950s. Rick smiled and asked me, "Do you remember butch sticks?"

    Dave blurted out, "I don't know what they are, but I'll take two."

  • When the preceding Director was fired, I was promoted to the position. Dave was disappointed, having had his eye on the position, but handled it well and stayed on as Assistant to the Director. (Later I managed to promote him to Assistant Director. The distinction was that "Assistant to the Director" was a purely administrative position while "Assistant Director" carried some management responsibilities and put him in line to succeed me.)

    Our annual budget was due and Dave had it pretty much under control. He and I headed up to the executive floor to negotiate the budget with the Executive Vice-President, Bill, (who was also my mentor) and our Vice-President, Rick.

    Dave had been through this before, and I had not. In the elevator he warned me, "Rick is a piece of cake but Bill is very tough." As I was brand new to the process I let Dave handle it at the meeting and generally participated only in discussions of certain projects. Bill was a pussycat, almost certainly because I was the new kid on the block, and when it was just about over he asked me, "Got enough money, Don?"

    I tried to haggle for a couple thousand dollars he had removed from our projections but got nowhere. We all shook hands and went our separate ways. In the elevator on the way back to the office, Dave said, "I almost died when you tried to get that money back." And after a pause, "I wonder if they'll be able to get the urine stains out of the carpet."

  • Dave dressed immaculately and stylishly, and was a little vain about his appearance. One Monday morning he announced that it was time for him to lose a little weight. I couldn't see that there was an ounce of fat on him, but there must have been one somewhere. He said he would do it by dieting.

    A few days later he announced proudly that he had lost three pounds. I asked him what kind of diet he was following and he said, "A water diet."

    "Oh, my brother had some success with that a couple of years ago."

    "How much did he lose?"

    "Twenty-four pounds."

    I received a long and exasperated stare, followed by "Let me teach you something about how to get along with people."

  • At about the time I was made a division Director, I was playing a lot of backgammon at night, for anywhere from a dollar to ten dollars a point. It was not unusual for me to have several thousand dollars in hundreds in my wallet.

    Somewhere around my first or second meeting with my Vice President, Rick, something came up that made me take out my wallet and fumble for something inside it. Rick noticed the hundreds, laughed, and asked where all the money came from. I told him that I had won something over ten thousand dollars in the last year playing backgammon.

    "Donnie, what are you going to do with all that money?"

    "Rick, that's my fuck you money."

    Dave jumped up, grabbed my arm, and hauled me out of Rick's office.

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