Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Out of Bounds

Zöe usually avoided the Four Seasons hotel.  Too pretentious for her and they charged extra for WiFi.   That annoyed Zöe.  Sure, the company was picking up the tab but, even so, it just seemed wrong.

"I get free WiFi at Starbucks," she thought.  "Why not at a fancy dancy hotel?"

Zöe checked her hair in the mirror by the door as she left the room.  After the door clicked behind her she thought, "Room key!"  But, it was in her clutch.  "I'm losing it.  My mind, not the room key."

Pausing outside of the Bighorn Room Zöe mused if she should walk in sheepishly.  She allowed herself only a smirk rather than the full-on guffaw that bon mot deserved, put on her Corporate Gladiator Look and strode in making a beeline to the bar.

"Chardonnay, please," she said out loud to the server.  And, to herself, "Make that a bottle and do you have a twin brother?"

Ugh, she couldn't wait for this week to be over.  The expo schedule was packed.  She shuttled between presentations, keynotes and announcements; drinking too much coffee, eating too little food.  She was exhausted.   Zöe imagined all the people who came to Vail for a vacation, a holiday, for fun and here she was working herself to the bone.  Oh, just to slow down for a while.

Suddenly Zöe had a flash of insight.  Why hadn't she thought of this before?  She could change her flight, find a cheaper place to stay and take a couple or three days of vacation right here in Vail.  "You're a genius," she thought!

Zöe was so preoccupied with her travel changes that she over-tasked her multi-tasking abilities.  While pulling out her smartphone from her clutch and holding her wine in the other hand she turned, looked down and took a step forward.

A surprising chain of events happened next.

First, Zöe bumped into something or someone.  It turns out it was a someone who had half a glass of chardonnay dumped on him.  Startled, Zöe took a step backwards, stumbled, nearly caught herself on the edge of the bar, but not quite nearly enough, and ended up in an ungraceful heap on the floor, the remainder of the chardonnay pouring down her front.  Through all of this, though, Zöe's main thought was "Don't break your phone!"

"Here, let me help you up."  A hand was extended.  Zöe grabbed it and lurched to her feet still holding the empty wine glass, her clutch and her phone.

"Are you OK," Coffee Guy asked in a tone that struck Zöe as indifferent.

"Yeah, Aaron, I'm fine.  Just a little damp."  Zöe detected a slight smirk play across Coffee Guy's face as she said "damp" but out of habit, experience or just boredom waved it away.  Just another catcall, nothing to see here folks.

"We should probably get some soda water on that before it leaves a stain."  Coffee Guy was looking around, not so much for soda water but for the nearest exit and a way back to his room.  Zöe imagined the gears spinning furiously in his mind.

"No, that's OK," she said, "it's an old blouse, and white wine and it will come out in the wash."

Coffee Guy was undeterred, "Please, I insist. It's the least I could do for getting in your way like that. I should have been more careful."

"Ah, the old Guilt Trip Ploy.  All my fault, eh?  Where have I heard that before," Zöe thought.  The rest of the movie played out in her head.  Oh, let's get you out of those wet things.  Here's a robe.  Perhaps we should order room service while that dries. Champagne?

But, before Coffee Guy could set the stage a voice cut in.

"Zöe, I'm glad I found you.  Did you get my text? If we don't leave now we'll be late and it would be bad form to keep Gordon waiting."

Zöe turned to see Ryan who was trying to look impatient but it came out more earnest.

"Oh, yes, I did.  Sorry I didn't reply.  I got distracted.  You know me - look, a squirrel!"  Zöe realized she was babbling nervously.

Pulling herself together she said, "Good grief, where are my manners.  Aaron, this is Ryan.  Ryan, Aaron."

Aaron and Ryan regarded each other but nothing more was had of it.

Stuffing her phone into her clutch and setting her glass on the bar Zöe said, "Aaron, my apologies but I have to run, even soaked in chardonnay.  Ryan's team asked me to, uh, debrief them, yeah, that's the ticket,  a debriefing of our, uh, offerings and, uh, stuff.  Anyway, I'm late.  Thanks for the lift."

Coffee Guy looked blank.

"The lift," Zöe continued, "You know, the lift.  Vail?  Lifts? The floor thing."

"Oh, yeah," Coffee guy mumbled unconvincingly, "yeah, any time.  Have fun."  During this exchange Coffee Guy wasn't looking at Zöe, rather at a young consultant or possibly an intern, across the room.

"Later."  Coffee Guy moved off to the hunt.

Zöe grabbed Ryan by the arm and pulled him towards the door.  "Where have you been?" she hissed. "All week, where have you been?  I kept looking and looking but no Ryan."

"Well," Ryan said, "I told you I'd be here when services were needed and it appears I arrived just in time."

Zöe softened and laughed, "You sound like James Bond. Seriously, though, where have you been?"

"I'll tell you all about it later, but the short story is that we were bidding on a contract and I was locked away, literally, for most of this week.  Very controlled communication.  That's over, and now we have to go exploring."

Zöe remembered the Calvin and Hobbes reference.  "Where are we going?" she asked.

"Out of bounds," Ryan said.  And with that they stepped into the cold, winter mountain air where a very large car was waiting by the curb.  The chauffeur held the door open as they got in.

"And what is, exactly, 'out of bounds'?" Zöe asked.

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