I went to work for Jack (who was fired several years later), and I eventually became a Division Director. During these years Rob and I continued to spend the occasional evening together and have lunch together at least once a month. It was at one of these lunches that he confided that he had accepted a senior vice-presidency in Chicago, and bowled me over by asking if I would accept a vice-presidency under him. He told me that he had talked to my Vice-President and to my Executive VP and mentor, and received their blessings and permission to make me the offer.
The salary offered was a 66% increase for me, but I had reservations. First, Rob and I had serious philosophical differences about data processing, and second, I didn't care for Chicago. I did realize that I'd only been there for a couple of brief business trips, but the city had done nothing to excite me.
Rob was leaving for Chicago in several days, a very well kept secret at work, although it was about to be made public. We agreed that I would consider it and we would discuss it in Chicago - as chance would have it I had to be there the following Thursday on business.
The following week I extended my stay in Chicago by a day, poked around downtown for a while, and met Rob for dinner at the Executive House. A third party joined us, a mid-thirtyish Maryellen, whom Rob had known for a few years, as she worked in an organization related to his old job and to his new job.
After a great dinner, as regards both the food and drink and the company, Rob and I discussed the offer. He was to have three areas under him and we finessed the data processing issue by agreeing that he would never ask me to work in data processing. I had seen enough during the day to decide that I would learn to like Chicago, and I accepted the position, contingent on his sending me a written offer.
Prior to the dinner, I had gone to the Michigan Avenue Club (now defunct) to watch Rob and Maryellen play racquetball. After our brief business discussion at dinner, Rob asked me if I had ever played racquetball. I had played for a couple of years, but that had been ten years earlier.
Rob: "Do you think you could beat me?"
Donnie "Probably, with some practice."
Maryellen: "Do you think you could beat me?"
Maryellen: "You could not! You couldn't beat me! You could never beat me!
Donnie: "Rob, would you tell her that if I say I can beat her, I can beat her?"
Rob, dutifully: "If Donnie says he can beat you, he can beat you."
Maryellen: "You can't beat me! I'll bet you anything you can't beat me!"
Donnie: "How about your lily white body?"
Rob: "I'll hold the stakes."
Maryellen: "You're on - for a trip to Vegas!" And after a moment's
consideration, "Rob, what do you know about him? Is he kinky?" And to me, "Thirty minutes. No, fifteen minutes."
Donnie: "Oh sure, fifteen minutes. Now I gotta do it twice."
After some laughter we left and found that it was snowing furiously. They both assured me that it meant nothing, it was just "lake effect," and I would catch my plane to Boston the next day.
That night and the next day, Chicago got twenty inches of snow. My rental car was towed (to Old Town, it turned out) and O'Hare would not be open for a couple of days. It was Saturday and I tried to find Rob, but had no luck. Amazingly, I remembered Maryellen's last name (I'm not good at remembering these things right off the bat) and found her.
She had no idea how to locate Rob, but said, "I'm having a "We're snowed in party" tonight. Why don't you come over?" I accepted gratefully and she gave me directions. By nightfall the snow had stopped coming down and I walked (no taxis, as you can imagine) from (roughly) Michigan and Wacker to Sandburg Village, stopping occasionally to help people push cars out of snowbanks. When I arrived at Maryellen's I found that I was the only guest at the party. As things worked out, the necessity of winning a racquetball match was dispensed with, although over the years we played a number of times and she never did win.
I couldn't get a plane to Boston until Tuesday, so on Monday I called Boston and arranged to stay in Chicago for the rest of the week, as I had to be there again the following Thursday in any event. I spent the next week in Chicago and fell in love with it. I found the car about three blocks from Maryellen's place and spent the week with her, with Rob, and with her and Rob.
NEXT: THE JOB AND OTHER THINGS