Fenno and the Race to the Charles Hotel


The Holy Grail

FENNO CHECKED his watch – it was already five past twelve. The professor had continued to drone well past the class’ endpoint, and the law review types (who had decided they were all budding academics as soon as they’d won the writing competition) were not helping things with their buzzwordy questions about the Coase theorem or communicative action theory.

He glanced around: there were at least seven seatmates blocking an early exit from the room, and nearly all of them were deeply engrossed in the closing moments of intense G-Chat conversations. Fenno sighed, for he now had only fourteen minutes to make it to the Charles Hotel.

The air was crispening: autumn had arrived, and OCI was in full swing. These were the times, Fenno thought, that tried men’s souls. He’d been in top form striding into class, smartly clad in his new suit and crest-covered cravat. This above all was the day he’d been waiting for: the interview with the firm of his dreams. Rising that morning, Fenno’s mind had swirled with the imagined spoils of victory: the corner office high above Midtown, where groveling Wall Street clients would lay their last (but still vast) riches at his feet, begging in fealty for his carefully-crafted legal acumen, desperate to save their dwindling fortunes from the regulators’ wrathful clutch.

And yet: all would be for naught if Fenno didn’t make it to the Charles – and make it, at that, with time enough to check his hair, straighten his tie, and have the requisite small-talk with the overeager associates playing gatekeepers in the hospitality suite. Not to mention: Fenno’s stomach was growling, and he could definitely use a chocolate pretzel. This had not been a day when – in the absence of a hearty Harkness lunch – the professor’s decision to examine the comparatively “fun” case of Frito-Lay Inc. v. Bettie Crocker Enterprises had been especially welcome.

But, mercifully, class was brought to a close – and the donners of ironed shirts and pleated pantsuits were off. One by one, Fenno toppled his classmates, fumbling over desks and chairs. He emerged, finally, at the back of the room, exited the building, and beheld the glorious September sunlight – he was free!

The path to the Charles lay wide open, and Fenno began an industrious trot in the direction of the Science Center. Yet just when it seemed as if there was nothing but undergrads ahead of him, Fenno was accosted by two Berkman Center hippies in full regalia: leather sandals, thick glasses, unctuous ponytails.

“Fenno!” one cried out. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Why aren’t you on Sidebar yet? We sent you ten invitations.””Uh, um, what?” Fenno stammered, trying to affect even greater impatience than he was feeling just then.

“The Sidebar network,” they insisted. “It’s the next big thing for you digital natives. We’ve designed it with your generation in mind” – the Berkmanites scratched their silver hair – “but for some reason, none of you are signing up.”

“Yeah – um – I’ll get back to you on that,” Fenno volunteered. “Why don’t you send me an eVite or something?””Of course!” they exclaimed, burrowing for their laptops.

“No, no,” Fenno counseled. “There’s no hotspot here! Head back toward the Hark.” They went flailing like dogs after a stick, and Fenno was back on track: ten minutes to spare. He began a histrionic gallup in the direction of the Square.

Nearing the street, however, Fenno encountered another dreaded obstacle: there, retiring after a morning of fevered interviewing, was a member of his old 1L section, someone Fenno hadn’t even seen – let alone spoken to – since Torts. Such was the dread Fenno felt while approaching this long-lost acquaintance – for there was no avoiding him – that he did not even notice the small but steady rainshower that had begun to dampen the shoulders of his suit.

“Fenno!” chirped the old sectionmate. “Long time no see! What are you taking? How was your summer? Did you hear the gossip about…”

There was nowhere near enough time for this, Fenno thought. The awkward pauses alone would take up the entire time he needed to make it to the Charles. Adjusting his tie, glancing down at his shoes, Fenno avoided his old classmate and went straight for a clipboard-wielding activist nearby.

“Don’t you have a second to help the environment?” the earnest-faced organizer reproached.

“Not this one,” muttered Fenno, “but it’s your lucky day. See that guy over there?” He pointed out his old 1L chum. “He’s the biggest closet environmentalist you’ll ever meet. Just talk to him for fifteen minutes or so about polar bears and watch him shell out.”

A melting ice cap-sized smile broke out on the young Greenpeace girl’s face as she rushed in the 1L friend’s direction. Fenno, meanwhile, was safe.

Pedestrians had begun to break out umbrellas to battle the oncoming rain, but Fenno hardly noticed: he’d made it to the Charles with at least four minutes to spare. It was a miracle, he thought, that he’d remembered the number of the hospitality suite, and even recalled the name of the partner scheduled to interview him – in order to forego the pleasantries, if necessary. Checking his hair in the reflection on the bronze doors of the hotel’s large, well-appointed elevator – the Charles, he thought, was a nice little microcosm of the wealth and wonder that awaited him on Wall Street – Fenno decided he would pop in on the greeting gang after all: a victory lap, of sorts. Finally, he alighted at his destination – Floor 10. Far beneath him, the city, poor place, was being battered by what looked like a torrent of pea-sized hail.

None of it shook Fenno. He walked into the hospitality suite feeling clean, calm, collected. He introduced himself without incident, and even snuck a chocolate pretzel. Patiently, he waitedoutside the partner’s door. Soon, Fenno’s big moment arrived. The door opened, the partner’s hand extended, and Fenno introduced himself, announcing how excited he would be to work for this great firm.

There was only one problem. “Son,” the partner intoned, with obvious sympathy, “I’m afraid you got the wrong office. You’re supposed to be interviewing over at the Faculty Club. Seems like you do have yourself at least a minute or two…”

But Fenno wasn’t listening after that. Instead, his eyes were focused out the window, into the maelstrom, starkly contemplating his quandary: a mad dash to the Faculty Club, or a dream job foregone. Reaching into his new leather carrying case, he realized he didn’t even have an umbrella – but noticed, just out of the corner of his eye, the street far below, where 1L friend and Greenpeace girl were sharing one, and smiling.

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