Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Climbing the Ladder: First Steps

It was my good fortune years ago to have access to what a lot of people imagine are perks of the business world, but in fact are just another pain in the expenses paid, rented transportation, comfortable accommodations away from home, over-sized menus three times a day, etc. I recall how important I felt carrying my briefcase up the ramp at the airport, boarding the plane for a day trip to New York. Just like on television. Only later did I learn that living out of a suitcase is really a bitch.

Lindsay Bayerstein is a salt of the earth sweetheart who resonates more with the service staff than their bosses. She is too smart, literate and ambitious, however, to remain close to their world. She is cut from a different fabric and in a very short time will be moving smoothly into a very different peer group, that of movers and shakers whose decisions affect a lot of people they will never know or see. She has a good job and is tasting the sweet opening course of upward mobility.

The lobby was pretty small. There were three desk clerks, and no line up. It was supposed to seem huge because of the giant pillars and fountains and leaping great cat sculptures and stuff, but it actually wasn't that big. Nevertheless, there was giant supporting cast of people demanding attention.

Three different people practically seized my suitcases during the twelve-step walk from the curb to the counter--they didn't tell me where they wanted to take them. To to my room presumably, but I hadn't checked in yet, so I wasn't prepared to surrender my bags to anyone who had even less idea where they were going than I did.

It was difficult to approach the desk clerks because they were guarded by an outer layer of elegantly-dressed support staff whose job was apparently to intercept guests on their way to the clerks in order to quiz them about their intentions. (What did they think I wanted, what with the bags and all?)

Just as I reached the clerk, a man approached me bearing a silver tray heaped with white rolled linen towels. He seemed really intent on giving me one, so I accepted, only to realize that I no longer had a free hand to accept my key card because I was stuck with this limp, wet, obviously non-disposable napkin until he returned to take it away. As soon as I got rid of the fancy damp rag, the desk clerk pushed a plastic cup of lemonade into my free hand and strongly suggested that perhaps I'd like to have someone take my bags.

Anyone who has been there and done that can relate. It may be the reason that travelers sometimes go through a snotty period before they learn to swim in those waters with grace and patient deportment. I might envy her the chance to travel, but not the price of getting there.

And I am glad that someone with her insights is becoming a worm in the corporate apple. There are too many boors in places of leadership who imagine their success has nothing to do with the people they stepped over to get there. From what I have read, Lindsay will never become such a person.

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