Delta got to the hotel early. (Having to arrive early came with the job unfortunately.) He parked his SUV and went inside to make sure everything was correct for dinner. Instead of the usual halfway decent restaurant setting, this time the stupid client dinner was being held in a hotel ballroom. And, it was being served as a buffet. He could barely contain his enthusiasm.
There’s nothing like going to an expensive hotel for a meeting and dinner, Delta thought to himself while walking, and then having to stand in line for food like it was the line for the salad bar at Sizzler. The chicken would probably be rubbery. The side dishes would be cold. He knew this was what would happen by merely noticing the atrocious and garish red carpet in the lobby…which was better suited for a smoke-filled casino in Vegas.
And, as soon as he entered the ballroom he was reminded of and annoyed by the chosen seating arrangements…or lack thereof actually. It had been decided by the clients to have these little chest-high tables scattered about the room…supposedly more conducive for mingling and conversation than the sit-down variety…but, Delta knew it really meant his feet would be in serious pain by the end of the evening. As he scanned the room he imagined hearing their voices talk about the nifty seating. “Hey, let’s stand for four hours!!” “Ya, sure thing, that’ll be fun.”
There was even a little three piece band for entertainment. That the band had been requested and selected by the oldest client meant that the music would be circa 1950, Delta was sure. As he saw the members of the band setting up their instruments he figured they had all joined AARP back in the 70s. Delta got a mental image of Depends Undergarments when he looked at the drummer. He hoped no one thought he was responsible for the fiasco…er, for any of the arrangements.
He checked in with the hotel banquet staff. They told him everything was satisfactory. The mediocre food would be served on time. The two bars, at opposite ends of the room, were stocked and staffed adequately. The liquor was ready and the wine and beer were already chilled. He wondered if they actually thought floating bottles of alcohol in a large metal tub was considered chilled. And, he thought about informing the staff that bacteria do, in fact, grow in ice. But, he let it go and privately hoped the bartenders had washed their hands…with soap. Despite everything being ready without any additional intervention on his part, he was still glad he’d arrived early. Having no control over an event always made him a little anxious.
Trying not to think about the hand washing question, he ordered a light beer for himself. Later, he figured he’d order more ‘mature’ drinks. But, for now, he needed to keep a sharp wit. The clients and coworkers would be arriving soon.
As he was finishing his beer a few minutes later, Mr. and Mrs. Bravo arrived. They immediately smiled upon seeing Delta and walked over to him. Bravo was wearing a sport coat, slacks, an oxford button-down, a tie and a pair of scuffed loafers. Delta noted that none of the ensemble was even close to matching and wondered why Bravo hadn’t worn a suit. He then figured Bravo had forgotten (as usual) the occasion required more formal attire.
Mrs. Bravo, on the other hand, was wearing a very loud floral print muumuu. The dress made Delta immediately think of a circus tent, complete with lions, tigers and elephants inside trying to escape. As she walked, the long, flowing, billowing volume of fabric created the impression of wind moving through the room. Delta assumed she had been proud of the ‘stunning, dahling…simply stunning’ explosion of color when first viewing it at the store and had expected to be the most radiant person at the party. He also assumed that she had worn the (completely inappropriate) outfit with the more important intent of hiding, disguising, and covering up…never mind that it was totally wrong for her skin tone. Delta smiled as he thought about how the bright and fluorescent dress would definitely catch everyone’s attention, but that in so doing it would completely defeat the second purpose.
Delta: (Offering his hand to shake) “Bravo. Mrs. Bravo. Good evening to you.”
Bravo: “Hello, Delta. How are you?”
Mrs. Bravo: “It’s so nice to see you, Delta. What’s it been, three months?”
Delta: “Yes. That sounds about right. Time sure moves quickly.”
Delta had known Mr. and Mrs. Bravo for nearly his entire career. His first assignment after starting in the Home Office was located in the same city in which Bravo had been raised and originally started with the agency. And, while Bravo had been moved around the country several times during his 30 year career, Mrs. Bravo had never moved. Bravo had always gotten apartments or condos in each new location, but flew back home to visit her and their children regularly. While assigned in that same city, Delta had been occasionally given little tasks to help Mrs. Bravo. He’d delivered tickets. He’d accepted and delivered the occasional fedex package to her. He had even done a few airport pickups for them. Now, years later, he reported to Bravo. And, every couple of months, Mrs. Bravo would fly to wherever the meetings and functions were being held and accompany her husband. The clients were none the wiser.
Bravo: (Looking around.) “How are the arrangements, Delta?”
Delta: “Fine. Everything’s ready.”
Bravo: “Good. What’s with the band?”
Delta: “Not my call, sir. It was a specific request by the clients. Hopefully they won’t be too loud.”
Bravo: (Checking his watch.) “Right. Hopefully. I’m going to go get a scotch. You two need anything?”
Mrs. Bravo: “Surprise me.”
Delta: (Indicating his beer.) “Thanks, but I’m good.”
Bravo stepped away, leaving Delta with Mrs. Bravo.
Delta: “So, are you staying here at the hotel? Or, are you staying at Bravo’s apartment while you are in town?”
Mrs. Bravo: “Oh, I never stay at his apartment. We always get a hotel room.”
Mrs. Bravo: “His place is filthy. He doesn’t know how to clean a bathroom. And, the fridge is always empty.”
Delta: “Well that explains it. I don’t blame you for getting a hotel room.”
The meetings she attended were always in expensive hotels. Delta wondered to himself whether or not the company was paying for these hotel rooms every couple of months.
Mrs. Bravo: “I don’t think he ever goes to a grocery store. I’ve asked him about it, but he never gives me a good answer.”
Delta: “Well, he travels so much. It must be hard to keep fresh food.”
Mrs. Bravo: (Turning to look in Bravo’s direction.) “Yes. That’s probably it.”
Delta: “And, how was your flight?”
Mrs. Bravo: “It was fine. By the way, is your wife going to be here tonight?”
Delta: “No, she has to work.”
Mrs. Bravo: “Well, that’s too bad. I was hoping to see her. Please tell her I said hello.”
Delta: “I will.”
Bravo returned with her drink. Delta used that opportunity to excuse himself and went to mingle with the clients who had started to arrive. Before long, the room was filled. Most of the clients and coworkers had brought spouses or guests. Delta could see that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were all mingling and talking loudly. So, he relaxed a little.
As the band played ‘Kansas City’ for the third time, Delta was joined again by Mrs. Bravo. He could tell she’d already had several glasses of wine. He was still nursing his second light beer.
Mrs. Bravo: “These events are so boring. How do you put up with it?”
Delta: (Smiling) “Just part of the job, I guess.”
Mrs. Bravo: “Well, you do a great job. I know.”
Delta: (Genuinely surprised.) “Oh?”
Mrs. Bravo: “Bravo talks about you all the time. He says you’re doing great.”
Delta: “Well, that’s very kind of you to say. I just try to do what I’m told.”
Mrs. Bravo: “Nonsense. You’re a natural. Bravo says so.”
Delta: “Now you’re pulling my leg.” (He noticed she was slurring her words.)
Mrs. Bravo: “I’m serious. He thinks of you as the son we never had. He’s very proud of what you do.”
Delta: “Well, I guess that would make me your son. But, that can’t be right. You’re much too young to have a son my age.” Delta knew that flattery, even when clumsy, was always appreciated.
She blushed and smiled. She reached out and touched his arm and was about to speak when her expression changed abruptly. Her smile disappeared and Delta observed that she was glaring at something off to his right. She turned back to him and practically hissed. He noticed the slight slur was gone.
Mrs. Bravo: “Who’s that girl?”
Delta: (Taken aback, but turning to look.) “What girl?”
Mrs. Bravo: “That blond girl who just walked in. Who is she?”
He scanned the people clustered by the door. Unsure of why Mrs. Bravo was suddenly so interested and affected, he made a quick assumption about which person she was referring. The girl who must have been the one to just walk in was probably in her mid twenties and attractive. He didn’t know her name.
Delta: “Oh, that girl. I think she’s the daughter of one of the clients. I have never seen her before. Why do you ask?
Mrs. Bravo: “I thought she might be one of Bravo’s girlfriends.”
Delta decided it was time to get a stronger drink.