Thursday, February 08, 2018

None of This Matters

I was temping at Heublein, the giant booze company, in Hartford in the early ‘90s. I was assigned to some senior marketing guy, a balding, paunchy man in his late forties. I sat at a desk right outside his office, punching numbers into spreadsheets, gathering printouts, dicking around with PowerPoint decks.

He was in charge of product for all of South America, or maybe parts of South America. He had a trip coming up to Ecuador, Chile, some other places. Figuring out what the fuck they wanted to drink down there. Selling it to them. That was his task.

One of the company’s bargain brands had just rolled out a mint chocolate chip liqueur. A bottle sat on his desk, wrapped in its pale green label. I considered whether this was what he was currently pushing on the upwardly mobile people of Quito. For centuries they got drunk on cane liquor, maybe potions of it flavored with indigenous herbs and flowers. Now they were supposed to drink this goddamned sweet green shit.

One day I was struggling with an assignment, I don’t know what. Numbers weren’t adding up and a deadline loomed. I figured I had to make it right. Here I was on the 27th floor of a grand old building in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, wearing a belt and tie. Walking out the elevator every morning, past the water cooler and the mission statement framed and hung up on the wall. It was my role to get it right.

I must have sighed audibly in frustration and dismay. The guy shouted from his office: “Pat, come in here for a minute.”

I walked in apprehensively. He peered at me from behind his desk, from behind the mint chocolate schnapps. He seemed like a man perfectly in his place, confident, at ease. Every self-doubt I’d ever had he’d never had, or rooted out many years ago. In my nervousness I beheld him with a sort of wonder.

“Let me tell you something.”


“None of this matters. Do you understand? None of this—this, everything—” he made a little sweeping gesture with his hand—“matters at all. Not at all. Do you know what I mean?”

I nodded slowly.

“It doesn’t matter at all. Don’t worry about it. Take my word for it—I’m serious. Nothing, none of it, nothing here, nothing you’re doing, nothing I’m doing. None of it matters.”


“At all.”


“OK. OK?”


“OK. Don’t you forget it,” he said, and turned his head back down to the documents on his desk, signaling for me to turn around and leave.