Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Caught in the act in Grand Central Station.

21 - Grand Central Station: a lesson in the appearances of honest

JWT's offices were in the Graybar Building, a relic of the 1920s rising above Grand Central Station.  This was convenient for me, since the subway went directly from my upper west side corner into the bowels of commuter heaven.

The offices at Thompson were elegant.  Filled with antique furniture and valuable art, the place looked more like a prosperous law firm than an ad agency.  My office was furnished with an 18th century Georgian desk and conference table and leather couches and chairs.
A Picasso plate adorned the wall.  There was a curator in charge of the treasure trove that Mrs. Resor, wife of an early agency chief had acquired in the 1920s.  Agencies then were on the seedy side, and she wanted clients to feel comfortable giving their money to JWT to spend for them.

One problem I could not solve was umbrellas.  On rainy mornings I would carry one to work, only to leave it there in the evening.  I had amassed a collection of them in the small coat closet at the office. Eventually I'd run out of them at home.

This particular day I was finishing lunch with some buddies at a local Irish pub when it started to rain.  I took what I thought was my umbrella from the coat rack and headed for the door.  Someone yelled "excuse me" several times, and I turned to see a man coming toward me from the beery gloom of the bar.  

"That's mine," he said pointing at the red golf umbrella with the People Magazine logo emblazoned on it. 

He was right!  I had one just like it from some media boondoggle, and I had automatically picked it up.  I gave it back with a feeble apology, which did nothing to relieve the guy of the impression that I was an umbrella snatcher.

The evening I made a mental note to take several of the stash of umbrellas that crowded my closet home with me.  Including the big red People Magazine job. I fumbled my way down the stairs at Grand Central, heading toward the shuttle. 

As I stood on the line to buy tokens, the man from my lunchtime confrontation came by. We locked eyes momentarily, and then he looked at the bundle under my arm.  "I see you had a good day," he said.

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