March 16, 2004

Desperately (Not Really) Seeking Stiglitz

I am standing at the bottom of an escalator at San Francisco Airport, holding up a crude cardboard sign that says "Stiglitz" on it. The word "Stiglitz" was written in large letters by Law and Economics Professor Aaron Edlin. We have gone to the airport to pick up Joe Stiglitz,* who is coming to Berkeley to deliver an Aaron Wildavsky Forum lecture.

Aaron and I have figured out that there are two likely ways that Joe Stiglitz might exit the security bubble: he is watching one, I am watching the other. I am holding up the sign in the hope that it will make Joe Stiglitz laugh if he comes this way--an Economics Professor whom he knows acting like (or is it as?) a limousine driver.

I am feeling a bit foolish--perhaps a bit too much like Marie Antoinette pretending to be a shepherdess?

A man in a suit more expensive than any I own comes up to me: "I know him. He was on the plane. He's stopped to make a phone call." He pauses: "Do you know what he looks like?" I nod. Hmmm. I think. I must look more like a limousine driver than I thought.

I do, however, feel less foolish. I feel somewhat relieved that we now have confirmation that he did get on (and off) the plane. The sign did have a genuine utilitarian purpose after all.


*Why have we gone to the airport? Because we want to talk to Joe Stiglitz--we want to get onto his calendar during his visit to Berkeley. What appointment is guaranteed not to slip off the calendar? You got it: the trip to/from the airport. It may happen late. But it will happen. (I learned this method of operation from Nancy Zimmerman, Andrei Shleifer's wife: schedule your meetings with those who are important and whose time is finely sliced during their trips to/from the airport.) Posted by DeLong at March 16, 2004 07:59 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Brad, the nighttime cabbie columnist gig has already been taken, and frankly done much better, unless you're going to tell us which strip joints you took Stiglitz to.

Posted by: jerry on March 16, 2004 08:19 PM

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So, what did you talk to him about?

Posted by: Anurag on March 16, 2004 08:25 PM

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... and does this meeting explain the quasi-retraction of your criticisms? Enquiring minds want to know...

Posted by: Tom Slee on March 16, 2004 08:45 PM

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Don't worry. Whenever I'm at the store buying bananas or something, a customer asks me to find something for him. People are genuinely shocked that I don't work there.

Posted by: Chris on March 16, 2004 09:09 PM

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Joe Stiglitz can't afford a cell phone?
I've concluded that to attempt to meet people at an airport without a cell phone is a guarantee of misery and frustration.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on March 16, 2004 09:32 PM

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Good story, interesting. There is a similar one that were once told about the then much admired Swedish business leader Percy Barnevik.

Although he spent lions' share of his time managing the businesses he run, he was keen to also spend time with his kids. He always had time for them, at least at the many occations when they followed him in the car to the airport to get a chance to be with him.

Posted by: Mats on March 17, 2004 01:05 AM

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"I am holding up the sign in the hope that it will make Joe Stiglitz laugh if he comes this way--an Economics Professor whom he knows acting like (or is it as?) a limousine driver."

Think of it as job retraining.

Posted by: Handy Fuse on March 17, 2004 04:13 AM

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No outsourcing for limousine drivers.

Posted by: Roger Bigod on March 17, 2004 06:04 AM

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I am standing at the bottom of an escalator at San Francisco Airport, holding up a crude cardboard sign...

And typing a blog entry at the same time. Very impressive!

Posted by: chabo on March 17, 2004 07:18 AM

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My guess:

"Acting as X" = performing the duties of X
"Acting like X" = behaving in the way X behaves, or is thought to behave.

Acting as a jackass means carrying a load. Acting like a jackass is something entirely different.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on March 17, 2004 08:08 AM

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As a young attorney, I once dressed in my normal off-work "hippie casual" style for a research trip to the state law library. A justice of the state supreme court stopped me in the hallway to tell me that a toliet in the bathroom needed to be unstopped . . .

Posted by: rea on March 17, 2004 10:08 AM

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"No outsourcing for limousine drivers."

To schedule next day taxi pickups to the airport, for many years I used to call a local Cab company and speak to a local scheduler. Recently several local companies were bought by a national taxicab company. They didn't actually buy any cabs, just the phone numbers. Now I talk to a scheduler in some distant state and the scheduler arranges a local pickup a few minutes before the scheduled pickup time. I've tried changing companies but that gave me the same scheduler. Don't ask me about the economics of this. I've had to ask my wife a few times to take me to the airport since the pickups were late.

Posted by: CSTAR on March 17, 2004 01:01 PM

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Re: "As a young attorney, I once dressed in my normal off-work "hippie casual" style for a research trip to the state law library. A justice of the state supreme court stopped me in the hallway to tell me that a toliet in the bathroom needed to be unstopped . . ."

And did you unstop it?

And the next time you appeared before him, did he ask you about it?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 17, 2004 08:10 PM

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I can relate one cautionary tale about the perils of using the airport trip to schedule meetings. Former boss scheduled an interview with a young woman (my friend) who was applying for a job. Relevant detail: she is a real hottie. As the boss speeds to the airport (Charles DeGaulle), one of those automated speed trap cameras snaps a picture of the two of them. Picture gets sent to his home address. Wife opens the envelope. This was particularly difficult for him to explain his way out of because he had some previous convictions on the same charges.

Posted by: JohnL on March 18, 2004 01:42 PM

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