GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (XIV)

Dining In The 1980s

Manfred’s was the place to eat when you worked in finance in the mid-1980s. (I almost wrote 1880s – it has been rather a long time). You would leave work at, say, 11:30 on Friday morning, and find yourself gazing at the Minoan bull leapers on the reproduction frescoes while you tasted the Moet and waited for the rest of the gang to arrive. Stefano would look after you – the man was serene and ageless and a god among maîtres d’ – and he would be there to make sure you were comfortable and watered. Before long the others would arrive and more bottles of Moet would be brought out, and we all became watered as a table of pinstriped skunks. We sat under a fresco of a topless Minoan woman who we nicknamed Ethel, and we ate snails and sundried tomatoes and lobster and more sundried tomatoes – there were sundried tomatoes everywhere – and most of us never got around to returning to work in the afternoon.

Apparently Stefano retired when the restaurant closed. People tell me he spends his time in the garden and has several cats, which all sounds very good, and I hope he’s content, for he’s the one who deserves to be comfortable now.

Strictly speaking, I wasn’t in finance at the time. But we were all in finance, really, for in the mid-80s life was about deals and money, and more deals, and business lunches arranged when your secretary could find time around bookings for brunch and conferences at Disneyland and the ski fields of Aspen. I was in computer software, and it was not at all like a job in that industry would be today. I needed help to turn my computer on, and rarely used it, because I frankly didn’t need to. My secretary Cindy knew how to operate the machinery in my office, and I knew how to attend business meetings, often over a few courses at a good Italian place, and sell software I had very little idea how to use to companies it may not have been suitable for. The thing to do was make them feel a bit scared – scared so they would consider paying more for a system which had to be better than the one their competitor was using, because it cost more. We sold databases which could archive and store and retrieve data. It was all about data: what to do with it, where to put it, how not to lose it. Data was the word we used most often when meeting clients and trying to sell them our products. Frequently we would impress the people we met and they would sign contracts, and become members of the Xtreme Radical Data Systems family.

But I didn’t stay in software long. I left at about the time a corporate restructure guru finished her audit and decided to merge our operation with our sister company Data Max. This guru – her name was Marg – was not immune to a bit of the old Gordy charm, and she very much enjoyed spending time with me late at night in the executive boardroom while she worked on her report. But nothing happened. Marg just wanted someone to talk to really. She had wanted to sack everybody, but I managed to change her mind. Instead it was generous payouts for all, and an extra big parcel of shares for one executive salesman who was prepared to listen to the problems of a cost-cutting expert, and treat her like a woman rather than a hard-nosed bitch .

Published in: on April 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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