Friday, May 16, 2008

Bad Day Payback - The Expense Statement Chronicles

Leigh Buchanan is an editor at large at Inc. magazine. For reasons she finds unfathomable someone actually pays her to write about office life, which she does here. However, she does assure me that if I write him an email, Bill Gates will give me gold I can use to buy blogs. And now, on with the tale of woe:
Thirteen 13 years ago I worked for a technology magazine, writing lush, deeply moving articles about client-server computing. I was largely unversed in office politics, so when the publisher introduced our new editorial director I didn’t understand why the staff seemed uncomfortable-verging-on-hostile. Apparently the publisher was trying to force out the editor-in-chief by hiring someone in over her. The editor herself discovered what was happening just hours before the rest of us.
Not surprisingly, the editor resigned. The publisher—displaying unexpected sensitivity—suggested that instead of a farewell bash she invite her favored colleagues out for dinner. He would treat; more importantly he would not appear. So a dozen of us met at a restaurant on the top floor of Boston’s Prudential Tower: one of those view-is-better-than-the-food places where the side dishes cost $10. Attendees ranged from underlings the editor found amusing (me) to her closest allies.
The table ordered wine and more wine and then more wine. The conversation got louder and nastier. The publisher and editorial director were verbally drawn and quartered. The editor and her posse (can 50-year-old women in wool suits and costume jewelry be a posse?) started ordering bottles of expensive liquor. Those of us drinking less tried gently to discourage them. We went unheeded.
The next morning the CFO, highly agitated, came to each of our offices. The bill for alcohol alone was $2,000, and he feared presenting it to the publisher. Could we each chip in $100 to $200 to help defray the cost? I, a junior staffer, was less protective of the publisher’s pockets; besides, I hadn’t drunk that much. Still, I felt queasily obligated.
In the end the publisher got wind of what was happening and told the CFO to stop fund-raising. The editor left and the editorial director didn’t last much longer. (He was a poor fit for a technology magazine—shortly after arriving he asked me, “If I have an email address does that mean I also have a Web site?”) The managing editor—an editorial genius—became editor-in-chief. So all’s well etc.
Since then, I do most of my drinking off the expense account.

No comments: