November 21, 2023
Sometimes we simply have to be able to laugh at ourselves and take things just a little less seriously. This is an attempt at that piece of advice.
I have been struggling with weight problems for the better part of the past thirty years. Second and even third helpings at the smorgasbord was natural behavior for me over the decades. And that doesn’t even begin to address my love for cherry cheesecake, fudge brownies, pecan pie and tiramisu.
In those years when I toiled for Mother Merrill from 2002 to 2009, I was wining and dining with clients practically every night. The vino alone absorbed more than my allowable daily calorie count those days. And I ballooned to well over 250 pounds. I not only made sure I was heard but also that I was seen.
So where am I going with this? Well, one trip to Boston in my latter years at the bank was an inflection point and put me on the path of a vigorous weight-loss program. But it took a truly embarrassing episode in my life for this to happen.
After a busy day of marketing, I had an hour or so to chill at my hotel room ahead of a keynote dinner address. Just as I was about to put the key in the door, I dropped a few pieces of paper from my file folder and as I bent over to pick them up, I heard this very loud rip. This was one of those moments when you start to think of Wile E. Coyote before he looks down. As I stand up and go “uh oh”, I check out what happened, and… I split my pants. Now we are not talking about some little rip here. Everything was torn from my derrière to my crotch. And, of course, I only came to Beantown with this one suit (big mistake!).
The rip had to be at least a foot long. There was no way of disguising it. And I had barely more than an hour before needing to go deliver my dinner speech at the hotel ballroom. Frantic is not a strong enough word. So, what do I do? I run down, grab a cab and quickly get my EA extraordinaire, Francine, on the phone. I tell her what happened and she conferences me in to one of the Merrill salespeople, my good pal, Andy Winton to help us out. So, Andy is telling us over the phone which tailor shops are nearby but it is well after 5 pm so each one he recommends is closed. It was hard to hear what he was saying, as I recall, because between words he just kept on howling. Gales of laughter. Thanks, Andy! There was no way for me to hide the tear in my trousers and I was starting to think that maybe I would just do the speech in my hotel bathrobe.
Ultimately, Andy finds a clothing repair shop that was open for another half hour, not too far away from the hotel. The cab driver, who is also finding the whole thing rather humorous, steps on the gas and gets me there. We arrive at this Mom-and-Pop shop, run by an elderly Chinese couple in a seedy part of the downtown core. But they see me right away. There was no changing room, if you can believe it, so I am there at this shop in my shoes, shirt, and jacket — but no pants. I’m standing in the open in my undies, and just as I was thinking, “Thank God it’s late and this shop is about to close”, three women walk in. This Rosie turned a certain shade of red, that much I can assure you. They were aghast, but my embarrassment was overwhelmed by my concern that I wouldn’t make it to my speech – or at least with my slacks on.
The husband does yeoman’s work and stitches up the pants within thirty minutes. But he doesn’t speak much English at all, so he gets his daughter to come into the shop to be the interpreter, and she tells me that under no circumstances am I to sit down. If I sit, the stiches will tear. And I am told that the suit is basically ruined and has a shelf life of that evening and that is it – but, again, only if I keep standing. I’m wondering, “If I can’t sit in the cab on the way back to the hotel, how will I get back?”. Believe it or not, I get into a taxi, and as I get into the back seat, I pull my pants down to my ankles. I kid you not.
I get back to the hotel and quickly make my way to the ballroom. Thank the Good Lord that I wasn’t late. But I didn’t realize that I was being placed before my speech at the head table. I go up on stage but am eating my meal standing up. The senior Merrill banker who was to introduce me asks me to sit down and eat, so I quickly say “I pulled a muscle in my back so I can’t sit”. Good thinking, eh? So, I am in front of about 500 people, on stage, and eating while I am standing up. Slightly less embarrassing than being semi-clothed in the open at that tailor shop, but still a very weird look. At least I didn’t drop any food on my shirt.
I gave the speech, fielded questions at the bar afterwards, and then headed back to my hotel room. My flight back to New York was the next morning and I know that I’m going to have no choice but to sit down on the airplane – and of course, as I did, the stitches burst and the gaping rip in my trousers re-emerged. But all I had to do was pray that I wouldn’t know anyone at the airport when I landed, and certainly nobody from the media.
I went straight to my apartment, changed suits, and headed to the office. But at that point, what happened to me had gone viral across the Merrill system and everybody shared a great big laugh. Those Boston sales folks – good friends, don’t you think? But nobody laughed harder than Francine, who at my goodbye party when I left Merrill in the spring of 2009, got up to speak (everyone had to talk about their favorite “Dave story”) and recounted that evening in Boston. She brought the house down, I have to admit… and even I found myself in tears.
Lessons learnt. The first one being always travel with more than one suit when on business. The second – go on a diet! Which I did. Trouser splits meant no more banana splits for yours truly. And I ended up dropping 30 pounds in the next six months, so something good came out of this entire bizarre episode. The third lesson is what I said at the beginning: laugh at yourself and while you do that, try and find the silver lining (and make sure that the lining in your pants is made out of wool, not cotton!).
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