Tim, Randy, and I met at Houston Intercontinental Airport about noon on Wednesday for a flight to New Orleans. Both Randy and I worked for a multi-national oil tool corporation, and Tim was a consultant we hired to help us present a day-long seminar on business, productivity, and customer service to all the field sales offices in North America. We had already made the rounds in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Far West, and Canadian areas. The Gulf Coast was our last dog-and-pony show for the year. It was early autumn and the days were quite temperate—almost arid; that is, the normal high humidity, courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico, departed until mid-April of the following year. Randy and I dressed casually for the short flight, but Tim wore his consultant uniform—always blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. His attire never varied, just shades of the costume. He was like a cartoon character; same look every day. |
On Friday, the New Orleans office was holding a humongous golf outing for selected high profile clients in the morning, and crawfish boil for about 12,000 customers in the afternoon. The latter was held in the Superdome. This meant all Louisiana sales and field engineering personnel from Morgan City, Lafayette, and Houma would be there for our Thursday seminar so they could attend the Friday festivities. We could figuratively kill four birds with one stone.
When we checked into our hotel on Bourbon Street, the vice president of sales, Bryan, was already waiting for us. We were surprised to see him since he left the office only an hour and a half before Randy, Tim, and I went to the airport.
“How the hell did you get here already?” I asked.
“Just jumped on I-10 while you guys were screwing around for two hours at the airport,” Bryan sniffed with a self-satisfied smirk.
“No way,” said Tim. “You had to leave way before that.”
One of Bryan’s sales directors, Dave, walked up picking his teeth and chimed in. “Bullshit,” he said in his normal highly-pitched voice, “We don’t screw around like you-all.” Both Dave and Bryan had these big shit-eating grins.
“No traffic?” asked Randy.
“Nothin’,” said Bryan as he lighted a cigarette. “Plus it helps when you drive 135 miles per hour.” He had purchased a powerful Lexus sedan the previous spring mainly for the speed the horsepower promised.
“You’re lucky the law didn’t catch up with you,” I said. Bryan was famous in the company for his high-speed jaunts from Houston to Dallas, and throughout west Texas.
Bryan took a long drag and exhaled a stream of smoke. “Shit, we had this one ol’ boy in a Chevy Caprice squad car—“
Dave broke in. “You know, like our field and sales staff cars. Damn things look like Sha-moo!” The accent was on the first syllable, and he started laughing. I knew he meant the name of the famous performing orca, Shamu, at Sea World.
“Yeah!” Bryan started laughing too. “Sha-moo! Anyway, this ol’ boy starts chasin’ us so I slowed down to about 90 to let him think he could catch up. Soon as he got close enough that I thought he might be able to read my plate, I floored it and left him in the dust!” He and Dave laughed like hyenas.
“Yeah,” said Dave through tears, “You shoulda seen Sha-moo!”
“Yeah,” said Bryan also tearing up, “Damn Sha-moo starts smokin’ and shakin’—probably blew an engine.”
“Weren’t you worried he might radio ahead for help?” asked Tim.
“Nah, dumb shit was just a local constable,” Bryan started to wipe his eyes and get control of himself. “So, where you-all wanna eat?”
The five of us walked to a nearby bistro with outdoor dining that was famous for its seafood gumbo. The place was fairly crowded and we were required to wait for twenty minutes or so until we could get an outside table. Dave disappeared into the bar and returned with beers for all of us. A waitress stopped by to see if we had been helped, and upon hearing Dave’s high-pitched, whiny voice, asked where he was from.
“Ah’m from Humble, Texas, darlin’. Where you-all from?” Houston natives pronounce Humble with a silent H—that is, Umble.
“I thought your manner of speaking sounded familiar. I’m from Atascosita. How about that?” Atascosita was a neighboring community of Humble, both places just north of Houston.
Dave looked at her with fake disdain then started grinning. “Aw, hell, we used to whip you-all’s ass all the time—in football. Shit. Git on outa here!” He started cackling, and she left shaking her head and smiling.
I decided Dave and Bryan may have been sucking down beers all the way from Houston. Oil patch guys referred to beer or booze in the car as travelers.
When we finished our beers and still hadn’t been seated, Bryan began to get a little antsy. Suddenly he pointed to an outdoor table where four men were seated. “God dammit, those guys finished eatin’ and coffee, and are just sittin’ there shootin’ the shit!”
“Hell, Bryan, looks like they’ll move out in a minute,” said Randy.
“Like hell! Look, one o’ them sumbitches is lightin’ a cigarette!” Bryan looked around for a hostess. “Dave, go get that l’il darlin’ from Atascosita.” Dave disappeared inside, and returned a few minutes later, not with the Atascosita waitress, but with the “head” hostess.
“What’s yore name, darlin’?” said Bryan.
“Darla, sir.” She said with a syrupy voice.
“Lookee here, Darla,” Bryan put his arm around her and pointed at the table, “See them ol’ boys over there jes’ takin’ up space?”
“Yes, sir. I surely do”
“See, here’s the thing: this establishment is in business to make money, wouldn’t you agree?” Bryan nodded to help her know how to respond.
“Yes, sir.” A little smile. She knew she was being conned.
“Good, good. I can see we’re gonna get along jes’ fine. Anyway, to make money, you gotta have turnover. You gotta turn them tables, girl!”
She was becoming a little wary and uncomfortable, “Yeah?”
“Bless yore heart. So git yore ass over there and kick them hairy-legged fu—ol’ boys outa there! We’re up next and ready to spend some money—contribute to the GDP of this great country. Do it for Uncle Sam, darlin’!” Bryan and Dave were giggling. “Go on now.” He said shoving her toward the table.
She went over, said something, the four guys laughed heartily, and got up giving us a good-natured wave as they left. I think that’s what they were going to do anyway.
“See there,” said Bryan, “You jes’ gotta know how to talk to a gal to get results.”
Dave let out a loud haw-haw complete with a spit take. “Yeah, like you-all did with yore wife?” More laughing.
Bryan screwed up his face and smiled. “You-all got me there.”
“What happened?” asked Tim.
“Wal, shit, she starts complanin’ about how ragged the grass looks next to the house and around the trees after I finished mowin’. I hand her a weed-whacker and tell her to git her ass busy.”
“Didn’t work, huh?”
“Naw, she cut me off. I figure cost of whores is more than a gardener, so I hired one to take care of the damn lawn.”
The hostess motioned us to the table.
We're just getting started. See how this ends up in Part 2.
Copyright 2011 by Gene Myers
Author of AFTER HOURS (2009) and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010) with more on the way.
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