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Episode 25: Elevator Pitch Goes Foul

As a CEO in the Candybar Building, Rupert Madasheck had privileged access to the secret Executive’s Elevator. He stepped inside the elevator car and noticed on its display that one other exec would join him. He poured himself a glass of 1995 Araujo cabernet from the cache and settled into his favorite stuffed chair. Glancing at the keypad on the chair’s arm, he entered his floor number.

As he swirled and sipped his wine, the door opened and an elderly gentleman stepped in. The new arrival opened the 15th Century globe and poured himself a snifter of brandy. To Rupert’s surprise, the man gulped the brandy and poured more. Shutting the globe, the man sat down and entered his own floor number.

Rupert spoke first. “Rupert Madasheck, Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals.”

The other man raised his eyebrows and said, “Gary Cortescu, Pfuztercluck Pharmaceutics. Glad to share a ride with you.” The elevator began to move with a barely perceptible bump.

Gary inhaled the aroma of the brandy with a studied sniff, eyes closed. “Ah, delightful. I hate rushing these things.”

“But you did,” Rupert said. “We’re here to relax for a while, aren’t we?”

Gary sighed heavily and sipped. “Oh, yes, of course. I haven’t belted down a shot since the last disaster. Doubtless you’ve heard the news.”

“Your donations to the Heartless Institute? I won’t feign total ignorance.”

Gary sighed again. Is he going to do that a lot? Rupert wondered.

The elevator hummed softly and the walls glowed and pulsed with warm swirls of color. Gary stared at his glass and sighed again. Finally he said, “I suppose it’s my own fault. We did want to make some corporate charitable donations and I was willing to overlook some of their more controversial positions.”

“They believe global warming is a hoax, as I recall,” Rupert said.

“Well, of course it is. But that is irrelevant to us. Let the energy sector worry about that. Our industry has its own issues.”

“Don’t they oppose evolution to the point that they think bacteria don’t evolve?” Rupert asked.

“Oh. Um, well, yes. But leave that to the education sector to worry about.”

“Remind me how they explain bugs mutating around antibiotics.”

Gary rubbed his chin. “I believe it’s cosmic rays according to one statement.”

“Which don’t exist, according to another.” Rupert sipped his wine and recalled a recent news flap. “Didn’t they declare that the Higgs Boson was also based on junk science?”

Gary chugged the rest of his brandy and coughed. “I’d almost forgotten that. But again, education sector. Not my department.” He stood up shakily and moved back to the globe. “Let us not dwell on these things. We are here to relax for a brief moment on our rush through an unrelentingly hostile world, are we not?”

Rupert sipped his wine and let the taste linger. He wished the elevator would never arrive at his floor. Yet he could not let go of the topic without asking. “But why did Pfuztercluck donate to the Heartless Institute at all?”

“Like any sensible business, we agree with their push to eliminate price controls and reduce regulation.”

“You know that they also want to eliminate corporate subsidies,” Rupert said. “Wouldn’t that include research grants?”

Gary looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure we need research grants, do we? That’s for the small companies. Our competition, so to speak.”

Rupert set his glass down and leaned forward. “We often rely on those small companies to invent. Then we license what looks promising. I don’t understand why, but the startups are where innovation happens. So isn’t Heartless working against your own interests?”

Gary sat down and delicately sipped his third snifter of brandy. “Ah, my lad, you are young indeed. We support only the one advocacy arm of theirs that supports us.”

“Of course, of course.” Rupert took another leisurely sip. “But what is that?”

“Why of course they believe that all FDA rejections are based on junk science. Now, outside this elevator I could never admit that we support their ‘Freedom to Pick Your Meds’ initiative.” Gary leaned back in his chair and sighed yet again. “Ah, what a world it would be if people could decide what medicine worked for them without any government stooges getting in the way.”

Rupert was aghast. “Are you suggesting we do away with the FDA altogether?”

Gary closed his eyes and smiled. “Ah, you may say I’m a dreamer…” His voice trailed off. Rupert sipped his wine. The elevator hummed softly and the colors swirled.

The door opened and they both looked up. “Good to meet you, Gary. This is my floor.” Rupert put his glass in the collection grip and walked out to the hallway and his day’s destiny.

That evening, Betty and Rupert met at a single malt tasting room and chose suitably snooty single malts. Betty said, “I got a letter addressed to the Chair of Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals today.”

Rupert said, “That would be fitting since you are indeed the Board Chair.”

“It was from a group of investors concerned about contributions to one entity known as the Heartless Institute. What do you know about them?”

Rupert downed his single malt in one gulp and gasped for breath. “Never heard of them.”

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