A number of years ago I was told to meet two “money guys” at an expensive social club in Philadelphia. I was earning money in politics at that point. I’d started off just writing press releases and speeches but I got in pretty deep pretty fast and I’ll admit I liked it. High stakes at high speeds can be addictive. I can’t remember how long ago this particular night was but I know I was still drinking so it was at least six years ago.
I knew my job. It wasn’t to walk out of the meeting with money but it was to make sure that the guy who called or met them the next day would. I would laugh at their jokes but not too loudly. I would drink but not enough to lose control. I would tell stories because if there’s one thing people love it’s a little inside dirt. It makes them feel part of it all. And when the moment was right I’d tell them how grateful we’d be for some help. Half the job was picking the right moment. So I drank and laughed and waited.
While eating dinner the two money guys, who’d been strangers before that night, learned of an acquaintance they had in common. They both knew the same girl. From their description she sounded young, beautiful and kind. They described her with a kind of awe. One said he’d been “chasing” her for weeks and added, “I finally took her down last week.” Then they high-fived. Two men in suits high-fived and then they laughed the kind of laugh that made me want to run for an emergency exit.
He meant “took her down” as in a National Geographic documentary. The strong preying on the weak. I sat there stunned. I think that moment scared me more than anything I’d ever heard before or even read. In history books you can read about wars and infamous acts of man’s inhumanity towards man but it’s hard to feel it. This scared me more. Two normal successful men talked about a girl as prey.
As a father of daughters it scared me. As a father of a son it scared me even more. Would my son who is trying to balance a soccer ball on his head talk about women as prey? Was that accepted? Expected?
I was horrified at these two men. But I didn’t say anything. I probably even smiled. And drank and waited.
When I left them that night I congratulated myself for closing the deal. We’d be getting checks the next day. I was sure that I’d get high fives the next day in the office. Why? Because I waited until the right moment…and then I pounced. I took them down. I left after one of the money guys left because you never leave them together talking. Too much can go wrong. You don’t want them talking about you. You wait until at least one leaves. That night I left one guy at the club, knowing he was drunk, knowing he had his keys in his pocket, and knowing that he’d been arrested for DUI’s in the past. I walked out because the job was done. I still don’t know how he got home. But I know we got a check the next day.
It didn’t hit me that night that I was guilty of the same thing that horrified me-using others for my own gain. I’ve always been a slow learner that way. But eventually it hit me and I look back on that night often. That night had an impact on me that I’m still sorting through. I was a Christian already but I guess not much of one. It changed my life not all at once but in that way where you at least suddenly realize you’re lost. You don’t necessarily turn around right away but at least you slow down and start wondering how the heck you got where you are and start thinking about where it is you eventually want to be.