Eight years ago, I worked for a friend helping him start up his insurance advisory firm. He had been a prior client of John’s at his old firm. Since I was basically unemployable as a traveling consultant as Jack was just a baby, I helped Barton Fishback develop his insurance application and set up his office. Ashton came along while I was working, and I really felt that I had the flexibility with my job and motherhood that I desired. I had two nannies watching the boys, my cousin Tasha lived with us and worked for me at the office, and I was mentally motivated to do something entrepreneurial.
My job morphed into playing not only consultant for his internet endeavor, but also controller for his business, friend, office manager, and I was responsible for dodging paying his bills and paying credit cards just in time. Our friendship was mutual. Barton, John, and I would go out to dinner, Barton and I would go out to lunch, and we’d socialize together with Barton’s wife.
Two years into our working relationship, money started to get tight. Barton would go on trips to Miami and disappear for a few days. The bank would call and say that Barton’s credit card was maxed out, or that he had an interest payment due on his loan. We had a box at Raymond James Stadium, season tickets to any USF basketball game we wanted to attend, and a box at Tropicana Field. Since Barton didn’t pay his bills, he wasn’t really affected by the stress of making payroll for his employees simultaneously keeping up with the entertainment payments for sporting events. I stopped paying myself so that we could pay the four women that also worked in the office for Barton and pay the rent.
Long story short, I started to notice some strange charges on the Visa card, and I called the number on the statement referencing the charge when we were getting up there in balance again. As it would turn out, the charges were for “escort services”. At that point, I decided to just keep my mouth shut. One New Year’s Eve, Barton invited John and I out with him. We scored a sitter and in the pouring down rain arrived at the most beautiful house where Barton told us to meet him. Barton was there, but his wife, Grace was not. Barton told us that Grace had left him for his best friend, and he was devastated. We drove him home from the party because he left the sunroof open in his 7series BMW and his car was flooded.
It was kind of poetic, the fact that the whore mongering man’s wife had left him. I could no longer keep my mouth shut. John, Barton, and I were all there later that night, sitting in his garage office as the rain poured down and I told him that I knew what extra curricular activities he had been engaging in, and if he truly thought that his marriage was going to survive, he couldn’t be so stupid as to think that his wife wasn’t aware that there were issues on his side as well. Barton was shocked.
The next week Barton’s wife had moved back home. Her lover had not left his wife that evening after all, and so there were Grace and Barton living back together and working on their marriage. Barton and I went out to lunch and he tried to spin a woe is me story. All I could think as he spoke was, “You charged hookers on the company credit card and I haven’t paid myself in four months!” but instead I said, “You’ve really placed me in a position that I am uncomfortable looking your wife in the eye. If I know again that you’ve put your wife in a situation where you are exposing her to God knows what, I will have to tell her and I will no longer work for you.” I did this while Derek Jeter ate a Cobb salad at the next table.
Two months later, I again was managing the money and reconciling the Visa statement. And there it was, another charge on the company credit card for the same escort. I pulled up the checking account, clicked my name as a payable and paid myself out in full. I walked into Barton’s office, put the check on the desk and said, “sign it”. He looked at me with guilt but also disappointment that I was following through on my threat.
We have never spoken since although we are on his client distribution list for emails and insurance updates.
I’m not really sure what lesson I learned from this entire phase in my life, besides the fact that hookers take credit cards and just because two married people cheat on each other doesn’t mean they won’t stay together. But it was the first time I was personally exposed to a friend’s infidelity, and it broke my heart. I didn’t need to judge, I just knew that I held myself up at a higher standard than others might hold themselves.
Barton’s infidelity was the beginning of a long list of friends that have disappointed me with their decisions regarding how they choose to respect their marriage. I did learn though to keep my mouth shut as to my beliefs and opinions when those confessional times brought themselves to me. I think that people spin their truth into something they can live with instead of knowing that right is right and wrong is wrong. The struggle is to not give up to temptation when it stares you in the face.
There once was a tiger that removed his stripes and put on some spots and became a cheetah.