Professional connections have taken me to lunch at a trendy midtown restaurant, where one of the artistically-styled small plates cost the same as an outfit. One of my outfits, at least, which I’m rapidly realizing is not quite up to a Manhattan meeting where multi-million dollar deals are being tossed around. I had no idea one could be under-dressed for lunch!
When I consider my outfit, I think of boiling water in Yantai for my speed shampoo, soaping and bucket-rinse, I think of tying a scarf over my hair in a Mongolian dust storm, and then I hope that my jeans and t-shirt is charming and unpretentious and appropriate for a creative, and not a total faux pas.
The restaurant is so fashionable that they’ve deconstructed soup, making the serving a two-person job, where one waiter places graceful porcelain bowls of streamed mini veggies and fresh handmade pasta, and a second waitress pours boiling broth from a graceful porcelain jug. At this point, the lunch’s host is making a particularly forceful point about some losers in Silicon Valley who just aren’t visionaries, and bumps the soup-waitress’s arm, spilling a few drops of organic, artisan broth on the 400-threadcount tablecloth.
My table companions are talking about massive sums of money, dropping names of companies and C-level staff, who has no vision and who has no follow-through, who has a talented staff, but the market isn’t ready for their product, who’d have a game-changing product, if their staff weren’t such clowns, and finally the chosen ones, who’ve turned vast sums of angel investment into even more massive sums of money.
As we eat. there are tales of the start-ups at the perfect nexus of knowing the right people, knowing the market, getting the money in, spending it on the best coders and famed glad-handers, catching creative lighting in a bottle, and packaging it to sell. I’m simultaneously thrilled to be part of this fast-moving, exciting realm, and uncomfortable, because I feel like an impostor in the world of multi-million dollar investments.
“I’m not going to tip,” the lunch’s host says to his assistant, at the end of the meal, “If she wanted a tip, she wouldn’t have spilled that soup.”