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Thursday, July 13, 2006

A true story...

A melancholic mood hung in the air as two men sat in an upscale bar in downtown Toronto. The men – both lawyers – had spent the past year planning, organizing and fundraising. The stakes had been high and the prize, irresistible: If successful, their guy would win the top job in the land.

The odds, however, had never been in their favour. A Great Rival stood in their way, and his organization was far more impressive. No wonder: He had spent over a decade building his machine, slowly but surely putting together a huge team. The Great Rival had the support of the young and the old, the rich and the poor, from coast to coast and in communities big and small. And these people were loyal – fiercely loyal. They’d stand by him no matter what. Any sane person could see that the prize was his, but the Two Lawyers could never accept this reality. So they fought on, hoping against hope, praying for a miracle.

But now it was over. Their guy – always a smart and honourable man – could see the writing on the wall. He finally threw in the towel, lest he be embarrassed further. Dejected, the Two Lawyers went for a drink to reflect on their loss. They were incredulous. The Great Rival, they knew, was overrated. He had set such high expectations and would never be able to reach them. His promises were numerous and unattainable. How could everyone – nay, anyone – have fallen for his scheme?

An Old Friend entered the bar. He saw the sorrow on the faces of the Two Lawyers. A wily and weathered veteran of the Game, the Old Friend knew why his associates were so sad. He, too, had been burned by the Great Rival. Like so many others, his considerable experience had been shoved aside in favour of “new blood.” But he was shrewd and patient. He knew things would look up, and soon. The Old Friend walked over to the table and sat down.

“Don’t worry,” he told them, wanting to lift their spirits. “The Great Rival has made many mistakes. He’s spread himself too thin, made too many promises to too many people. He’ll never be able to deliver. This Game is a fickle business, after all. People will get restless, anxious, agitated. Surely, he will fail sometime soon.”

“But whatever shall we do?” asked the Two Lawyers. “How can we stop him?”

The Old Friend laughed. “You can’t stop him,” he said. “But you can start to think about next time. It’ll come sooner than you think.”

The Old Friend stopped. He asked himself, was now the time to make his next move? Yes, he decided. Smiling, he rubbed his pudgy little hands together and proceeded: “In fact, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. A brilliant man, thoughtful and articulate. He’s in Paris at the moment. I’m telling you, he’s my new creation – the Next Big Thing!”

Feeling rejuvenated and excited, the Two Lawyers ran straight to the travel agency to plan their voyage. Within days, they were at the steps of a Paris café, ready to meet the Next Big Thing.

And there he was, sitting at a table in the corner, sifting through his notes. Tall, slender and debonair, the Next Big Thing had a brainy, pretentious look about him. The Two Lawyers were instantly nervous. Nevertheless, they walked over to the table and introduced themselves. They explained that their Old Friend had suggested they meet with him firsthand to discuss their future – and his.

The Next Big Thing looked up slowly from his manuscript. His eyes were cold as he stared at the Two Lawyers for the first time. He said nothing for a few seconds, preferring to let the silence hang in the air. His company stood there, more nervous than ever. Finally, with a hint of a smile and a dose of his trademark arrogance, the Next Big Thing pronounced, simply: “What took you so long?”

A friend of mine told me this story a couple of days ago. He swears by his life that it's true. I decided to post it here to let everyone else decide for themselves. I've taken the liberty to add some dramatic elements, but the crux of the story remains unchanged, including the meetings and the famous last sentence. Care to guess what/who this is about?