Delta took a step into the Wine Room and paused. Before anyone noted his entrance, he took a quick look around the room. Being one of the nicest steak houses in the city, the look and feel of the room was classic and comforting. Every inch of the 10 foot walls was covered with wine bottles. Getting a 300% markup meant the restaurant could afford to go heavy on the appearance and the inventory. He noted that the wine hadn’t been served to the tables yet, so he hadn’t missed too much. He saw that Lion was sitting with his daughter and that Charlie was across the table. Three of the other clients had brought their spouses. Another client had brought both his spouse, his daughter, and her boyfriend. Delta reminded himself that there’d be no talking about business tonight. There were too many guests. Regardless, it was the standard business function with the standard layout and seating chart. Clients and their guests were interspersed by the agency employees. The junior agency people were seated at the table with the less-important clients. As such, Texas and Kappa were in their expected seats. The senior agency honchos were seated with the decision-makers. Delta took his seat next to Charlie at the “big table”. And, before the folks already seated broke off their conversations to acknowledge his arrival, Delta whispered to Charlie what had just occurred. Charlie gave Delta a knowing look, but didn’t comment.
Lion: “Well, hello there, Delta. We just ordered the wine. I hope you are OK with me making the choice?
Delta: “Absolutely, Lion. I know you always make great selections. What did you pick?
Lion: “A Far Niente Cab. You’ll like it. But, we can always try something else later too.” Sure enough, Delta thought, Lion was in a good mood and ready to spend the agency’s money. Just the cost of doing business in the advertising world.
Delta: “I don’t believe I have had the pleasure of drinking a Far Niente yet. I look forward to trying it.” There was no way Delta was going to be able to spout wine scores or year and vintage data. He had no idea if he had ever even tried a Far Niente. Having done enough of these dinners in his career, the wines he’d savored had kind of run together. It was enough for him to know that Lion made the choice. Nothing like having the most important person in the room feel as if he’s in charge.
Lion: “By the way Delta, where is Bravo? He told me he’d be here tonight.”
Delta: “He asked me to tell you that he would be here soon, sir. He’s running a little late.”
Lion: “OK. Thank you. What’s he up to tonight? Why didn’t he attend the meeting this afternoon?
Delta: “I’m not aware of what kept him away from the meeting, Lion. He probably had a conference call or another meeting.” Lion looked sideways at Delta and kind of nodded. The look was if to say, ‘say no more, I understand.’
Lion: “Well, I hope he gets here before we order. I’m certainly not going to share a plate with him.” He chuckled. “Delta. I’d like you to meet my daughter. My wife wasn’t feeling well tonight, so I brought Jenny (not her real name) instead. She’s here from Denver for the weekend and I thought she’d enjoy a nice meal.”
Delta: “I think we have met before, Jenny. Didn’t you attend the meeting out in Pebble Beach in 2000?”
Lion: “Yes, that’s right. She was there. I had forgotten about that trip.”
Delta: “Nice to see you again, Jenny. Lion told me y’all have a little girl daughter now. He’s been a proud grandfather, just so you know. He talks about you and your daughter all the time.”
Jenny: “Nice to see you again too, Delta. Yes. Our daughter is the apple of Lion’s eye. Thanks for asking.”
Delta: “And, Lion, I’m sorry to hear that your wife isn’t felling well tonight? Nothing serious, I hope?”
Lion: “No. Just a case of the sniffles. Plus I think she wanted to stay with Jenny’s baby tonight, instead of attending another boring dinner with me.”
Delta: “Aw, surely you jest. These dinners are never boring. You’ll be sure to tell her what she missed, right?”
Lion: “I will. And, speaking of missing, here comes Bravo.”
Delta was always a little surprised and anxious each time he found himself sitting at tables in nice restaurants making idle chit chat with his millionaire clients. He never felt as if he completely belonged. And, despite the change in locales and clients over the years, the feeling hadn’t changed. These were important people. He wasn’t. These people could have him fired or replaced on a whim. They had inherited their worth. Or, they had worked their way up from nothing. They were super smart. But, they all seemed to genuinely appreciate Delta and what he accomplished for them. It had always been that way. Thankfully, Delta had learned at an early age (and, he’d had a good mentor or two) that his humble and honest schtick was exactly what they liked. He was a field guy. He lived and worked with the field clients. He wasn’t the home office type, flying in for the meetings and then flying out before the actual work would be started. People out in the field were real. The home office types in the major advertising agency hubs of NY, Chicago and LA/SF were real people too. But, they were always one step removed from the issues and activities. These millionaire clients liked Delta because he was just like them. He just didn’t have their money.
Bravo joined the table and made excuses for his tardiness. That he had obviously been drinking was noticed by everyone. He took the seat next to Lion and proceeded to ramble on incessantly about nothing. He had traveled here. He had played golf there. He had talked to this person. He had heard that gossip. Delta and Charlie had a name for Bravo’s worthless ramblings. They called it Verbal Diarrhea. Soon tiring of the obvious baloney, the rest of the table went back to their conversations. Charlie was telling tales about sports. The clients at the other end were discussing their recent acquisitions or divestitures. Lion and his daughter talked about grandkids. The wine arrived and glasses were raised. The auto business had been good and people were in the mood to celebrate. Delta remained silent for the majority of the dinner. As always, he knew he’d learn more just by watching and listening.
When the appetizers were brought, Bravo got up from the table and left the Wine Room. He didn’t return until the dinner was served.
In a large and popular steakhouse, the time between the meal courses is lengthy. The time delay is intentional. The wait staff uses the time to pour more wine. No one notices the food delay if they are engaged in great conversation and drinking fine (expensive) wines. As soon as the first bottles are emptied, the head waiter asks for another order. And, sure enough, Lion ordered again. This time it was a Jordan. (The road to hell is paved with good intentions…and good wine.)
Delta and Charlie noticed that Bravo had been gone awhile. As the dinner plates were being brought in, he returned to the room and they saw him go over and talk to Kappa. Kappa then got up and left the room. Bravo came back to his seat at the table. A few minutes later, Kappa returned and resumed his seat at the other table as well.
As the dinner plates were cleared, Bravo left again. A couple of minutes later, Charlie excused himself. When he returned to the room, he went over to Kappa and spoke to him briefly. When he resumed his seat, he gave Delta a quick run-down of what he learned. Since the noise of the room had increased with every glass of wine, Charlie was able to give the details to Delta without being overheard by the clients.
Charlie: “Well, you are going to love this.”
Delta: “Oh, yes, I’m very curious. What’s going on? Is he going back to the bar?”
Charlie: “Close. But, he’s not going to the bar. He’s sitting out there at another table with his three lady friends.”
Delta: “You’re kidding me. He’s working two tables at the same time?”
Charlie: “Yep. He’s still out there. He didn’t see me walk by when I went to the restroom. He’s definitely entertaining those ladies you told me about. And, I asked Kappa what Bravo said to him earlier. He said that Bravo told him to go and check out the three hot young single chicks. Can you believe that?”
Delta: “Amazing. Simply amazing. I’m speechless.”
Charlie: “Yep. Me too.”
As the dessert was delivered, Bravo returned. And, once again, he immediately launched into his Verbal Diarrhea. Delta and Charlie both tried their best to hide their dissatisfaction upon his return. Jenny, however, was not able to hide her distaste. Delta saw her roll her eyes before excusing herself from the table. At least with dessert arriving, Delta knew the event would soon be over.
As the after-dinner drinks were being served, it happened. The coup d’ grace for the evening occurred. A night of alcohol and rich food, nestled in an out of the way area of the restaurant, reached its culmination with one amazing incident.
The three lovely ladies walked into the room.
All conversations stopped. All eyes turned toward the door. The wait staff stopped their constant bustling. Someone dropped a dessert fork on a plate.
A moment passed.
The ladies scanned the room.
Immediately two of them turned and left. The flush of embarrassment was obvious on their faces. The third woman, Darlene, remained. She turned to Bravo and smiled.
Bravo: Standing up to greet her, “How are you Darlene? What a nice surprise running into you here? What brings you here? Here let me introduce you to someone. Darlene, this is Lion.”
Darlene: Taking his hand. “Nice to meet you, Lion.”
Lion: Awkwardly. “And, nice to meet you, Darlene.”
Bravo: “Darlene is that actor I was telling you about, Lion. She was in our commercials last year.”
Lion: “Sure, sure, I recall your having mentioned that. It was a pleasure meeting you, Darlene.”
Darlene: “Yes. You too. It was nice running into you again, Bravo.”
Bravo: “Absolutely. Give me a call sometime. I might have an idea for someone you can talk to about the acting career.”
Darlene: “Oh, great. Thanks. I will.”
She turned and left and Bravo sat back down. Delta and Charlie exchanged glances. They would compare notes on the incident later and realize that both had noticed that the rest of the room had remained silent during the above exchange. They figured also that the two ladies who had left had been unaware that there were spouses in the room and so had left immediately upon realizing it. And, both Delta and Charlie had noticed that the female spouses and guests had been especially enthralled with the conversation. The expressions on their faces was an obvious indication of their conclusions.
Lion turned to Bravo and spoke. He called Bravo by his full name, not his nickname. What he said could only have been heard by Bravo, Charlie and Delta. His tone of voice was unmistakeable. He said one sentence.
Lion: “That’s bad news, Bravo.”
(Epilogue to be posted tomorrow)
Copyright (c) 2005/2006 The Jamoker. All rights reserved.