the daily column

How to Grease a Palm

Brilliant article on “The $20 Theory of the Universe” (alternatively, The Power of a 20):

One afternoon, Bobby the bellman alerted me to a corporate meeting at the dinner club next door. “It’s all day,” he said. “They have very nice buffets.”

I decided to scam a lunch. I walked boldly to the door, leaned toward the door-man — you come face-to-face with a lot of young, large black men when you are passing twenties in New York City — and said, “Is this the lunch?” He raised his eyebrows. “I forgot my letter,” I said, holding the twenty pressed flat against the palm of my hand and reaching for the shake. He looked confused; I tried to look equally puzzled and said, “Just give me five minutes.” He took my hand and nodded me in. I went to the buffet, fixed myself a large plate of tiger prawns. I got a beer out of a bucket of ice and sat, balancing it all in my lap. Good shrimp.

It took me fifteen minutes to realize I was listening to a symposium on corporate ethics.

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