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The Bank Job

Leon [1]is far too blithe about the World Bank proceedings. While the mahogany-table part runs long on “blah, blah, blah,” the street scene is serious business.

A couple of years ago, after a speech at the National Press Club, I invited questions. A spindly fellow, who would have put Rapunzel to shame, rose in the back and asked the worst possible question: “Do you remember me?”

The audience swiveled in their seats. For the first time that day, I wasn’t boring them. He waited politely. I rifled through my mental rolodex, desperate for some hint, some plausible bluff. No luck. “Perhaps you’ll remind me afterwards?” The crowd chuckled. He paused, savoring his elevated status, then nodded benevolently.

Turned out we’d gone to grad school together. “I was the guy with the glasses and the bike,” he offered by way of undistinguishing detail.

“What do you do now?” I asked, dutifully following the D.C. script.

“I protest the World Bank.” No trace of irony.

“Full-time?” Brilliant follow-up there. Emily Post hadn’t prepared me for this.

“Oh yes, though some times are busier than others.” I opted for nodding over more dumb-D.C.isms.

“And look at you,” he said, grimacing at my suit. “Working at a magazine.” His disappointment was obvious. I was doing so little to justify my degree.