Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The 6 Minute War of 1998
I tell a lot of stories here on roundseventeen.
I write them not only for your amusement, and I hope some do amuse, but also as a way of storing the notions for a later day. It's my hope that when I retire from advertising or the phone stops ringing, whichever comes first, I can revisit this blog as a sort of index. The plan is to expand some of my favorite anecdotes into full blown short stories.
Then, when my wife and I are in a raging emptynester fight, I can retreat to my office and work on my next book. I've been reading a lot of Jack Smith, Jean Shepherd and Erma Bombeck lately and would like to put myself up to that kind of challenge.
Here's a shortened version of a story I plan to expand.
The year is 1998. I'm the new father of two beautiful baby girls. I'm enjoying incredible notoriety from our ABC campaign. And my partner and I are bouncing back and forth across the country, often flying business class and staying at top notch hotels in NYC. And taking every opportunity to enjoy the $54 room service breakfast. There's no better way to stick it to The Man than to order up the room service breakfast.
"I'd like the sausage. Yes, and the bacon."
On one of those occassions I needed to get from the SoHo Grand Hotel in the Village, up to ABC corporate headquarters on West 77th. So I hailed a cab. And entrusted my life to Mohammed ben Mohammed, a recent emigre from Egypt.
Mo was a chatter.
And eager to tell me how much loved living in the United States of America.
What's not enjoy, I thought. It was the dotcom era, money was flowing and there was a schwarma stand on every street corner. Just as I was about to return the niceties, I noticed a large yellow blur whizzed by the front windshield.
And Happy Mo became Not-So-Happy Mo.
At the corner on 47th and 9th avenue, we had been cut off by an old beat up school bus. And not just any school bus. At the next red light I peered out the window and could see a sea of payos. Then I spotted the driver. A full blown Hasid sporting a beaver hat, a thick red beard and the mouth of a battle-hardened sailor.
My driver Mohammed, poked his head out the window and asked,"What's the matter with you?"
The Hasid skipped the pleasantries and went straight to DefCon 1 and replied, "Shove it up your ass, you dirty Arab."
What ensued was a mile and half long epic proxy battle worthy of any Michael Bay movie.
Mohammed would squeeze the bus into the bike lane. Rabbi Redbeard would counter, using the length of the bus to pin us behind a horse-drawn carriage. There was shouting. And screaming. And cursing in 5 different languages, including an ancient form of Aramaic that hadn't been used since Jesus skipped across a lake.
It was all very odd for me.
Obviously I share very little with the Hasids. They're the ugly, misshapen branch on the Jewish family tree. Given to extremism and G-d awful halitosis. I know because I had a Hasid rabbi as a Bar Mitzvah tutor.
Nevertheless, they are part of the tribe. But my life was in danger and with it the very real possibility that I would never see my family again. And so, for the first and only time in my life I found myself rooting against the home team.
It was a hair-raising trip, but Mohammed, the Egyptian Magician on wheels got me to my destination safely. And with 30 minutes to spare.
Just enough time to stop in a local haberdashery and buy a new shirt for the big meeting. Because I had sweat through the one I had been wearing.