Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Out-of-Towners

We were looking for a drink before going home. Emerging from a great evening at the theater, we stopped in a nearby lobby bar before ransoming our car from the hotel garage. As we sat down, Tom looked at the noisy group circling the bar and predicted, "This should be good." He was right.

During our first drink, a member of the clan, a leathery female Tom named "Ann B. Davis," clad in a silver and black one-piece jumpsuit, sloppily asked to borrow some chairs and nearly toppled our drinks. Constantly touching and flirting, they seemed starved for an an out-of-town liaison. But when we learned they were travel agents attending the semi-annual Cruise-A-Thon, their college-like enthusiasm made them seem more like the Fred Willard travel agent character in "Waiting for Guffman" who had "never been out of Jefferson County."

The topic of heated conversation (there's nothing like a few drinks to expose the inner debate team coach in a sales person) was a guy we'll call Bob. Apparently, Bob was involved in a travel industry internet pyramid scheme and the alpha male in the group (a.k.a. Red Shirt) was thinking of exposing him publicly in the next morning's conference session (like he would be sober enough to attend). There was also a hot little blonde (Bunny)who had worked for Bob and knew what kind of evils he was capable of . . . even rumors that Bob had his hand in some internet pornography sites. The plot was thickening.

Eventually, a squat man with a gray flat-top, mustache, and Sears tweed sports jacket sauntered up to the clan and started shaking hands like he was running for Travel Agent President. It was Bob. Red Shirt smiled politely and then looked around the group with his mouth open, silently making sure no one squealed. Bob ordered a large blue drink and when he turned around, Red Shirt stood up and started backing Bob away with his pointed finger stabbing Bob's chest. The rest of the crowd cleared away from their seats and stood in trios around the bar, arms crossed, whispering, and waiting for the confrontation to go away. As close to Red Shirt's face as possible, Bob quietly responded to each of his questions with an uneasy smile. When Red Shirt was done, Bunny replaced him and nearly pushed Bob into the bar as she continued the interrogation.

Taking his big blue drink, Bob eventually joined some friends while the rest of the original crowd moved on, leaving Bunny, Red Shirt, and Ann B. to pay the tab, which we estimated was sizeable. We knew it wasn't going well when there was a lo-o-o-o-ng silence followed by lengthy conversations, first with the bartender, then with the waitress. The second bartender wandered over to offer his clarification of the bill, suggesting they should pay up. Ann B. Davis kept running over to former clan members to see what they were drinking and whether it was paid for. Every shot of Bailey's and glass of wine was questioned. Ann B. kept shouting abbreviated taunts and finally the waitress announced she would call security to settle things. We had seen a tall, hunky Steve Canyon-type striding through the lobby, so we expected him. Instead, two retirees in matching oversized polyester blue jackets and gray slacks showed up. While one stood guard, another patiently and repeatedly explained the bill, answered questions, and told Ann B. to pipe down. Negotiations were moving at a snail's pace.

As we paid our bill, we thanked the waitress for her patience and added some encouragement in eventually settling the Treaty of Versailles with the triumvirate. "I don't think we can let them back in here, " she said. "And this is only the first night of the conference!"

It might not have been good for the out-of-towners, but it was a hoot for us . We paid too much for parking, but we enjoyed a double feature on a Friday night. Not a bad deal.


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