Believe it or not, the firm I work for convinces people to employ my services at what I’m convinced is an unconscionable rate. I know hookers that charge less than I do. Sure, their spreadsheets aren’t as pretty as mine, but I never thought my work would demand higher rates than poontang. But I shamefully digress.
A client in Chicago wanted to have a meeting, but the guy in our Chicago office that should be handling it is busy attending a soybean festival or something in Decatur that day. Since I have had the unique experience of having dated a girl from Decatur, Illinois and a girl from Decatur, Texas I was chosen as most qualified to take his place. The client balks at paying my travel expenses, thinking that I travel in a private jet flown by Buzz Aldrin and eat at exclusive restaurants featuring unicorn steaks served by Oscar winners (not including Michael Moore), while subletting Oprah’s condo for accommodations. Finally, it’s agreed that he’ll cover my travel expenses if I go via covered wagon, don’t bill him for my travel time, only eat rice cakes, and share a sleeping bag with the dude in the alley who thinks he’s Leif Garrett. Who knows, maybe it really is Leif Garrett. As usual, I’m already beaten down before I even book my ticket, but then I’m told it’s a Friday afternoon meeting. Normally this would be a bad thing, but with family in Chicago I can stick around for the weekend and satisfy familial obligations with no added cost. I book my return trip for Sunday and ask my sainted mother if she can remove the meth addicts boarding in my old room for the weekend, and the plan is in place.
I roll out of bed around 4:30 a.m. Friday morning so I can catch the first flight of the day to Chicago 802 miles away, because soybean boy can’t walk down the street a few blocks. Then I hop the train at the airport for the quick trip downtown. Rather uneventful except for the babe that got on at the Jefferson Park stop. She appeared to be a cross between my favorite CNN Headline News anchor Robin Meade and a yet to be identified Latina porn star. I offered her $50 to read me the headlines in a sexy voice, but instead just got gouged in the eye for free. I behaved myself the rest of the trip, dutifully exited at Washington and walked the 4 blocks to our Chicago office. Soybean boy had failed to tell his staff that I was coming, so when I walked in with my duffel bag they assumed I was a homeless guy that got past security and gouged my other eye before I could introduce myself. Eventually, my eyes quit tearing, I got the files I needed and was ahead of schedule, so I called our client to see if he wanted to have lunch before the official meeting. He already had plans, but invited me along so I braved the cold winds and made my way to his office. I was standing on the corner across the street from his office waiting for the light to change when I noticed a sign that said “Sears Tower Parking.” I didn’t realize it, but I had been standing within 25 feet of the Sears Tower. That’s not as oblivious as it sounds. Pretend you’re standing on the corner and Marty Casey walks up next to you. You would obviously recognize the boy, tell him you’re a fan, maybe take a picture with your camera phone, and try not to fart. But suppose Marty was 1200 feet tall. You might walk right up to that giant shoe and not realize you’re standing next to him. You might even fart, and then he would step on you like a smoldering cigarette butt and you wouldn’t even get a photo of his instep. But I digress.
I finally met up with the client and we strolled back over the Sears Tower and had lunch at some Italian place, and I didn’t get either eye gouged although there was a close call with a rampant breadstick.
We returned to his office, where we managed to stretch the meeting out to about 90 minutes after which I was dismissed for the weekend. Glad I could help.
My next assignment was to meet Mom at the train station where we would ride together out to the wild west suburbs and on to my sister’s house for a family dinner. About 12 of my relatives gathered there, but I think they really just showed up for the pizza. Then we celebrated my birthday 9 months late (or 3 months early) because my 2-1/2 year old niece likes cake and birthday parties. I also got to meet my 6 month old nephew for the first time, which is always uncomfortable since I don’t have any kids and have never been around babies. Surprisingly, he didn’t answer when I said, “Hey, Joe, what’s up?” He just made a weird face and spit up on my shoulder. I thought that might relieve me of baby duty, but they forced us to continue bonding. I told him about my meeting and he appeared to question why we didn’t take advantage of modern telecommunications to work more efficiently. I briefly explained the benefits of face-to-face client contact and the nuances that can be lost if one relies too heavily on technology. He nodded in agreement and spit up on my other shoulder.
The next morning I hotwired my mom’s car and met my uncles for breakfast. Nobody spit up on each other, so I guess it was a success. Back at mom’s house, I spent the afternoon rewiring the cables behind her upstairs television. To make it more interesting I pretended I was defusing a bomb in some blockbuster TV show and if I made the wrong connection it would set off a string of deadly explosions and the terrorists would win. Eventually, I successfully accessed the Lifetime channel, wiped the sweat from my brow and was the new household hero. As a reward, I was fed a nice Italian beef sandwich from the hot dog joint down the street since you can’t get those in Dallas. I think you need some sort of special permit in Texas to open a restaurant that doesn’t serve exclusively BBQ and they only issue 2 of them in election years.
Since everybody thinks kids are cute, I was offered the opportunity to babysit that evening but I was running out of clean shirts. Fortunately my uncle and cousin took me out to shoot some pool. I warned them that I took a billiards class in college, but they didn’t seem to care. I even confessed that I got a B in the class, which is technically “above average” but it still didn’t shake their confidence. After we got kicked out of a couple bars since my cousin is still technically underage, we finally found a table in the lounge at the local bowling alley where they didn’t seem to care as long as you weren't vomiting in the ashtrays. As if it made a difference, we tried to find a cue stick that wasn’t as warped as your typical reality show star and racked them up. We must have appeared racist because the only ball we were pocketing seemed to be the white one. Eventually, some other players showed up to put us out of our misery and we retreated back to mothering bosom of their home for some poker.
I was never a big card player and have resisted the latest poker craze, instead waiting patiently for the Old Maid craze to begin. And waiting. And waiting. But I digress. We added another cousin and a couple friends and suddenly had a game. They briefed me on the house rules, which included no eye gouging, thankfully. Turns out that Lady Luck was in my pants that night and I won the first round and pocketed $20 in winnings. We played another round and I got my ass kicked, but was still up $15 big ones. Apparently Lady Luck had left me to go watch SNL in the other room or something.
Next morning, Mom bought me breakfast because I think she’s under the impression that I’m still making minimum wage and my wife is selling Chiclets downtown to help pay for food. We stopped by my sister’s again, where my niece presented me with a gift of colored sand in a small bottle. I asked her what the hell I was supposed to do with it, and she replied, “Screw you, Uncle Sid,” and wiped a glob of non-toxic paste in my hair. Actually, I graciously accepted her gift and carefully packed it in my carry-on, waiting for airport security to grill me about the unidentified chemical reagents in my bag. Then I remembered they would be easily distracted by my nail clippers and allow me to breeze through.
My bottles of sand and I made it safely home that day, and they’re proudly displayed on our mantel right next to my 5th grade bowling trophy. The End.