Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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The Closing Tie

It’s a gloomy Friday morning. It had rained the night before. At least the locals were happy. Not me; the clouds made the town look like any of the dozen places I’d visited during the past few weeks. Life on the road, which always looked so glamorous, had turned into a non-stop series of sleepless nights, blurred meetings and over-cooked meals.

I’m ready to go home. But I need to stay one more day and night before I can feel the anticipation of the wheels touching down in my hometown. There’s still one more meeting, one more sales pitch, and, hopefully, one more agreement to negotiate. Ah, the life of the “road warrior.”

I drag my tired body out of bed and into the shower. I’m so sick of dry soap and perfumed shampoo, I decide to just rinse myself thoroughly and get dressed – a rumpled black suit and yellow tie – my lucky “closing tie.” I sure hope it will work today.

I catch myself daydreaming of walking along the beach with my wife and kids, heading to my imaginary beach house. It feels good to be comfortably wealthy and retired from the road.

8:30 a.m. Need to hurry. Grab breakfast and catch a cab for the 10 o’clock sales meeting. It’s not that I really believe in our product, but at least it’s not harmful. My company has been making Energy-All for about two years. Energy All holds the patent for the only organic energy drink and even with this distinction, it’s difficult to penetrate the saturated energy drink market.

The breakfast line at the Dayz Inn is long, but I bide my time. When I reach the buffet station, I have to wonder if the powdered eggs and soggy waffles are worth the 10-minute wait. But, beggars can’t be choosers, I tell myself, knowing the room and breakfast only cost $79. Best price on the northside. But now I need to hurry.

9:10 a.m. Will I ever see a taxi? The hotel clerk places the call for me. It should be here by now. It’s not that I’m impatient. OK, it is that I’m impatient. Need to make sure I get there on time. Need this sale!

I step closer to the curb to see farther down the street ... splat.

I step too close, just as the Regional Transit Bus slams by, splashing a mixture of water, mud and road oil onto my already rumpled suit.

“Not the tie, please not the tie!” I yell out loud. Thank goodness the lucky “closing tie” is spared.

I stand there contemplating what to do next when my cab arrives. The story of my life, right place – just a few minutes late.

I cram myself into the back of the taxi and decide I’ll clean up at Bev-More’s headquarters before meeting with Nathaniel J. Hudgins, CFO and director of product placement.

“1616 Sycamore,” I tell the taxi driver.

“North or South.”

“South, I think,” not really knowing. I fumble for correspondence, but because I need it, it can’t be found. Oh, well. I’m sure I’m right, trying to visualize Bev-More’s letterhead. 1616 South Sycamore. Yeah, that’ll work.

9:35 a.m. Kind of a dumpy building. Not at all what I expected. I pay the taxi driver, gather my samples, and get out onto the sidewalk. Yes, I had rolled the dice and won! Bev-More’s tailored logo is engraved on the simple glass door.

Once inside, I find the men’s room near the lobby and hurry into stall three. Armed with toiler paper, I proceed to wipe the mud residue from my suit. Not bad. I proclaim myself presentable and confidently stride into the lobby of Bev-More, the nation’s largest beverage distributor.

It was a miracle even getting a chance to meet with Bev-More. If Bev-More liked your product, you could guarantee people from coast to coast would soon be drinking it--and even singing your jingle. But, I was lucky. My brother-in-law attended the same university as Mr. Hudgins and arranged the meeting for me. I straighten my lucky tie and approach the receptionist.

“Mr. Hudgins, please.”

“Energy-All? He’s been expecting you. Please have a seat; his assistant will be with you shortly,” the gorgeous brunette says.

Apparently, shortly in Bev-More terms means 23 minutes, but who’s counting? The walk to Mr. Hudgins office is long, meandering around neatly organized cubicles with people buried in paperwork and files.

“Quite an operation you have here,” I say, making small talk.

“Yes, we’re proud of Bev-More,” Mr. Hudgins’ assistant replies. The assistant, a tall dark-skinned woman, can’t be 25 years old, but carries herself in a way that belies her years. Her neat wool suit stands in direct contrast to my rumpled and previously muddy, wet, and oily suit. But I feel good. I’m wearing the tie.

Mr. Nathaniel J. Hudgins’ office is modest in size but exquisitely decorated. I recognize the two Eames chairs from some design-on-a-budget catalog, but these are the real thing. Nathaniel J. Hudgins peers over his glass desk. His pressed polo shirt must’ve cost more than my entire ensemble, including shoes.

“Sorry for my dress, but it’s casual Friday around here,” he says. “Nice tie.”

I like him. I’m not exactly sure why, but I like him.

I sail through my pitch. He listens intently and asks thoughtful questions. After about 50 minutes, I ask him if Bev-More will distribute Energy-All. Coolly, he says he’d like to sleep on it and call me in on Saturday. I leave two sample cans with him and bid him goodbye, hoping the product will do what apparently I cannot.

Saturday’s flight is crowded but I don’t care that I have a middle seat. I’m heading home. As the pilot prepares for landing, I can feel the anticipation of sitting in my favorite recliner and watching the ball game with my two boys – then grilling my famous burgers and having a cold beer with my wife.

Opening the door to my house, I receive a hero’s welcome. Both boys run up, hugs all around. My wife greets me at the door, her face aglow. Even the dog makes odd squealing sounds as he dances around the living room like Snoopy. I’m home. Safe. My family is well. The tie worked again!

My phone buzzes as a text comes in.

“Set up distribution of 45,000 lots. We’ll start in the north and work to the south. Energy-All all around!” Nate.

Until next time,

Craig

Authors Note: I wrote this story for Southwest’s Spirit Magazine last summer. Since it never made it to print, I thought I would share it on my blog.

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