Its early May and I have just landed at La Guardia Airport. My five-month European sabbatical has come to a sad and poor end. I stand in queue for a cab and hesitate to dial the numbers to my home in Miami. My mother bailed me out twice throughout my travels and made a concrete menopausal promise to not help me with any more money. “I’m alive. I couldn’t afford a ticket to Miami but had just enough for a one way to NYC.” After paying my cab fare to downtown Manhattan my bank account dropped into the double digits. My luggage is full of dirty clothes and souvenirs. My calendar, like my wallet, is vacant.
I update my Facebook status to “back in the USA and staying in New York’s lower east side until further notice”. The first two days are spent organizing thousands of pictures I took in Europe, observing the unique pedestrians of the city, and reading Paolo Coelho on the roof of my friend’s apartment. This is where I begin to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I receive an unexpected call from an unknown number. With just a “hello” I recognize the voice of an old classmate from Florida State on the line. His tone, which I later come to understand is the norm in New York, suggests urgency, importance, and sleep deprivation. “Chris, I heard you were in New York and I need some extra help for a week. I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked but I’m working for Vanity Fair Magazine. I could really use an extra hand around here. Can you help?” I pause, roll my eyes, and calmly say, “I can be there tomorrow morning.”
According to How to Succeed in Business I am on the right track. The company that publishes Vanity Fair is Condé Nast. They also publish Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and Architectural Digest. The elevator cars are full of interns, editors, designers, and web developers. It’s so big that nobody knows exactly what anyone else is doing. Condé Nast offices sit in the heart of Times Square, hence fit How to Succeeds Big City requirement. Being that Vanity Fair is a publication it nullifies the warning of working for a service company.
As I hang up the phone my calm voice transforms into a loud pig squealing sound. I climb out of the apartment window and onto the fire escape like a scene from West Side Story. My European easygoing attitude had led me to accept that I couldn’t afford a flight home and rewarded me with an “in” at one of the most renowned Magazine Publishers in the world. “Though you, as a keen young man, must plot a straight course and an accurate one for your business career, leaving little to chance, you must nevertheless be ready on an instant’s notice for the knock of Opportunity” (Mead 5).
I phone a friend and borrow a set of clean clothes, as the dirty rags in my suitcase would ruin any chances of turning this one-week gig into a long-term position. “Dress at all times as though you were attending an informal wedding or tea dance” (Mead 17). A quick shoeshine from a man at the 2nd Avenue F subway station complimented my neatly parted and gelled hair. After a short 12-minute ride I emerge from the Times Square station and gaze up at the flashing lights. It was my time to succeed.
I enter the lobby of the Condé Nast building, check in with security, and diligently make my way to the 22nd floor. The elevator doors open to a long white hallway that was probably decorated by a Parsons interior design graduate with a passion for minimalism and hygiene. Walking through the tall glass doors revealed a different environment. Clothing racks cluttered the hallways and desks were disarranged with coffee mugs and sticky notes. I found my friend and before I could ask him how he was doing I was sent to pick up a suit at Louis Vuitton. My Devil Wears Prada tasks continued all day until 8 pm when pizza came and everyone finally stopped working. I took it upon myself to meander around the office since no one seemed to have time to show me around. The lights from Time Square illuminated the office as if the sun were at high noon. Like an invisible snake I gave myself a tour of the entire floor. No one knew who I was. I dragged myself home and waste no time in learning the names of as many editors as possible. After doing some research I stumble upon the twitter belonging to Michael Carl, the fashion-marketing director, whose office is closest to my work area.
I come in early to work that day with the intention to be noticed. Michael Carl skips into his office around 10 am and I waste no time in saying good morning. I walk into his room and he looks at me like a puzzled Pug. “Yes?” “Just wanted to say good morning Mr. Carl. Can I get you coffee?” “Sure, ask my assistant how I like it.” I walk to the Starbucks on Broadway “Venti iced coffee half decaf half calf please two splendas.”
Walking into Mr. Carls office (which I later learned I shouldn’t do) I start looking at the walls and bookshelves for something to spark conversation. “Your original Fendi lucky cat is very William Blake of you.” Two minutes, which in New York time is equivalent to half an hour, pass and I was pulling as many facts as I could about William Blake’s obsession with originality. The rest of the day was spent picking up looks from fabulous designers. I picked up 3 or 4 orders and purposefully walked by Carls office pretending to carry 200 pounds in true Quasimoto style. In reality I was carrying two tops and a pair of shoes. How to Succeed suggests you to own the look of suffering and to use a successful businessman’s hobby (his lucky cat) to your advantage.
The week went splendidly and I got to work on the set of a James Bond shoot. My conditioned European laid back feeling and innate Hispanic motherly qualities came in handy whenever things got a little chaotic. The bond girls were covered in a thick gold molasses of paint and glitter. Paired with moist air and a cloudless summer sky the paint was rubbing off on Tom Ford suits and loafers. Everyone, including photographer Annie Leibovitz, was genuinely annoyed. Thankfully the festive intern (me) kept a close eye and had a fresh set of clothes ready before anyone could begin to notice the oozing gold magma on the high-end clothing.
It’s the last day of the week and it flew by faster than an upper west sider headed to the Barney’s sale. My miserable face is natural as Mr. Carl walks up to me and asks, “is this really your last day?” I confidently respond, “well my offer was for a week so I had only planned for that. But if you had a position for the summer I’d love to stay.” After asking the supervisor to officially stay and completing some clerical housekeeping I was officially set for the summer. This is my story of success on Broadway and 42 street.