A Contributing author with her finger on the button
It was Saturday afternoon, and, behold, I was not at the Grille negotiating in vain with the Omelet Guy the exchange of my firstborn for scrambled eggs past noon. Instead, I was walking down a tourist-saturated street with my friend from, gasp, another section (the House of Un-HBS Activities Committee is dispatching a One Western-bound team even as the HARBUS staff loads Letter onto Tray 2). On our left was the Empire State Building, next to which was the Chrysler Building. On our right stood King Arthur’s Court and the Temple of Ra.
As we waded through the heaps of humanity, everyone from “Hello My Name Is Bob I’m A Gambleholic,” to “I Wanted My 4-Year Old To See Vegas; Yes, That’s Right – I’m Here For My Kids,” to “Dude, I’m Not As Think As You Drunk I Am” conspired to prevent us from identifying Vegas’s equivalent of a Pretzel Guy to sell us a Coke. But no matter – we were engrossed in the usual “I’m getting a 3 in TOM, no you’re not, yes I am no you’re not and oh, speaking of pain, what’s up with FRC lately I thought everything was supposed to turn into LEAD” conversation as well as discussing how waiting for arrogant Bellagio attendants to rescue jammed quarters represented a bottleneck in what was otherwise a low lead-time process of coin deposit -> spin -> cardiac arrest as two quadrillion-tuple-payoff-diamond-bar-cherries land on payline -> verbal assault on helpless machine -> move to next machine; repeat, and, finally, how upsetting it was that we now used “bottleneck” regularly in our sentences. We were attempting to cross a street, only to be rebuffed by an onslaught of confused Californians who didn’t realize that New Yorkers’ legs still function when the light is red, when a thirtyish guy asked us how to find Caesar’s Palace. Since all (two) roads seemed to lead to Rome, and he was amicable, we decided to go together and arbitrarily picked a direction. As the three of us set off, wireless ESP communication between me and my friend confirmed our independently-arrived-at decision to pull the plug on “do all of your outside friends find your Best Self highly amusing” in favor of something slightly less HBS-specific – an analysis of whether last night’s foray to Light would induce premature Black Monday labor, and, more importantly, how to develop an action plan to exploit this. (Cross-check new faces at the Kong against the results of a fresh None Listed search.) But regardless of the material we selected, we both knew it was only a matter of time before he posed The Question. At some point he faked us out when he asked where we’d flown from and packaged it with a “and what did we do there,” but I craftily rejoined with a Boston-what-about-you? (Tampa, Gaylord Focker) Who could have predicted, then, that a full half-hour later, as we approached Jimmy Choo in Piazza San Marco, a Carrie Bradshaw reference about a woman’s right to shoes would elicit a “so, what do you ladies do in Boston?” We exchanged looks. “Uhhh… We, ah, go to business school,” I replied. Would the damage be worse if he now asked where? Or should I have just let it all out before, hoping he’d appreciate that I’d had no choice. I was still singed from the retaliation of my last provoked H-bombing, which consisted of “well excuse me…!” (Mom’s first cousin. In response to why I was leaving New York, I’d started with an “I’m going back to school” and built only as necessary. Result: Backfire – She concluded I knew she knew she’d eventually ask; clearly failure to voluntarily disclose represented masked conceit, which was somehow different from overt conceit which would have been the result of upfront H-bombing.) In the end, it all turned out to be a false alarm because he mildly “oh, cool”ed and let it go. (though our subsequent outburst of eye contact-instigated, pressure-induced giggles constituted near self-sabotage.)
A few hours later I was in my Mecca, the Coca-Cola store, excited to finally procure a Diet Coke. I sifted through the aisles of t-shirts, the 1,002-oz novelty Cokes, and the 0.75-oz Pretentious Restaurant Cokes. I went upstairs: Vanilla Cokes, Lemon Cokes, Diet Vanilla Cokes, Diet Decaf Vanilla Lemon Cherry Cokes. And eureka – a vending machine inside the store! I forced a twenty inside. My twenty was promptly rejected. I sought change at the counter. The counter’s register was closed. I put on my People Express face and patiently offered my Amex for a can from the back. (My willingness to pay had not quite reached $20 given that the store was freezing cold.) I was asked for ID for the card. I rummaged through my purse for my driver’s license. I found my ATM card, then cashout tickets from the Luxor, Casino Royale, Excalibur and MGM Grand for amounts varying between $0.25 and $1.25, then my ATM card again. The item with the highest churn rate, however, was a certain white-colored “alternate” photo ID. No, dammit, a disorganized handbag was no excuse to nuke innocents. But as that image of myself post-5am fire alarm surfaced for the fourth time, I realized that the territory could technically be deemed hostile since I had, after all, made a good faith attempt to use cash. To hell with it. I placed the white card on the counter and braced for the fallout.