I am my own assistant
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – What can I tell you? I was hungry. Sometimes when I'm hungry, I get grouchy. When I'm grouchy, I'll do almost anything to scratch that itch you get when people annoy you. And one of the things that annoys me most, as a business executive and egomaniac, is to be denied a seat in one of those places people have to wait to get into.

I have a problem about waiting in general. Beyond that, I have a problem with waiting in line. Additionally, I have a problem waiting in line for food because certain people have a stick up their anatomy and want me to know how cool they are due to the fact that they control the door at a chi-chi new place whose steak is the entree du jour of the ruling class. They're crispy, these people. They're crunchy. They're in my way.

They must be conquered.

Let's call the place ABC, for that is very nearly its name. It was about six on an evening not long ago, and I was hanging around with my friend Dworkin thinking about dinner. We do that quite a bit, Dworkin and I, when we're not thinking about drinks.

"There's this new steak joint that nobody can get into," says Dworkin.

"Try," says I, and I can feel the prickle of hair rising on the back of my neck.

So Dworkin picks up the phone. "Hello. Yes, I'd like a reservation for two for dinner. Uh-huh. Nine o'clock. Mm-hm." He hangs up.

This irks me. I know that if I were Arnold Schwarzenegger or Martha Stewart's PR person I could probably whisk right in. I hate the feeling that there is something insufficiently terrifying about me that prevents me from transcending the limitations of those who have to wait on the wrong side of a velvet rope. I pick up the phone.

"Hello," say I, assuming my best silk-and-leather murmur. "This is Mitchell, assistant to Mr. Stanley Bing, executive vice president of Omnivore Corp." That's not the real name of the place I work, by the way, but it could be. "Mr. Bing is in town tonight and would like a table for two for dinner." A silence ensues in which I hear gears turning and wood burning. Then:

"Who?" says the female voice on the other end of the line.

I repeat myself. There's another pause. "Hold a minute, please," she says politely. This is clearly a situation that exceeds her authority. My strategy is punching through. A tiny tickle thrills my innards.

"Yes?" says a male voice.

"To whom am I speaking?"

"This is Warren," the voice replies, haughtily.

"Warren," I continue, one high-powered powerboat to another, "Mr. Stanley Bing, executive vice president of Omnivore, would like to have dinner this evening. What time may I tell him to arrive?"

"Who?" says Warren. Not truculent. Just information for him, so that he may make an informed decision. I tell him again, this time adding just a little steel.

"Would 7:30 be acceptable?" says Warren. I indicate that it would be.

We arrive at 7:35. I take my tie off on the way, because powerful people do not wear neck shackles at eventide. I also check my shoulder bag, so I am free to look as if I just stepped out of my limo.

At the little lectern up front stand two wafer-thin supermodels flanking a handsome fellow, tall and dark, with an expression that says he's just smelled something slightly off-kilter but is strong enough to stomach it.

"Hello," I say, striding up to the podium. "Is Warren around?"

"I am Warren," says Warren warily.

"Stanley Bing," I say, putting my hand out.

"Yes, Mr. Bing," says Warren. He's not nervous, but he's on edge. Who the frig am I? How can I presume to cut such attitude in the face of their attitude? Whose attitude is bigger? "Your table will be ready in a moment," Warren adds, looking me in the eye, searching for whether the small wait will flummox me.

"Certainly, Warren," say I with great equanimity. Dworkin and I go to the bar. By the time our martinis have been poured, our table is ready.

The dinner was pretty good. I've had better. I ordered my steak medium rare, and it arrived well done. When the captain asked whether everything was all right, I simply pointed to the gray matter that should have been succulent crimson in my New York strip. A new steak was brought--not by the waiter but by two senior officers--and it was exquisite. When I left, I was escorted out by a large group of managers who virtually hoisted me on their shoulders and put a wreath of fig leaves on my head. At no time did I grease anyone's palm with filthy lucre.

In a venue where attitude is what it's all about, their victory over mine was payment enough.

Stanley Bing is an executive at a FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He is the author of two recent books: The Big Bing, a collection of essays, and You Look Nice Today, a novel. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.