All About Town, 2015-2017
Harold Schaitberger, the nearly 20-year president of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), may have precious little of substance to show for his tenure, but one thing is for sure, he knows his way around a steakhouse, or rather, houses.
He leaves his office around 5:30, arrives at the restaurant near 6 and begins what is often a boozy, 4-hour steak-a-thon, paid for by IAFF members, of course.
“Mr. Schaitberger” the maitre de croons, as he is quickly whisked to his favorite table, usually a round one, so he can always be the center of attention, all eyes on him.
He prefers to sit with his back to the wall, preferably in a high-backed chair so he can acknowledge others and be acknowledged, too.
His vodka of choice is served, sometimes a very generous portion in a large brandy snifter, to keep him from running out.
He is often joined by a “fortunate” and “lucky” group of IAFF leaders from local unions so they can be wined and dined and their support secured.
Failing the presence of local leaders, staffers will sometimes be “invited” as they sigh and ask the chief-of-staff, “Do I have to?”
About the time Our Dear Leader is beginning to slur his words, appetizers will finally be ordered as diners furtively check their watches and think, “Jesus Christ, this is going to take forever.”
They have no idea.
Another hour passes, some suitably expensive wine is ordered, served and consumed.
Finally, the waiter arrives with menus, now seen as passports to freedom by those caught up in the dinner from hell.
Leader may order something not on the menu, saying, “You know how I like it.” to show his specialness to which the waiter will crisply say, “Of course, sir.”
The “guests”, as they approach hour three, are full enough after the bread and appetizers, and a little tipsy too, as the red wine pours freely; they would be happy enough to call for the check.
Not so fast.
Thankfully, the entrees usually arrive promptly and the conversation slackens.
About that conversation–it isn’t really–Our Dear Leader will engage in a timeless and one-way monologue about his path to power and vast accomplishments, the phrase “our great union” is uttered frequently.
Guests, now feeling more like hostages awaiting a police SWAT team, shift cheek-to-cheek as asses begin to ache.
Finally, it’s 10 PM, time to go at last, as the waiter arrives and presents the check, easily over a $1,000 and often much more so.
No politician present, as many believe, no business done, just the boss taking the boss out to dinner because he can.
Welcome to the IAFF at 100.
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