I’ve been in one city that is not my city for entirely too long. There was a mess-up in the scheduling, and I ended up being here 3 days between events. I need to go home for a bit, but that won’t happen for just over a week.
When you’re on the road, everything is…well, I was going to say an adventure, but I do it so much that it feels like a chore. So, no, it’s not an adventure. You do have to prepare, though, and be diligent in where you go, and what you do. Nothing is automatic. I can’t wake up and stumble into the kitchen to make coffee. If I want coffee, but not the really unholy concoction that’s in my hotel room (even a 5-star hotel room) I have to think about where I’m going. Here, I’ve got access to the club; so I just have to go down the hall. Still, it’s terribly bad form to stroll down to the club in your skivvies. I have to get dressed, and since I’m getting dressed, I might as well shower and shave.
You can see how this is screwing up my routine, because I haven’t even talked about a cigarette yet, which is the next thought after coffee, and very often before. Caldo law says I get up, pull on the basketball shorts I left next to the bed last night, make coffee, and go out to the garage to smoke a cigarette, check my email, and read the news. Here, on the road, I have to get dressed, and shower, and run through the rigamarole of getting Ready For The Day before I get a taste of civilization.
Going out, among people, first thing in the morning to get coffee, is an exercise in manners. Those are those words we say and gestures we make to keep from grunting and and scowling and shoving each other in the hallways as we make our way to the coffee. When you first start doing this, you will make the mistake of saying something stupid, like, “How are you?” You’d be surprised how many people answer this, like I care before coffee and a cigarette. Worse are the people who, in their rage, flip it back on you: “Good. How are you?”
Bastard. Now I have to lie, or tell them the truth; which sounds like: “Mnuh.” The lie it is. “Good, thanks.”
At some point, I realized that it’s a lot easier to sound like I’ve got a monocle, and say, “Good morning.” “Good morning” is great because I’m not talking about me, but you. I’m expressing a wish that you have a good morning…and, generally, I do. I’m hoping it’s so good that you don’t need any coffee, and so won’t get in my way, or take the last cup; making me wait for the next pot to brew.
The ritual of manners is so useful that I began using it all the time. I say, “Good morning”, or “Good day”, “Good afternoon”, “Good evening”, and even “Good night” all day long. Everyone responds in kind, and I can tell by the smile playing on their lips, that the tension, caused by their fear that I might ask them how they’re doing, has been released from their souls.
On this event, every day I had to pass by another vendor. She is 38-40, with long mostly brown hair that is streaked in that way middle-aged white American women are so fond of. She was thin and tallish; about 5′ 10″ in heels, with narrow non-child-bearing hips, and a boob job. In a word, attractive, if you’re into aging careerists. And every day, I said, “Good morning”, to her. And as I went out during the day for another cigarette, or a refill of coffee, I’d invoke the manners again. “Good day.” “Good evening.” “Another day!”
On the third day, I got a package delivered to me, but it wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t from someone I recognized. I did what anyone does when they get a package they didn’t order: I opened it. It was a specialized lock, and it had a note, “Pamela- Here is the lock…” It’s really not important what the note said, but I thought I should find out who Pamela was since she obviously needed something special locked.
I had to walk by the careerist woman again, and, on a whim, I asked, “Does the name Pamela mean anything to you?” She looked like a Pamela.
“And? What does it mean?”
“That’s my name.”
“Then this is for you.” And I handed off the package, and went to refill my coffee. The rest of the day, when I’d smile, and say “Good afternoon”, she’d say something different. She started asking, “How are you?” Criminny. Now what? The lie, again? I hate lying. That’s why I put on the verbal monocle. It’s not that I’m trying not to sin, or be noble. I simply don’t feel like I should have to, but to say, “This coffee is trying to leak out of me, and I am getting irritated that I’m still in this stupid hotel with all you vapid sales people.” is to disembowel oneself, professionally.
“Well, that’s an excellent question, I’m glad you brought me up.”, and I smile and walk away.
This went on until the fifth day, except that from that package-point on, she said, “Good morning”, to me before I got near her table. She continually trespassed all over my monocle manners; asking me how I was doing; engaging me in smalltalk; informing me that there was coffee in the staff office (the succubus).
On the afternoon of this fifth day, the next to last day, as I was walking out of my area towards the elevators, and past her table, she was putting on lip gloss just as I saw her. She smiled sheepishly, as if I’d caught her doing something. She shrugged and put her hands in the air, still holding the lip gloss in her left; sort of pointed at me.
“Teehee. Lip gloss.”
No shit. A disembowelment warning flashed. Better not say that, either. “Is that for me?” I blurted.
“Sure. Where do you want me to put it?”
“Oh…heh…yeah, I’m going to go get some coffee.”
“Are you leaving for the night?”
“No, not yet. That’s why I’m getting the coffee.”
“Oh. Ok. Well-”
This is my life, about 20 weeks out of the year. Several times during those weeks, in one way or another, some woman I don’t really know offers to apply lip gloss to my body. Because I delivered the mail. I can read people very well, but I can’t always relate to them so great.