Mark Bates, COO

Cycling

The sun shone in brightly through the window, waking me up instantly. What time is it? As I glanced over at my bedside clock, the digital readout bled a green six, followed by a green colon and two zeros. “Mark! Get out of bed or you’ll be late for your interview!” Jason hollered at me, and it’d do him some good to know I was already up. Now, I was up with bleeding eardrums. The walls in the apartment were already paper-thin, there was no need for him to raise his voice. So I yelled back, “Shut up, you big oaf! I still have an hour and a half to get uptown!”

Living in Greenwich Village had its ups, including the nightlife, the company of some of the greatest writers and musicians and the singles scene (even though I wasn’t currently in the market). But by the time six o’clock rolled around, the entire village was abuzz somehow. How they could stay up “trading war stories (whatever that meant) and swashbuckling (seriously?)” as Jason so eloquently put it, was beyond me. Personally, I need a solid seven and a half hours of sleep every night. Especially on the night before an interview with the head designer of Barney’s.

I turned and looked at the clock again. This time, there were two sixes, spliced by a one. I hate when I fall back asleep for a bit after my initial awakening! Ok, now it’s really time to get up. After going through the motions, I pulled on my new self-edge denim which I bought special for this occasion (and boy were they stiff!), put on a white button-up, a skinny black tie complete with sterling silver tie bar, a vest I picked up from some antique shop in SoHo last week, and to top it all off, the fedora Jason got me for my birthday. After putting on my brown double monk-straps from Bergdorf, I was ready to go.

“Get your butt out here already, it’s 6:45! You want to get there at a reasonable time if you’re going to land this job,” Jason yelled through the walls again. I rounded the corner and there he was in all his glory. Sitting at the counter in his bathrobe seemed to be one of Jason’s favorite pastimes, and he would hop to it as often as his job as a jean salesman at the Jean Shop a few blocks down would allow him…which meant often. “OK, I’m off. Wish me luck!” And with that, I grabbed the lunch he had made for me (I hope it’s not a sardine and egg sandwich like last time) and skipped down the front steps.

It was a beautiful day out and if I had the time, I would walk the 34 blocks to the office, but I didn’t, so I walked to the train station again, all along remembering how lucky I was to have gotten this interview. So many things needed to fall into exactly the right place at exactly the right time, or else I wouldn’t be where I was today…walking to the train.

If I hadn’t taken the job with Jason at the Jean Shop, Melanie would have never discovered my skill set which is unique to me, and would have never suggested my name to her dad a few weeks ago. And if I hadn’t gone to dinner with her father, than Spud Dickinson, M.D., would have never had the chance to discover just how qualified I am to be in a managerial position, simply through intuition! And if Spud hadn’t suggested my name to his dear buddy, “good old Cay Grant” (in his own words), then the CEO of Barney’s New York would have never given me this rare opportunity.

The last Chief Operating Officer didn’t last long once he was discovered having a scandal with Grant’s wife. Now, it was my job to prove to the big man that I wasn’t interested in his wife. To prove that I wasn’t interested in anyone’s wife, for that matter. To prove that I was interested in running the most successful, multi faceted, stylish, high end clothing retailer in the greater New York area. This was just the opportunity I had been waiting for, just the opportunity I had been building up my resumé for with smalltime gigs such as A.C.P. Denim, Band of Outsiders, Ben Sherman and Jean Shop in SoHo.

The intercom suddenly boomed overhead, “Next stop, 57th street,” and I stood up, ready for my meeting with destiny. After getting off the subway, I sat down at the first shoeshine I saw, and had him do a number on my double monk-straps while I perused the paper, reading everything but absorbing nothing. “Nice day, sir.” The shiner was striking up conversation with me, but do I respond? The point of a shoeshine was to give me a sense of affluence; a feeling of being pretentious. If I open up any channels of communication with this lowly servant, kneeling on the floor to rub the dirt off of my bordeaux shoes, will I still be able to hold myself above him or become just like him? I think I’ll keep it noncommittal. A grunt should do.

After the grunt, the boy didn’t try to spark up any more conversation, which I guess meant the grunt was committal after all. Oh well, I tipped him a five spot – he better appreciate it. After a quick glance at my watch, I realized I had a quarter of an hour to walk the two avenues, so I walked briskly, careful not to scuff off any of the new polish on my $500 oxfords. Finally, I arrived at the place, 417 57th st., and walked into the front door, hopefully for the first time out of many more.

“Can I help you?” asked the sentry, who had a striking resemblance to this year’s Mr. Olympia, and was guarding the revolving doors. Although I offered him a smile, there was no such facial expression returned – just a quick frown and a small shake of the head. “Yes, I have a 7:30 appointment with Mr. Grant.” “Eleventh floor,” came the response, emotionless and listless, just like its master. After signing a visitor pass for me, the mountain of muscle moved out of the way and granted me entry.

My heartbeat sped up from what must have been 80 bpm to what felt like 180 bpm – as if I was out running a marathon! I hope my face didn’t show my excitement. All I had to do was remember that I’m as good as these guys, and I’ll be fine. These guys are no better than I am, and I have so much to offer them. They’d be foolish to turn away a gift like me.

As the elevator doors opened, I walked out into a sight I could most easily describe as the entryway into an indoor forest, if that makes any sense. My senses overwhelmed me as the smell of dew, foliage and moist soil hit me square in the face. The sight of all the trees, animals and lack of business-like atmosphere was almost too strange, even for a village-native city-slicker like me. As I walked over and touched the nearest plant (yup, it was real) I heard a loud cawing, and realized that there were several cockatoos hanging from some branches where the ceiling should have been.

“Mr. Bates?” Mark traced the sound to a beautiful secretary sitting cross legged on what seemed to be a chair fashioned from a stump, and walked over to where she was. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, miss…” “Just miss,” came the reply with a small grin. “OK then, miss. What’s going on here?” Miss replied, “I would love to tell you, but your interview is in thirty seconds. Please, just follow the path and walk through the vines at the end,” she said with a smile. Follow the path…seems simple enough. As I got to the vines, it was all just a bit too freaky, but then the vines gave way to a doorway, two lardge, double mahogany doors staring down on me, and once Mr. Grant opened them to a normal office, I felt a little more at ease.

“Mr.Bates!DoyoumindifIcallyouMarkAh,wellIhopeyoudon’tcauseI’mgoingtoanyways,” came the reply at the speed of roughly a million words per minute. After registering what Mr. Grant just said to him, Mark fumbled sheepishly with the question, then blurted out, “No, of course not, sure, go ahead.” Grinning from ear to ear, Cary motioned to a chair and said, “Great! Well take a seat.” With me on one side of a marble table which must have been ten feet long and six feet wide, and him on the other, he seemed pretty comfortable to be in the dominant position.

I took a seat and asked, “Mr. Grant?” “Please, call me Cary, everyone else does.” “Cary, what’s going on outside with all of the plants and animals?” Cary answered, “You like that, don’t you? It’s where I go to get my mind serene. To relax. I’m thinking of doing the entire building over like that. What do you think?” I thought about it for a second, then said, “It’s great and all, but isn’t it a little extreme?” Cary seemed to have had a 50 lb. Weight lifted off his chest at that moment as he appeared to rise into the air a bit. His answer was, “You are just the man for the job. Someone who shares my ideas but isn’t afraid to be honest with me.” And with that, we shook hands.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. As I arose from my seat, Cary instructed me as to when he would begin, where he would go and Stacy (the secretary who went by ‘Miss’) would give him the rest. I was banking on Stacy knowing her stuff, cause I just couldn’t concentrate. I was so overcome with joy. As I opened the double doors, I was met with a very troubling sight. Running towards me, at full speed, was Jason with a murderous look in his eyes.

Alarmed, I screamed towards him, “Jason?! What’s going-” and just then, he took a swing at my face, missing by just inches. His fist landed just behind my head and made contact with a soft vine. I turned around, palms up to face him again, but he was already on the attack. He lunged at me, driving me back through the doors from whence I came. We both went spiraling across the humongous desk and hit the window behind it. I heard a hairline crack, and quickly got to my feet, thinking a fall from this height would kill us both. But what was causing Jason to attack me? Before I had a chance to contemplate it, he yelled at me, “ It’s your fault!! It’s all your fault! The same dull life in the same tiny apartment that we’re overpaying for with all the writers and musicians, and everyone’s the same! They’re all deep?! No! They’re empty! They’re full of garbage!!” And with that, he came running at me again, but I parried, causing him to fly right into the window, cracking it, and going tumbling out along with it.

I screamed, mostly out of fear, but I then realized, that I was terribly sad. The second I came to the realization that I had lost my roommate and “best friend”, my world began to stop. And with that, I blanked out. I blanked out right beside the window and I fell down, down, down. All the way to my doom.

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