OCEAN CITY -- It had been a lousy week. It began with me getting the flu, which means the rest of you will get it shortly.
I always get the flu just before the rest of the nation.
For years the Centers for Disease Control have been trying to put me in a glass bubble on the Arctic Circle to act as a Flu Distant Early Warning system, but I have always refused. (I am holding out for cable.)
The flu made me miss writing a column, only the second or third I have missed in 17 years. This is no testimony to my iron will. I would love to stay home sick and not write columns.
But the invention of the laptop computer means that after a day of throwing up, I can write columns from bed, with a fever, in a semi-delirious state.
"Who's going to notice?" my editors tell me. "In fact, the columns might make more sense that way."
After a few achy days, I get back to work and check my calendar and see: "Speech, O.C."
I cannot figure out what I mean by this: Am I giving a speech On Capitalism? About Only Carrots?
Then I remember the phone conversation from months ago:
Him: "Mr. Simon, how would you like to make a speech and meet several hundred financial health care managers from the greater Baltimore area?"
Him: "We would pay your regular speaking fee."
Him: "The speech would be in Ocean City."
Me: "God, no."
Him: We'll throw in the bridge toll.
Him: "It might be good for a cheap column."
So I find myself heading to Ocean City. I don't get to the Eastern Shore often enough. I go when I need my chain saw sharpened, stuff like that.
And I will admit why: I don't like the bridge.
Figure it out: The earth's core is cooling. Which means the earth's crust is shrinking. Which means the two sides of the bridge are getting closer. Which means the bridge is being squeezed higher and higher.
And I don't want to be on it the day it snaps.
But I agree to do the speech. So I drive out and get to Ocean City and it is gorgeous. I get out of the car. I walk along the beach. And I discover that I like Ocean City for the first time.
It strikes me why: Hardly any people.
I get to the hotel. There is a cocktail party before the speech. At the party, I see the guy who invited me.
Him: "I'll bet you can get a column just out of this cocktail party alone."
Him: "Try it."
A Health Care Professional Who Works for a Division of Blue Cross/Blue Shield: "Our whole office went out to the Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center off of Route 83. You work as a team: You walk across a river on a tightrope made of wires. You go around in the forest blindfolded as your team members keep you from walking into trees. You fall backwards and your team members catch you. Isn't that really great?"
Him: "What would happen if you and your co-workers went out there?"
Me: "We would fall off the tightrope into the river, we would walk into the trees, we would all die."
A Financial Adviser Who Works for A Consulting Firm: "Ted Venetoulis has invited me to dinner at his house. Have you ever been invited to dinner at Ted Venetoulis' house?
Him: "Would you like me to see if I can get you an invitation?"
A Woman Executive Who Works In A Large Accounting Firm: "I'll tell you the result of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas thing: Now, men in my office say: 'Uh-oh, we can't tell this story in front of you.' So they go off by themselves. They are creating a new kind of locker room and keeping women out. I really wouldn't have handled things the way Anita Hill did. If I sense somebody is coming on to me, I just stop it cold."
Me: "Can I buy you a cocktail?"
Her: "Buzz off."
So I recommend Ocean City in the fall. There's not a lot of people, and they are very interesting.