By Terry Wynne
The call came right after dinner. Harry had prepared tater tots and macaroni and cheese for his daughter. She lived on this stuff. Dangerous food, however, for a middle-aged man to be wolfing down.
O’Reilly sounded in a panic. He had just been let go at the advertising agency they both worked at. Harry was let go a few months earlier, but the layoffs were unrelenting. Eventually, even the CEO got the shaft – with generous stock payoffs to cushion the blow.
“Meet me down at the pub,” said Harry. “You know the place on Third ave and Ovington ave?”
“I remember,” said O’Reilly. “The place with the French Norwegian Italian bartender. How could I ever forget her?
“They got me Harry.”Just as I was almost done with the damn college tuition.”
“You’ll survive,” said Harry. “See you in an hour.”
Almost all of Harry’s friends were either out of work or on the brink due to massive consolidations. If you did a good for job for the agency and it thrived, you were in deep shit because that made it an attractive target for the Wall street mob. Add on that advertising is a young person’s game. Harry knew that going in. He remembered some of older guys dying their hair when they reached middle age back when he started. He swore he would never do that. He swore he would never do a lot of things.
O’Reilly looked worn and tattered but it wasn’t due to hard living. The myth of the three martini lunch had died before both he and Harry had entered the ranks. You worked through lunch and often into the wee hours in their era. Those Mad men were long gone or on their way out in the early 1980s. Of course, beer flowed freely at the Ad League softball parties. But that was once a week through spring and summer. What aged you in advertising was not booze, but constant, unrelenting stress. Pleasing the client no matter what, deadlines, office politics, insecurity, forces beyond your control that you were nevertheless vulnerable to. And it was a dirty business –clients were often won on the strength of relationships instead of good, solid work. You had the old boys network, the Ivy league alumni network, and a ton of other networks that Harry could never fathom. The only place he felt comfortable –the office softball team – all echelons of the agency from the big shots to the mailroom were treated the same.
Danielle had a smile that lit up a room. She was chatting with O’Reilly and that smile was in full force. To her, it was just a job. Play nice with the old guys and be rewarded with a nice tip. O’Reilly was smart enough to realize that, but he looked like he was enjoying himself anyway. “Just because I’m in prison, doesn’t mean I can’t look out the window once in a while” was the familiar refrain among most of Harry’s buddies. It wasn’t fair to the wives, since their lives were not easy either. And these job losses corroded marriages like strong acid. So many broke up due to money issues. To top it off – you lost your insurance. That often put you in deep debt when you had a wife and kids who were always running to the doctor.
“They got me, Harry” said O’Reilly, feigning like he was wounded. “And I dodged a thousand bullets for almost two years.”
“Only takes one,” said Harry. “Did you hear Mike Wilson started a house renovation business?”
“Smart move, said O’Reilly. “What good does that do me? I can’t even hammer a nail without bending it.”
“What are you gentlemen having,” said Danielle. “Give this guy a Guinness,” said Harry.” He is licking his wounds – he just lost his job.”
“In that case, the second round is on me,” said Danielle. “I know what it’s like. We are barely hanging on here. Bayridge is changing – all the Irish and Italians are leaving. The Muslims and Hindus are not big drinkers.”
“We’re doing our best to stop that from happening,” said O’Reilly.
“I would come in more often,” said Harry. “But I can only tell my wife I’m going to the library so many times a week. She figures things out fast.”
Danielle laughed. Harry was not above joking with her. She lifted his spirits with that smile.
“It’s going to kill my marriage,” said O’Reilly. “We are out of gas now and have been for years. She gained 25 pounds after the kids. Did you notice?
“We all gain weight. We all age. We all have a rough ride.”
“It was those damn Hollywood movies and songs, with all the romance,” said O’Reilly. “Marriage ain’t nothing like that and yet we go into it with all these illusions. “
“Some people seem happy,” said Harry
“Anybody we know?” said O’Reilly.
“You got me there, buddy,” said Harry.
“That’s what I’m saying – marriage should come with a warning on the certificate, just like cigarettes and booze – it should say – marriage can be hazardous to your health,” said O’Reilly.
“Who would listen?” said Harry. “Most smokers could care less about that warning.”.
“ Perhaps, in the deep recess of their soul, they want to die,” said O’Reilly.” Same with marriage. Most of us saw our parents and swore it couldn’t be for real. The quibbling, simmering resentment, all that shit. But there it is – that’s what marriage really is – a battle of wills.”
“Ok, Let’s get your network in the groove here,” said Harry. “What about Dom Pelligra over at Medicus?”
“I have no experience with pharma advertising,” said O’Reilly. “ Remember what a joke that used to be. Now it’s everything.”
“What about Mulligan over at Foote Cone?” said Harry. O’Reilly scrunched up his face. “That old drunk? They pushed him out two years ago.”
“What about Maria Romano over at DDB/Needham?”
“She would help I bet, but I hit a line drive a her foot during the softball game last year when she was pitching. She glared at me for a minute. Not sure if there is any good will there.”
“Well, I guess that’s that,” said Harry. “You gotta get busy, old boy!”
Several months went by and the phone rang again, right in the middle of a snooze. Harry often dozed during the Mets games.
“I’m riding high again, Harry,” said O’Reilly. “Maria forgot all about her foot. She made a few calls and got me a senior account job at DDB/Needham. “Everything is digital now. I got to study just to figure out how to pretend I’m with it.”
Apparently, O’Reilly was doing fine for almost a year because Harry didn’t hear from him. Must be tremendously busy trying to pretend he knew digital. Then around Christmas, the call came. “Harry they got me again.”
“”Ok, Let’s meet. I’m getting the notion that you might want to brush up on your hammering skills. Wilson is doing alright down in NC.”
“Is Danielle still working the bar?”
“I have some very bad news so brace yourself,” said Harry. “The Yellowhook closed last month. As Danielle predicted, all the Irish and Italians are gone. But we have one ray of hope. There is a cop and fireman’s pub about ten blocks down third avenue called The Salty Dog.”
“If you consider a ruddy worn out Irishman, who sort of looks like Fred Mertz from “I Love Lucy” TV show as cute, this might be your kind of place”
“You and I are heading for Fred Mertz territory pretty soon ourselves,” said O’Reilly. “Maybe this is where we belong.”
“If it comes to that,” said Harry. “I’m going to stop lying to my wife and actually really go to the library instead of the pub!”
About the Author:
Terence Wynne is a freelance cartoonist whose cartoons have appeared worldwide. He lives in Camillus, New York with his wife, Noghma, his daughter, Gabrielle, and his mother, Marianne. His work includes sight gags, comic strips, children’s books, political cartoons, and caricatures. He devotes his time to cartooning, charity, golf, and softball.