Food and Leverage

At a party with busines contacts, including a representative from Citigroup…

FSOwalla:  “Actually Citi is my credit card company.”

Mr. Citigroup:  “Well let me know if you have any bottlenecks that I can unjam for you.”

Bottlenecks remind me of the multiple on-ramps to the Ft. Pitt Tunnel (going towards the airport), which was once called the “worst bottleneck east of the Mississppi,” and on better days of a fresh lime wedged into a Corona.  What Mr. Citigroup meant, of course, is that he could sort out any problems I might have with non-responsive customer service reps, or problematic charges, or maybe he could help me obtain a lower interest rate.  This is what business people do every day, and it made me wonder about a term that I’ve heard often lately: leverage.

If you’re a fixer, the guy who can get things done, who can connect north to south, and Ross to Rachel in less than 10 seasons…in short,  if you are the businessman’s Jack Bauer, then you provide leverage.  Possible phrases you might use in Cal: 

  • “I leveraged a meeting with the Finance Minister.”
  • “I can leverage a deal between you and Mr. Roy’s petrochemical company.”

Leverage is a way of making yourself relevant.  Relevant to a business community, to your friends, to yourself perhaps.  I don’t know why I find it a strange concept — I think it’s because in some ways I believe that it should be assumed that I should be able to provide as much leverage as the next guy — I don’t need you, Mr. Lobbyist, just let me speak directly to the Senator — naive, I know. 

As a diplomat, you have plenty of oppotunities to provide leverage, in fact you leverage U.S. interests through your Wal-Mart like collection of people skills, local knowledge, and know-it-all attitude.  Though in the eyes of some people it doesn’t pay enough.  

But if that gets you down, it doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s any fun.  I speak with these well-to-do business types, and it’s clear that some are having fun, where fun means flying to cities and ordering expensive drinks and staying at hotels listed as “must-stays” in magazines that you “must read.”  To be honest, I think I’d find a lot of these guys at the sorts of places that I just wouldn’t go.  In Phuket instead of Rai-Lei.  In Atlantic City instead of Las Vegas.  Stealing complimentary mini-whisky bottles from the airlines in business class.  

Maybe that’s harsh.  But why worry about their feelings?  You can leverage happiness, right?.  


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