Monday, November 24, 2008

CEOs May Ditch Jets & Carpool to D.C.

CEOs May Ditch Jets & Carpool to D.C.

The private jets were out. The Detroit auto executives decided to car pool to Washington, D.C., for their next round of beggin-- negotiations. Alan Mulally insisted they drive in a Ford. Rick Wagoner demanded they travel in GM vehicle. Robert Nardelli played peacemaker and suggested they travel in a Nissan. "So nobody can accuse us of using the occasion for free advertising," he explained. The truth was, he couldn't think of a Chrysler product that could make the journey.

After 50 hours of negotiations involving a phalanx of 32 corporate attorneys, it was decided that Rick Wagoner would take the first shift driving. Another two days of negotiations, with 29 lawyers, was needed to determine their route to Washington, D.C. At the end of which, Alan Mulally smilingly said to his CEO brethren, "This is the kind of 'get-er-done' spirit we need to show Congress!" But he had spoken too soon -- it took another three days of intense negotiations to settle on who would ride shotgun first. Mulally won that fight, though Nardelli vowed to take the case to court when they returned.

And so, on November 30th, the "three blind mice" as the blogosphere referred to them, struck out on the road in a Nissan Altima headed for the nation's capital.

About two hours out of Detroit, Robert Nardelli -- sulking in the backseat, arms folded, complaining that he was cold -- sighed for twentieth time and said, "My stomach hurts in a way that means I need to eat some food."

Wagoner and Mulally exchanged looks. "You mean you're hungry?" Mulally said in a mocking tone.

"This is when my P.A. gives me a muffin and a can of red energy drink," Nardelli said.

His statement was met by silence.

"I said, 'This is when my P.A. --'" Nardelli began again, but was cut off by Wagoner: "Well, your P.A.'s not here. What do you want us to do?"

"Gimme my muffin and energy drink!"

"The lawyers hit a stalemate on what snacks we'd bring and who would pay for them," Mulally said. "We don't have anything." What Mulally didn't say was that his P.A. had hidden a cooler containing a lobster meal, a thermos of cognac and a $1,000 cigar in a rest stop MENS room along the way.

"I need something to eat!" Nardelli shouted. Hearing the frayed note in his voice, Wagoner thought it best to appease Nardelli. He figured any person who would kibash employees' health care at Home Depot so that he could walk away with a $210 million severance package, might try to take a bite out of the side of his head.

Wagoner found an exit that led to a strip of fast food restaurants and gas stations. "So, where do you want to go? McDonald's? Taco Bell?"

Mulally said, "He wants a muffin, so we should go to Dunkin' Donuts."

They pulled into a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot. Nardelli didn't move.

"You going to get a muffin, or what?" Mulally said.

"What?" Nardelli said. "Don't they bring them out to us?"

"No," Wagoner said, impatient. "I've seen this on television -- you go in there and tell them what you want."

"Go in?" Nardelli said, uneasy. "The place is filled with Plebeians. They'll see who I am and tackle me, and rob me . . . and perform strange sexual rituals with my penis."

"Neither of us is going in there for you," Wagoner said. "My gawd, man, what're you gonna do when you have to use a rest room?"

Nardelli looked nervously at Wagoner in the rearview mirror. He then reached into a pocket and pulled out a large ziploc baggie. "My P.A. gave me this to go in."

"Are you going to get a muffin, or what?" Mulally said, testy.

"Forget it," Nardelli said, caressing the ziploc baggie. "The place is full of Plebes."

* * *

Soon, it was Mulally's turn to drive, as per the 139-page legal agreement drawn up by the corporate lawyers. His P.A. had briefed him on what "rest stops" were and at which one the cooler with the lobster meal was hidden. If it wasn't for the fact that his P.A. feared for his life every moment he was in his boss's presence, Mulally would have thought his P.A. had been joking about these so-called "rest stops". Could there really be a designated area along an interstate highway equipped with toilets and maps and something called "picnic tables"? Mulally had one of his kids do an Internet search on it and now carried with him a print-out of the Wikipedia page on "Rest Areas." He hoped these were the same thing.

When he pulled into the rest stop, Wagoner and Nardelli looked at Mulally as though he was an astronaut proposing to leave the capsule without putting on a space suit.

"You're going out there?" Nardelli asked, horrified. "What if you catch the AIDS? You'll bring it back here and kill us all!"

"Have you thought this through?" Wagoner said, trying to mask his own dismay. Mulally assured him he had and got out of the car. When he looked back, he saw Nardelli opening the large ziploc baggie -- readying it for use -- and saw Wagoner cringing against the passenger side door, aghast.

As Mulally approached the rest stop MENS room, he made a silent vow to have his P.A. disfigured and then fired. The rest stop was a primitive, box-like structure, and it appeared to have absolutely no security. Mulally would immolate his P.A. for sending him into a place that had no security.

Inside the MENS room, he found the stall with the OUT OF ORDER sign on the door. He went into that stall and found the cooler fastened to the back of the door. He set the lid on the toilet seat and sat down, and then feasted upon lobster and mussells and king crab, sipping cognac from something called a "thermos." When his meal was done, he sat back and lit the $1,000 cigar. What would the gents at the Club think if they could see him now? Just like the pioneers on the wagon trains that discovered America, he thought blowing smoke dollar signs into the air.

* * *

It was only when Nardelli took his turn driving that all three executives learned he could not drive. He weaved all over the highway, alternately flooring the accelerator and jumping onto the brake. A chorus of car horns surrouned them.

"Why are you cranking the steering wheel when all you have to do is go straight?" Mulally shrieked from the back seat.

"I think one of us should take the wheel," Wagoner said.

"No!" Nardelli screamed. "I didn't wrack up thirty-thousand dollars in legal fees over the driving schedule to have you take my turn away from me!"

"But you can't drive!" Wagoner said as Nardelli swung wide around a transport truck, nearly side-swiping a minivan.

"Gawddamned minivans," Nardelli growled.

"If you kill us," Mulally shouted, bracing himself with a hand on one of the back doors and the other on the ceiling, "your ex-wives will get everything!"

It was only then that Nardelli allowed Wagoner to help him steer to the side of the highway to change drivers.

* * *

As night fell, they were hardly halfway through the state of Pennsylvania. By this time, all three executives' stomachs hurt in a way that meant they needed to eat some food. After hours of arguing and rounds of arm-wrestling on the hood of the car at the shoulder of the highway, it was decided Rick Wagoner would incur the cost of calling his P.A. on his cell phone.

"I want some food to eat," Wagoner barked into his phone. His P.A. back in Michigan used a computer to locate Wagoner's position using the GPS chip in his cell phone. When he determined his boss's whereabouts, Wagoner's P.A. ordered a pizza, paying for it with his own credit card.

Half an hour later, headlights appeared behind the Nissan Altima at the side of the highway.

"It's the Plebeians!" Nardelli croaked. "They've tracked us! They're gonna pull us out of this car, strip us naked and mutilate our penises!"

"If they do, it'll be all your fault!" Mulally shouted, unhinged. "Jeezus, man! That Home Depot golden parachute was so gross, it actually embarrassed the rest of us!"

"You're just jealous!" Nardelli shot back. "You're all jealous of me! Everybody is! Everyone wishes they were me and they hate me for it!"

"No, they hate you because you're you," Wagoner said, watching a person get out of the car behind them. The person carried a wide, flat box.

There was a knock on the rear, driver's side window. The three executives gasped with horror. Wagoner's cell phone rang. He pulled the phone out of his pocket with a shaking hand. It was his P.A. telling him his food had arrived.

"What do I do?" Wagoner moaned into the phone.

"Just open the car door and accept the food," the P.A. said.

"Open the door? Are you insane?"

"Then roll down the window. He won't hurt you. It's probably just a teenager."

Deciding in that moment to have his P.A. mangled, regardless if the person outside the car was just a teenager or a crazed murderer, Wagoner said, "OK."

He opened the window and the delivery guy passed a pizza box through. The smell of warm food filled the car immediately, supplanting the rank baseness that permeated Nardelli's well-used ziploc baggie. Wagoner opened the box and shoved pizza into his mouth.

"Hey, pass some up here," Mulally said.

"Fuck you!" Wagoner said around a mouthful of pizza. "This is my food!"

"That's my food!" Nardelli said, who assumed that anything anyone possessed in his presence was, in fact, his. "Gimme my food!"

Mulally and Nardelli pulled at the box. Wagoner leaned back and flailed with his feet. Mulally dove into the backseat and Nardelli followed him. They flattened the pizza as they punched and scratched Wagoner. Soon, the pizza carton was ripped open and all three executives clawed the pizza, shoving handfuls into their mouths, and fighting each other with their free hands.

In the midst of the melee, Nardelli's ziploc bag burst open.

* * *

At Pittsburgh National Airport, three private jets belonging to Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, landed. An army of personal assistants disembarked and hurried into waiting cars, which immediately took off to locate the Nissan Altima containing their chief executive officers.

The corporate leaders were found in a dreadful state: bruised, reeking of human waste, covered with scratches and pizza toppings. Each entourage wrapped their respective executive in a blanket and whisked him off to the nearest Four Seasons Hotel. Each had his own floor reserved so that there was no chance they would run into one another.

The executives were attended by their personal physicians, psychoanalysts, hypnotists and mistresses. After being propped up with duladid, morticians' make-up and cortezone shots, the three blind mice were ready to face Congress. Three lookalikes had been arranged to drive a Nissan Altima into Washington, D.C., feigning completion of the carpool trip. The executives were flown into Dulles International Airport in their respective corporate jets. This time, when questioned by reporters, each flight crew was instructed to say that the plane was, in fact, owned by John Travolta.

* * *

The hearings before Congress opened with Robert Nardelli addressing the legislators, "We come before you a united force ready to harness our synergies and shift the paradigm. We are the corporate leaders who will use this money most wisely."

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