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My new American boss’s driver was off on vacation and my boss drove himself in to the office. That in itself meant that he was tense the first part of the day until he recovered from the trauma of fighting Cairo traffic. Half way through the morning, things calmed down and he started really working. It was a busy day, but not a tense one.
After lunch break, my boss remembered that he had a report that he needed to refer to, which he had left in the car. He looked for the car keys in his suite’s jacket pockets, his trousers, his attache case, all the drawers of his desk. After a thorough search, no go. He started to get a bit uptight. I asked the office boy to look into the executive bathroom, then had him search my boss’s office with a tooth comb, just in case they had slipped behind a credenza, or under the computer table. No keys.
My boss started getting really annoyed, saying he must have the keys, he drove in after all, so the keys must be there. Discretely, I sent the office boy downstairs to look at the car parked at the curb. It was a beautiful Jaguar and beautifully kept. He looked through the window, and there were the keys sitting in the ignition. How he managed to lock them in is beyond me. Breaking the news to him was the tricky part. But I had to do it.
He hit the roof, started ranting about how on earth will he get home, how could he leave the car sitting there at the curb, how can he get the spare that the driver has, how can we get the driver who is on vacation. In other words, he flipped. I tried to calm him as much as possible and told him I’ll take care of it.
The office was literally round the corner from where I lived, so this was my territory. I went downstairs to the porter and told him that I wanted the ‘Key Man’ who usually passed by every day, shouting his wares, announcing that he could fix any locks and make duplicates of any keys. A very necessary job when you’ve locked yourself out of your house, or need to fix a broken lock.
Half an hour later the Key Guy came up to the office. I took a 50 pound note and put it on the desk, told him it is his, if he manages to open the car downstairs, bring me the keys and not damage anything. He put up a token argument that he doesn’t do that sort of thing, so that he would not loose face. I told him I don’t want to know any details, but the money is sitting there for him once he hands me the keys, and my office boy confirms that the car is not harmed.
Twenty minutes later, keys in hand, confirmation of the car being intact, he was gone, a happy man, 50pounds richer.
I took the keys in to my boss, asked him for 50 pounds and gave him the keys. He was delighted, but asked how? I told him our friendly neighborhood burglar dropped in and retrieved them. He went totally white. He said a 450 thousand pound car just sitting there on the curb for the taking. I told him not to worry, it was a white elephant and nobody would really want it.
From that day on my boss was very manageable!