He was easygoing, warm, funny. He told me we were destined to be friends, if not colleagues. I said I felt like we already were friends, and he immediately agreed! He confided that he was annoyed that I was a better writer than he was but said he’d get over it though, by weeping over his Emmy. We shared a similar smug charm. I thought, So this is what it was like to have to deal with a Michael Rovner.
I learned that, years earlier, when I had been a prolific journalist, he had regularly accepted compliments on my published pieces. What could be more Rovnerian than taking credit for someone else’s work, I thought. Over the years, I’ve written about being an alcoholic in recovery, being fired from my job as a private detective and having spent half my life in therapy. Based on my lifetime of oversharing, I wondered what those people must have thought of him. There was definitely a component of the movie “Fight Club” to this whole thing.
He, too, primarily went by his surname, only he pronounced it wrong — ROWV-ner, instead of RAHV-ner. I was informed that the Massachusetts and Iowa Rovners favored his style. I told him that wasn’t how we did it in Philly. He told me his ancestors hailed from Rivne, Ukraine, which had been Rovno, Poland, at the time. I said that, whenever I asked my grandparents, I was told our family had come from Minsky-Pinsky, which was how people in that generation had tried to put the past behind it.
He said he would recommend me for the job at his company, but mainly because they’d give him a $5,000 bonus for bringing in a new hire if I could last for 90 days. I told him nothing would make me happier than enriching Michael Rovners’ bank accounts — a rising tide lifts all Michael Rovners. Should it work out, I promised not to sully our good name. He suggested that, if I were hired, I go by any form of Michael that suited me. While this seemed like a major concession on my part, since I was used to going by just “Rovner,” I figured we’d work out the details later. He said he would send “a hilarious Michael Rovneresque note” to the people making the hire, adding that the rest was up to me “and the ghosts of Michael Rovners past.”
At the start of my first interview, the hiring manager said she had initially been perplexed. “I thought the Michael Rovner who already worked here was interviewing for this position,” she said. I was delighted at the potential confusion this would unleash on the world.