Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Kinda Town

Before I use my allotted keystrokes for today on The Summer of Sharon I have to tell you about something that happened a few years ago. At the time I was still working in the corporate world and about twice a year I would bring my national sales and marketing management staff together for off-site meetings. I had these in a central location rather than haul everybody out to the West Coast. If it wasn’t the dead of winter I favored Chicago. If it was cold I’d opt for Dallas or Atlanta. These meetings were for just the top level managers and regional VP’s so it was about a dozen to fifteen people attending. The idea was to get everybody in a room for three days without distractions and work through a heavy agenda. If you think it’s a pain attending this sort of meeting you are right. If you think it’s fun running them, you’re wrong.

Jackie and I hadn’t gotten together for about six months or so at this point. I freely admit that I needed more frequent contact with her. She concurred. We’d tried to get together but our schedules weren't working out. We stayed in touch via e-mail every three to four weeks and I had let her know about the meeting scheduled for spring in Chicago. She wanted to know the exact dates and I got a little worried. Usually we’d get together in a city where I would be traveling by myself. In Chicago I would be in a hotel with a dozen or so of my employees. I told her just that. Rather than think it ruled out a meeting she thought it sounded intriguing.
“You’ll be in meetings all day?”
“Yeah. And at least one night a big staff dinner… maybe two nights.”
“That sounds like it will work,” Jackie said.
“It does?” I laughed.
“Sure. You’ll get up and go to your meetings. I’ll sleep in... then go shopping all day and meet you in bed at night. Perfect!” she said.
“Hmmmm, I dunno, Jackie,” I said.
My problem wasn’t with what she said. My problem was with the idea that none of my team would find out about her being there.
“The place will be crawling with people who work for me and… well… I just don’t know how…”
Ooooo. Even more fun. I’ll be like this big secret that nobody can discover,” she said.
How could I argue with that?

I was sitting at the hotel lobby bar with a few of my people. We had finished the first day of meetings and I was taking everyone out to dinner in a few minutes. I had already listened to a message on my cell from Jackie. Her flight had landed at O’Hare and she was on her way to the hotel on Michigan Avenue. She had heard my message, left while she was flying, to go to the concierge desk where I had left an envelope for her. Inside was the suite number and card key. I had told her that chances were good I’d already be at dinner but should be back before ten. My trustworthy assistant had made sure that my suite was on a different floor than any of the other's rooms.
Soon the whole crew was assembled and we started for the door. The restaurant was just a couple blocks down the street so we didn’t need cabs. As we passed through the door I noticed a blond getting out of a taxi. I looked away, thinking it was Jackie. I wasn’t sure I could carry off eye contact without people figuring out I knew her. My Boston manager, Adam, gave her a long look though as we turned left and went up the street.
“Damn, boss. I liiiiike Chicago,” he said.
“Beautiful city, isn’t it,” I said.
Amy, my Dallas manager pushed Adam in the shoulder from behind.
“Cut it out, Adam. You’re like a dog chasing after a car,” she said.
“Oh, I’d know what to do if I caught her,” Adam shot back.
“I guess I missed who you two are talking about,” I said.
I stopped, turned around and saw her going through the door of the hotel. I was 99% sure it was Jackie.
“Not bad. Kind of mature for a kid like you though Adam, doncha think?”
Amy laughed. "That's his way of telling you she's out of your league, Adam."
Amy was pretty smart.