Friday, December 16, 2016
“¡Ahi esta! El ladrón de mi galletas.”
The woman in the aqua-blue housekeeping uniform was maybe four-feet-eleven and about as wide. I’d put her age at over 40, but anything more specific would be a guess; she was simply moving too fast. After bursting into our rented conference room and pointing a stubby, accusatory finger at one of my team members, she elbowed aside an Armani-clad product manager from Glaxo Smith Kline who, along with three other representatives from that company, had convened at the Minnehaha Conference room of the Nicollet Island Inn that Saturday morning to be convinced that Smugglers’ Inn was, indeed, capable of handling all domestic marketing needs for Glaxo’s new happy pill, Flumoxidol. (Street name: fluffies).
“Estas galletas no son para ustedes. Tienes que comprar galletas. Alguien pagó por ellos,” the housekeeper said, and leaned her stout body over the tasteful, pickled pine conference room table in order to grasp the only thing that had impressed our potential clients fifteen minutes into SI Powerpoint presentation #3. This being a platter of the Nicollet Island Inn’s justifiably famous, made-on-site chocolate chip cookies.
“Ustedes no comprar los galletas.”
Seeing chocolate being taken away, one of the Glaxo clients, an attractive woman with short, steel-grey hair, snatched a cookie from the disappearing platter. It was an automatic response, like a fish striking at a lure or how you or I might grab one more bacon-wrapped shrimp from a passing waiter’s tray as we were hustled into a banquet hall at the commencement of an awards dinner.
The steel-haired woman was speechless. We were speechless. The maid wasn’t speechless, but what she was saying was in such rapid Norteno-Mexican Spanish that Ricky Ricardo, speaking from some lost episode of “I Love Lucy” would have had to just hold out his upturned palms in a gesture of surrender, shrug and say, “Don’ look ah ME. I’m from Coo-ba!”
This maid had slapped our client’s hand. Slapped it hard, like a mother reprimanding a child attempting to filch a coin from the collection plate. The steel-haired woman stared at her hand. The rest of us stared at the maid. The maid turned away so as to prevent any eye contact.
“Sorry,” the maid said in English. She set the platter of cookies down on the carpeted floor of the Minnehaha Room and slipped out, head down.
We apologized to our clients. What else could we do? Clearly, the meeting was terminated. The Flumoxidol account would go to some agency who could make through a presentation without having their snacks being repossessed or their guest’s hands being slapped by foreigners in teal uniforms. Smugglers’ Inn, the world’s only restaurant/ad agency, would need to go back to being just being Smugglers’ Inn, the restaurant for a while. We still owed vendors $4,000 from our last foray into marketing consultancy, but that’s what credit cards are for. We would fight another day.
Carol, my co-creative director at Smugglers’ Inn, actually gave a pretty funny impromptu speech in which she quoted Harry Truman, her favorite president. The third member of our team, Smuggler’s Inn’s Irish Bartender, Scotty, bowed like a bad stage actor and said something like he’d be playing the room all week. Lame, but with Scotty’s brogue, it was passable charming. For my part, I acknowledged everyone in the room by name and made a show of taking a bite out of one of the cookies just to lighten the mood. But it was over. We packed up quickly and were almost out the door when someone spoke.
“We are not done here.”
It was the Armani suit man. The leader. The Alpha.
Carol and I exchanged looks. Were we still in this thing? We did have five minutes left of our presentation, SI Powerpoint #3.
“OK!” I said, a smile breaking out across my face. Carol and I started to take our positions at the table while Scotty hurried to re-connect the MacBook Pro containing SI Powerpoint #3. “I think we were just getting to the good part,” I continued. “I’m pretty sure that one else is will bring you ideas like these.”
Armani Man waved his hand in unambiguous dismissal. What? Now he didn’t want to hear us? I was confused.
“Of course, we can just talk you through the high points,” I said, looking for help from my compatriots, who also seemed lost. “If you prefer to skip the dog and pony show.”
“I need YOU to get that woman back in here. That maid.”
“Why? She left the cookies,” said Scotty. I thought it was a funny line.
“I don’t give a shit what language she does it in, but SHE is going to apologize to HER.” Armani Suit indicated the Steel-haired woman, who did not like this plan.
“Kyle, really. Let it go. Please...”
Armani Man held up his hand, silencing his underling.
“No one strikes one of my employees. No one. What happened here was unacceptable. It wan an insult to our company and to me, personally, as the senior representative.”
I re-stated our earlier apology. The woman whose hand had gotten slapped tried to talk sense to her boss.
“Kyle, the woman said she was sorry.”
“Jesus! We have the cookies,” Scotty repeated. He was grinning, but I could tell that this prick was getting his Irish up. With his own legal status murky, no doubt our bartender had sympathy for this fellow immigrant, whose only sin was to take her crap job too seriously.
Alpha Kyle didn’t blink. “And when the maid comes back,” he said, “I want the manager with her.”
The Steel-Grey haired lady protested even more strenuously. The other two bodies from Glaxo said nothing. Just like they had said nothing during our presentation.
“Kyle,” I said, affecting a contrite tone that I wasn’t feeling. “I have to acknowledge responsibility. I thought you’d like this place, but it’s pretty clear that they weren’t at their best. Frankly, neither were we and we’re sorry about that. We know that Flumoxidol is an important product for your company and for the people who would benefit from...”
Carol started to talk. No doubt, she would have smoothed things over and possibly even left the door open for another run at a Glaxo product, (with a different brand manager), but Scotty cut her off.
“I did it. My fault. Blame me.”
“Scotty...(Don’t say fookin’. Please don’t say...)”
“I stole the fookin’ cookies!”
Armani Man flinched as if someone had spritzed his face with water.
“There. I admit culpability. I looked in the other conference room and I saw that they had this massive stack of chocolate chippies smelling like heaven and then when I got to OUR conference room--no cookies. Just some bottled water in a salad bowl with ice. Horrible presentation. I assumed that someone just forgot our cookies, so I took theirs. Kind of like, if there’s no pepper shaker at your table you get up and nick one from a table no one’s sittin’ at. I didn’t tell these guys,” Scotty indicated Carol and me. “I didn’t tell these guys because, well, I didn’t think much of it, you know?”
“That doesn’t change the fact that one of my employees was ASSAULTED today in this room.”
“Oh, fer fook’s sake, Kyle. You can’t be fookin’ serious. It was a mistake. Human beings make them. Obviously, it was this woman’s responsibility to put cookies in yon conference room and she didn’t want to get blamed for a cock-up. Not enough she’s probably scared off her tits that she is about to lose her job. Not enough she apologized. Not for you. No, YOU need to shame her in front of her manager. Are you a sadist, Kyle? You like seeing women humiliated? Fair enough. Everyone’s got their little kinks.”
Scotty continued talking and no, it did not get any better. He eventually allowed Carol to lead him out of the conference room by his arm, but not before he’d offered to pull our would-be client’s pants down and “bugger you like a proper choir boy”.
The ride home was quiet. Workmen were stringing lights on the Nicollet Bridge prior to the evening’s “Holidazzle” parade. Two of them were a good 40 feet off the ground on these bizarre-looking scissor lifts.
“You wouldn’t get me up on one of those,” I said.
“Oh, they don’t move,” Carol said. “Not hardly at all. They adjust for any wind with GPS. I talked to the guy whose company manufactures them. They’re the shit, as far as industrial lifts go.”
“They’re local?” I asked Carol.
“Their corporate office is here. They assemble them in Hayward, Wisconsin. My brother with the cement business was one of their first customers.”
Someone in the car, I forget who, said that it would be fun to see a bunch of these things move like synchronized swimmers and then we were talking about shooting them at night with neon so that they made trails and could you have an app that let you demo one remotely? If this things moved to music, what music would be they move to?
And so it begins. Again.
This concludes the last Smug’s entry for the very odd year of 2016. Prince is gone. Bowie is gone. We’re still on the merry-go-round and, presumably, so are you. (Prince? If you can read this, we are STILL your biggest fans.) From all of your friends at Smugglers’ Inn both real and imaginary, merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Feliz Navidad. Please check back for our annual New Year’s Eve post-mortem sometime after the first. Until then, we shall be in the bar.