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Just Say No to "No"

“Power Lunch”: Around the table, two men and a woman check you out as you talk. You know your firm can double their sales; after weeks of ... to their ... you want to clinch the deal.

“Power Lunch”: Around the table, two men and a woman check you out as you talk. You know your firm can double their sales; after weeks of presentations to their flunkies, you want to clinch the deal. They, however, loathe the prospect of having to make a decision far from the safe buck-passing womb of boardroom and E?mail.

The waiter arrives at your table, asking the usual "Can I get you something from the bar?" Yes, yell your guts, a round of Cosmopolitan Martinis would do us a world of good. Might warm up these flash-frozen bean-counters. But your brain knows better: The mere suspicion of a shadow of a possibility that you'd like a drink will be interpreted to mean your next stop is the Betty Ford Center. And that your staff is a gang of FUBAR pinheads from the chorus of The Student Prince who fart at the word "deadline" and try to fax beer to clients.

So you pass, opting for the safe glass of bottled water guaranteed to keep your (and their) mind unmuddled and beans countable. Yes, your pitch is clear, precise, strategic, proactive -and as flat as the Evian in your wineglass. You're condemned to more months of review, as the teetotaling trio depart, muttering optimistic nothings. Thanks to businesslike lucidity, no business has been done; for lack of liquids, your liquidity is threatened.

No one needs to point out to you that we're becalmed in an economic Sargasso Sea. You make a living if you’re lucky, but zing ain't there. Fifteen years ago, money bred like cockroaches in the kitchen cabinet. Thirty-five years before that the economy went on a fifteen-year jag of metastatic growth. What did the Fifties, that economic Eden we're all trying to get back to - not to mention that carefully edited version of the Fifties, the Eighties - have that we don't have? A Republican president? Nope. Lower taxes? Uh-uh. It's much simpler than that: People drank at lunch.

Our economy revolves around lunch. Lunch, for the early-jogging hard-charger, is the first meal of the day. Appetites sharpen; greed is at its peak. People make deals at lunch because they're hungry. But mere deals are not enough. What boosts economies into orbit are insane ideas - inventing an oven that will cook things in minutes; putting electronic asteroids in space; developing a pill to prevent pregnancy; creating a set of man and woman dolls who own all the things real people do; using money a company hasn't yet earned to buy it now - the kind of ideas that seem demented if you're drinking fruit juice but make complete sense if the juice has been fermented.

For money to be made, someone has to say to someone else "Yes." And for lots of money to be made, someone has to scream "Yes! Yes! Yes!," whoop, holler, high-five, clink glasses and throw bread at the other tables. What made the Fifties' economy fizz wasn't good old family values. It was the three-martini lunch.

Businessmen present themselves as clear-eyed conservatives who have studied the figures and made the most cost-effective, risk-reward balance, optimized, rationalized decision. In reality, recklessness is at the very heart of capitalism; the gravy train is a runaway, and Casey Jones is in the cab. No one in his right mind would invest in a tenth of the things capitalists invest in. That's why now, when we're all in our right minds, zip is happening. No economy ever fizzed on carbonated water.

So the next time you find yourself lunching with a trio of smug, clear-eyed joy-buzzards, say "yes" to that Cosmopolitan Martini. Chances are one of them will crack and say "yes" too. Then they all will, and the money is as good as in the bank. And if they don't, who wants their gutless, bloodless, plodding, namby-pamby, scaredy-cat, pussyfooting businessFree Web Content, anyway?

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