But this is not what I am thinking when I receive the CAPS package. After the initial amazement, I actually get into it with vengeance. The questions make me think and they give me a chance to analyze things I otherwise would have no reason to. I even enjoy digging deeper into my subconscious. By the time I am done, I have raked up solid twenty-three single-spaced typewritten pages, containing in excess of 8500 words.  Pleased with my handiwork, I send out to them the whole ball of wax.

A few days later, we sit down in Bob’s spacious corner office. For the next four hours, we review the pile of materials containing of close to a hundred pages. Bob goes down the list,  making notes, writing down his comments, asking me further questions – mainly asking me to elaborate on the answers I have already given in elaborate detail. I see Bob drawing  squares similar to tic-tac-toe and filling them with the letters D or P to determine what percentage of me was Dictatorial and how much I let my staff Participate in the process.

Moving right along, stopping just to go to the bathroom and refill our respective coffee and coke receptacles, I feel two distinct emotions. One, I am plain enjoying their probes into my personal life in a perverse sense. And yet, what constantly nags at me is the emotion that what did all these intimate details of my personal and professional life have to do with finding another job?  Why should I be telling these two complete strangers what was so personal and confidential part of who I was? They never as much as said it to me, but I could just feel their amazement and apprehensions at my answers to why Carolyn and I never got married but had gone ahead and had a child, had raised her out of wedlock and lived together for longer than an average American couple is married. When in the answer to the question “what would you like to change about your early family life and why?”  I said, “nothing, because I wish everybody was lucky enough to have been born in a family such as mine,” Bob throws a pointed glance at me with the curt, “nothing?”  As if it were some sort of crime to have had a happy childhood.

‘There is so much meat to this,’ concludes Bob.

‘Most everyone who comes to us wanting more of the same – but this is different!’ adds Herb.

I too feel a bit euphoric, like a kid who has just passed his orals with flying colors.

I see them again a little over a week later to partake in the Christmas party. It is interesting to meet with their other clients, curiously, majority of them are ex- CFOs. Though, the atmosphere of the party is cheery, I couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of sadness and desperation beyond those seemingly smiling faces. Not too long ago, they all must have been like roaring lions, mighty and powerful. And now, they must all feel like little lambs herded around by Bob and his sidekick Herb.

Soon after the holidays, I am invited to the agency’s the first fourteenth of the month luncheon. We talk for a while about our respective holidays and about the book I am working on and then he informs me that in order for them to proceed, he needed for me to “pull together” a country-by-country outline of my experience, knowledge, economic and political climate etc., of the parts of the world I had been in charge. I am not too happy about his request, but reluctantly, agree to do it.

While the pungent smell of the take out Chinese food still lingers in the air, he asks each one of us to share with the rest something about ourselves. One by one, everyone  bares his desperation to the group. Though there are some who aren’t quite as desperate and display sense of humor about the whole thing, all in all, here were the guys who had made it to the top of whatever their professional world was, and now suddenly they are left out in the open, with families to support, kids to send to college and mortgages to pay. Most of them, all dressed up in their crisp shirts and ties, coming in there day after day as if they still held regular jobs, answered phones, sent out resumes or whatever. It was sad. After  lunch, as we sit around to the chatter of our own voices, Bob complacently, if a bit self-consciously fishes out from his breast pocket what looks like Mao’s little red book.  He reads a bunch of “uplifting” quotes from it, as we all look on  apprehensively. Though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and remember where, when and what it was that I had experienced – the whole scenario is reminiscent of something very similar and not very pleasant.

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