A Humbling Start
As I entered the huge corner suite occupied by the head of the litigation group, I strolled by his secretary’s desk saying, “I assume he’s expecting me.”
Previously in this series: “Baron Rothschild and Me”
“Not likely,” she said. “He’s in New York.”
I stopped dead. “But…” I stammered.
“He doesn’t want you — I do. Do you know what this is?” She was patting a very large three-ring binder sitting on the edge of her desk. I admitted I didn’t. “It’s a list of every client in the firm, with all necessary contact information.”
Thoroughly baffled, I said, “So?”
“You see,” she continued, “Baron Rothschild will be having lunch today at the Pittsburgh Hilton with the mayor and some other dignitaries. Then, at about 1:30, he needs to get to the airport because his private plane is taking him back to Paris.”
Why was she telling me this? Unfortunately, I found out.
“The Baron’s New York lawyers asked if we could arrange for a limousine to take the Baron to the airport, and Mr. M thinks you would be just the guy to handle those arrangements. You are a member of the Copperweld-Imetal legal team, are you not?”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. I said, “Why not just call a limo service?”
The secretary sighed. “This is Pittsburgh, young man, not New York. We don’t have limo services here. Even the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies mostly drive themselves to work. So what you need to do is go through this client list and call around and see if anyone has a limo and if it might be available to take the Baron to the airport this afternoon.”
This was just too, too humiliating. I’d spent three years in law school for this? How could I go back to my bullpen and make these calls in front of my bullpen mates? They would never stop laughing.
But that, of course, is just what I did. And that, of course, is just what they did.
There were hundreds of clients in the three-ring binder and it would be impossible to call them all. It would take days and days and I only had until 1:30. So I decided to call only the clients whose names I’d heard of. If I’d never heard of a client, I figured it was probably too small to have a limo.
The way it worked was, I would look up a client, find the name of the CEO and, more important, his secretary. Then I would call her, introduce myself and the reason for the call. Invariably the secretary would say something like, “Limo? We don’t got no limo!”
I’d worked my way all the way to the Ps and was introducing myself to the secretary of Henry G. Allyn, Jr., president of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. The P&LE was known as “The Little Giant,” because, although it’s route mileage was relatively short (literally from Pittsburgh to just short of Lake Erie) it carried much more tonnage than much larger railroads.
I introduced myself to Allyn’s secretary and continued, “I’m wondering if you could help me. I’m looking for a company that has a limousine and driver and might be available to take Baron Rothschild to the private aviation terminal this afternoon.”
“Oh sure!” she said. “We have a limo and Mr. Allyn’s out of town. We’d love to take the Baron wherever he wants to go!”
Deeply relieved, I asked her to have the limo in front of the Hilton not later than 1:15.
Being a diligent sort of lawyer, even if a not very important one, I presented myself outside the front door of the Hilton Hotel at 1:15. No limo. 1:25, no limo. At 1:30 the front door of the Hilton opened and Baron Rothschild came out, chatting to the mayor and some other people.
My brain was about to explode, but then I noticed a guy wearing a chauffeur’s cap. I hadn’t noticed him before because he was sitting in a tiny, powder-blue Ford Torino. No, I thought, impossible.
I trotted over to the car and rapped my knuckles on the passenger side window. The guy leaned across the front seat and rolled the window down — the car didn’t even have electric windows.
“Excuse me,” I said, “are you by any chance from the P&LE?”
“Yeah!” he said. “I’m ‘ere t’pick up some French guy!”
I sighed deeply, shook my head in exasperation, said, “Wait here,” and walked back to where the Baron and his little group stood talking. I waited politely a bit away from the group, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, but eventually an old coot with gray hair — some local muckety-muck — said, “You want something, kid?”
“I’m an attorney with Reed Smith,” I sniffed. “We’ve arranged for a limo to take Baron Rothschild to the airport.”
The coot passed this information on to the Baron, who promptly looked around for a limo. Not seeing one, he glanced at me inquiringly.
“This way, sir,” I said, and led him to the Ford Torino. While the Baron stared at the car in disbelief, the driver leaped out of the front seat and raced around the front of the car. His cap blew off his head and he had to go back and retrieve it, but then he raced around again and yanked the rear door open.
“How you doin’, bud?” he said to the Baron. “Airport, right?”
Baron Rothschild raised a French eyebrow at me and I smiled weakly. Then he gave a large Gallic shrug and squeezed his lanky frame into the tiny back seat of the Ford. The Torino roared off as I called out, “Bon voyage!”
Next in this series: “A Strange Request: Baron Rothschild and Me, Part III”