Urban Agriculture Scientist meets CEO-1,178 words
| The man held his finger up to me as I entered the door. I took this to mean I should stand in the doorway but he shook his head at me and waved me forward. I wondered if he thought the person on the other end of the phone could see him. Maybe he isn’t even motioning to me. For all I know, he plays charades with the CEO in the skyscraper across from him. He pointed to one of the chairs in front of his desk and I knew that was my cue. I was careful to arrange my long limbs as respectfully as possible. With my unkempt appearance my height was more of a hindrance to being taken seriously rather than credence to authority that it gave most people.
“Listen Daniel, I’m just saying that the report needs to be financially honest. That is the biggest concern. All the other stuff we can work out later with legal or Jenny.” The man was bald. He shaved his head but you could still tell he would have been a chrome-dome anyway. He was the average-American-overweight of his species. Weighing in at more than he should, but still able to get up and down a few flights of stairs if he wanted to. Wouldn’t that be an intimidating introduction for a boxing match? ‘He’s fat, ladies and gentlemen, but he sure can take those stairs to the third floor if he wants to.’ Even the announcer in my head trails off.
“Actually, I’m in a meeting now with the scientist. Yeah, yes, thank you. I assume that you have already had the people in RD talk to him.” His eyes studied me. They appeared to find me as interesting as the empty chair next to me. Hello, empty chair, I feel your pain. Today we are going to talk about money. Yes, I am just as bored with the topic as you probably are.
The man hung up. His plaque read, Douglas Adams, C.E.O. “You must be Dr. Sam Rothgar.” No question. He stuck his hand out for me to shake. I did so as firmly as possible. “Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Adams.” Don’t make a ‘Hitchhiker’s’ joke. Don’t make a ‘Hitchhiker’s’ joke.
“Of course, I was told by my RD team that I should speak with you personally. My RD team usually handles things quite self-sufficiently. My days are usually just made of nodding or shaking my head and signing the paperwork.” Is that what a forced smile looks like? It seems rather painful despite the perfection of his teeth. “Did they tell you what this meeting is for?”
“They told me that my plan of action for the implementation of a skyscraper farm under the umbrella of your company was fiscally sound according to their research of my research but that there was more for you as a CEO to consider.”
He nodded as I spoke. His hands clasped in front of him. “Yes, you have been working with my team for quite awhile now. They speak highly of your research and your ideas. They are pushing me for approval. My PR team says it will make me immensely popular with the ‘green movement’. Legal says that they can easily take care of things on their end. My daughter says this is my chance to ‘give back’ after being so fortunate in all my other business endeavors. The CFO is seeing dollars in our future.”
I thought how this had to be the longest break up speech I had ever been given aside from Margaret Tracy. The girl with two first names and no personality. My next research should look into the use of clichés in break ups.
“Here’s our problem Dr. Rothgar: Money isn’t enough.” He laughed to himself. “Well, money is everything, but so are relationships. You see, a corporation is made up of so many different parts and even when it appears that all the heads are in agreement, all of a sudden you will see three of them rolling across the board room.”
“Yes, but whose heads are we referring to?”
He laughed again. “Well, there is always a chance that one of them will be mine. Do you ever watch Game of Thrones, Dr.?”
“Yes, I have seen the program.” Is this man seriously comparing the two worlds? Actually, nevermind, maybe that isn’t so stupid.
“Then you know how precarious it is to be in a position of power. I want to stay here because I think I am best for this company.”
Not for the six-figure salary? “I understand that, but what about those heads. Why are they rolling exactly?”
He shook his head like he was talking to a toddler. “Your plan involves making a skyscraper that not only produces enough food to feed a quarter of the city but that is powered through its own transparent solar panels. Then selling the organic, local foods at higher prices to local upscale restaurants and donating any extra to food banks.”
“That is correct. But once the skyscraper turns a profit and becomes financially sustainable you could bring the prices down so that other, more affordable grocery stores could buy the produce.”
He held up a hand. “I understand the plan. I was just explaining my side of it. You see, it is a fine plan from your perspective, or the RD team’s perspective, etc., etc., but what about the part of my company that makes it’s money on transporting food?”
“Well, the impact on that is variable and depends on the success of the vertical farm.”
He shook his head. “We both know this idea will catch on.”
“Yes, and once it does your profits will actually exceed what you make on transporting especially with the increases predicted in fuel prices.”
He smiled. “Did my team mention our interest in oil companies?”
“It was alluded to that there was some connection there.”
There was that fake laugh again. “Find me a company without ties to those bloodsuckers and I will give you a million dollars.”
“Seriously?” I saw where he was going with this and that was not the question I wanted to ask.
This time he chuckled. It was slightly more authentic than his 'laugh'. “That offer is on the table, Dr., but I’m afraid your vertical farm has been taken off. I wanted to talk to you personally because if you can find the CEO willing to risk his neck for you, and with the money and balls to pull it off, I wish you well.” He stood and left his hand out for me to shake. I shook it and turned to go, but stopped at the door.
“What about when the oil is all gone? Then how will we build the vertical farms we need?”
He shrugged. “We’ll both be dead by then. And some new scientists will figure it out.” He gave another one of those spray tan commercial smiles and turned to look out his window. I forced myself through the door and to the elevators.