In the fall of 1998, I looked up from my desk and was surprised to see the Director of Operations and the Chief Financial Officer of JWT Chicago standing in my office doorway.
The Operations Director was my boss’s boss so I saw her fairly frequently on the floor, and we met a few times a year to discuss departmental budgets, employee reviews, etc.
The CFO’s presence made me raise an eyebrow. I don’t think I’d ever seen him up there on Floor 27.
Perhaps there was a question about an employee’s expense report or perhaps, or I was going to be chided (again) about using freelancers on new business pitches (which were non-billable).
I guessed it was the latter, and rehearsed my response in my head: “Everybody on staff has worked over 75 hours for three consecutive weeks, and most of them were here last Saturday AND Sunday. I needed to give them some relief and brought in the freelancers Monday morning….”
I figured we’d settle this in a matter of seconds, so I was stunned when they asked to close the door.
“Why are they here?” I asked myself.
Then my mind raced and suddenly I was second-guessing every decision I’d ever made in my two years with the company. Not just about freelancers and non-billable work, but about everything. Did I eat too much shrimp at a company party? Had I ever used the last of the coffee without making a new pot?
The office security guard was not there, so that was good sign. Wasn’t it?
Then the Operations Director asked “Do you have any plans this weekend?”
“Whaaaat?” I thought to myself, then said: “Uhmmm, tonight my girlfriend and I are going out with her work friends.”
Then she said, “How nice. What about on Saturday?”
I quietly and rapidly was becoming livid, because I had high suspicions that there was (yet another) unannounced new business pitch that was going to consume the weekend (yet again) of my entire staff.
A few of them had tickets to Saturday’s Cubs game. Not that unusual, but the fact that Cubs were playing the Braves in the playoffs caused me to prepare to go on offense.
I was ready to voice my complaint that once again that somebody in account services had committed to a tight deadline on an RFP, in total disregard to my staff’s well-being.
I was prepared to march down to the presidents and/or the executive creative director’s office, though realized that this late on the Friday afternoon, they were likely already boarding their commuter trains home.
I was prepared to work, myself, but I was not going to pretend to be happy about it. I had planned to watch the game on TV, and I knew I could that in the Art Studio during a new business pitch preparation. There would likely be beer and Thai food or pizza available, so it wouldn’t be awful for me to work during the game.
However, given that several of employees had tickets to the game and others had plans to watch the game with friends. It would be awful of them.
I was going to draw a line: that working on the pitch by staff member would be on strictly volunteer basis, there was not any “voluntold” scenarios. If I got in trouble for bringing in freelancers, so be it.
Finally, I answered the question. “No, I don’t have anything planned for Saturday, other than watching the Cubs game?”
I eyed the CFO…why was he here?
Then she said “Would you like to GO to the Cubs game?”
My eyes opened, as big as soup bowls. I wasn’t sure what was going on here. “It would be nice to go, but there’s no tickets available and I don’t want blow a paycheck on a scalped ticket.”
Then, she said “We have some extra tickets would you like them?”
Then she said, “Bob can you give Scott the two extra tickets you have.”
Finally, I understood why the CFO was there, they were his tickets.
I’m still not entirely sure why, out of the 400 or so people in the office that I was chosen for those the tickets. I had worked a lot of hours the past couple of months, but so had a lot people. My department was turning a good profit, perhaps that was the reason. Or perhaps I might have the only person who didn’t have a ticket from vendor (this was a 20th century agency after all).
Though 28 hours latter first clutching the tickets in my hand, I found myself clutching a weather-inappropriate pint of Old Style and nestling into a chilly seat at Wrigley Field, with my future wife, huddled around a cup hot chocolate that could not have been nearly as good as my cup of bad beer.
I was still puzzled as to why I was there, though when I heard “Play ball!” I stopped caring.
My conclusion: they gave me the tickets for that thing I did that time.
Barring a complete collapse, the Cubs are heading back to the playoffs, at least for a one-game showdown against the other wildcard team. But, 2015 is THE year, according to the Marty McFly Prophecy.
I am currently freelancing from my home office, thus the probability is low that some C-level executives are going to walk into my basement with tickets to the Cubs/Pirates playoff game. However, you have until October 7th to surprise me.