Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapter 1. Starbucks in Slow Motion

September 10, 1998

What a day! Sophomore is definitely busier than freshman, all right. But it’s soooo much better! You see, something happened again today.  There he was… during our lunch break.  Naturally, I was looking at him, and then suddenly, he looked at me. His cute little eyes looking directly to mine! That’s the third time this week!  It was maybe 2 seconds that our eyes linger to each other… come to think of it… maybe it was 3 seconds… right! It was about 3 seconds of magical moment! How can Kim be so blind not to interpret these facts?  I keep on telling her but she seemed unsure.  Chris is going to date me some time.  He’s getting to it I know.  I just know!

I looked at the odds of not meeting this prickly client.  It was already 6 o’ clock in the eve and this is the nth time he wants to revise an ad layout for his upcoming campaign.  No way.  I don’t want to end my work day this way.  Kate announced free premiere tickets for tonight’s showing of the Transformers.  These are one of those little benefits we enjoy being in the advertising business – free movie tickets, parties, big time raffles, celebrity mingling, and other social events for the prominent people.  And as I was saying, it’s Transformers night tonight and this client is bugging me to the core of my bones.

“Hello?” I get sudden intensities when my phone starts to sing “Top of the World” by the Shonen Knife.  I used to like the song.  Now, I jump just hearing its intro.  I have to remind myself to change my ringtone before I start to hate it.

“Hello Ms. Robin?  I would just like to confirm your appointment with my boss at 6:30.” It’s Ems on the other line, Mr. Yu’s assistant.  

“Would there be any way we can move this?  I have… I have an emerg…”  I cleared my throat.  “I have an emergency to attend to.”  My voice fainting, I’m not really good at lying.

“I don’t know if that would be possible.  He’s been expecting to meet…”

“Oh, all right, I’ll be there.”  I cut the conversation.  I’m too tired to argue, as if I can argue with a client’s request.  The fact is, it is more appropriate to call it a “demand”, but I’d rather stick to calling it request, for it lessens the burden of helplessly giving in to what they want.

Starbucks was a few blocks from my office.   I was immediately settled to walk right through several buildings and intersections to get there.   Since it’s a Friday, taking a cab would mean harassing my heels.  There are gazillion of other people out there queuing up for taxi.  Besides, the ride may cost me more than a hundred pesos, doubling the usual fare because of traffic.  Whoever the mayor of Manila right now, should work this out (How could you expect me to know him?  Who reads the paper nowadays, anyway?).  Well, my watch says 10 minutes before the meet time.  I got to break the habit of always being late in these meetings.  Kenny is eyeing me right now…

“You’re still here…?”  He seriously looked up from his laptop (porno playing I bet!), then to his Tag watch.

“I’m going now! Bye!”  I grabbed my bag and laptop hurriedly.  I bumped onto Pam who is coming in from the restroom (where else?). 

“Not coming, mare?”  I realized the lipstick indicator of “getting out of here now” on her face.  Pam was one of my best friends in college, still she is.   We address each other “mare” for obvious reason that I am the godmother of one of her children.  She’s got three now actually.  Nevertheless, she still looks good -- not a trace of motherhood in her cool aura.

“I’ll try to catch up with you guys, got a meeting! Call you if I can make it!”  I hurriedly reached for the glass door when Pam got hold of my bag strap.  I froze.  “What the…?”

“You sure you want to go to your meeting again with those?”  pointing to my shabby slippers.  Like an increasing ringtone, her giggling alarmed me!  By the time I ran to my cube she was slammed to a chair with her hands on her stomach. 

I forgot to change on my shoes.  So what?  It was just twice or thrice… okay!  It’s the fourth time that I was caught on these this month.  But I love them!  They are my gears to avoid varicose veins.   Those heels are killing my feet.

I peeked from my cube.  Good.  Coast is clear.  Kenny is not around.  Time to take off and invade my client’s coffee pleasure.

I pant.  And pant more.  Yeah the office was near to this Starbucks when you’re in sneakers and carrying a lightweight load.  I feel some drops of sweat clinging on my forehead.     I wiped it off with the back of my hand and took one deep breath.  I quickly scan through the room.  Now, where is that guy… gray and black… gray and black…, client spotted!  As usual, He was wearing gray long sleeves and a pair of black trousers –no way could I make a mistake on this.   He was always on those colors!  I know it’s weird.  But I don’t care as long as he gives me business.  He has already started with his coffee.  That’s good.  That will be less a hundred for my out-of-pocket reimbursements. 

“Hi Ric!  How do you do?”  Wow.  My voice sounds really cheerful and energetic.   I’m starting to sound like Kenny.  Oh, no.

“Good.  Nice you could make it.  I thought for a moment you’ll let me down.”  Smiling but intently looking at me.  As if my skull is transparent and he sees my brain’s content.  I wish I wore a hat.

“Oh no… no, I wouldn’t do that to you!  I will cancel anything for you sir!”  Not because he is special, of course, but because this is my job.  And I love this job… because I need money.  “Now, would you like a cake to go with your coffee?”

Ric Yu is a son of a businessman who owns a number of fast food chains in major malls around the country.  He was young but smart.  I think he mentioned during one of our meetings that he will be his Dad’s business successor.  I always have to remember that.  So I can keep up with this special treatment.  Right now, we are discussing revisions for the launch ad of his newest branch at SM Mall in Pampanga.  We’ve been revising this forever.

“Ric I’m sorry but you have to make up your mind which concept you would want to use for this ad, and which text would you want to go with it.  If not, I would have to charge you for the revisions.”  Nobody stands to clients this way but me.  That’s why Kenny avoids arguing with me, too.
Ric looked up to me from the print ad layout.  I can feel the tension the moment I mentioned the word “charge”.   So I gave him my sweetest smile.  “I can help you to choose if you want.”
I guess I wooed him because just after a few minutes, he finally made up his mind.  He chose one concept layout and finalized the text of the ad with me. 

“So I’ll just send you this layout finalized and ready for print in two days.”  I stood up, and prepared to shake his hand.  “Thank you Sir!” Wow, this meeting was fast.  You’re good tonight, Robin!  I’m so sure I can still make it to the movie.

He reached out for my hand.  Then I realized that for a minute our hands linger on the air.  What the…? 

“Thanks Robin.  You saved me a lot of headaches.”  Well, because I have to catch ALL of it. 

“No problem sir.  Anything I can do to help you.”  I just want to get out of here fast!  And give me back my hand!!! 

“Why don’t you stay a little so we can talk about the marketing plan I prepared for next year?”  Then he pulled my hand down, forcing me to get seated.   “S-sure.”  Sure! SURE I WANT TO SMASH ALL THE COFFEE MUGS NOW!!!  I was supposed to be happy, right?  This is business opportunity.  But I can’t get my heart cheered up.

“I am obviously satisfied with the way things are going on with our companies’ partnership… and I just thought, why don’t you get started with my next year’s advertising campaign, anyway?”

“Yeah, that would be brilliant!”  But why does it have to be now?  When it is Friday and there’s a free premiere showing.   I know what you’re thinking—that it’s just a movie!  Yes, just a movie… the greatest movie on earth, not to mention that Zeke (he is important!) has been waiting for me outside the cinema for two hours now.  “You see Ric, as much as I am excited about this announcement, I think Kenny has to be here when we get to it.  I know you wouldn’t dare miss his crazy ideas!”  I winked.  Praying that I’ll convince him somehow. 

“Hmm, sounds right.”

I exclaimed “Yesss…” involuntarily under my breath.

“I’m sorry?” Ric’s eyebrows rose.

“Oh…  No. Nothing.” My cheeks feel hot.  I’m clutching my bags, anyway.  Ready to disappear in two seconds…

“Let’s discuss the details when Kenny is here.  But I would like to give you some overview on our strategies next year.  I want to hear your initial comments on it so that I can discuss with my group.”  I heard a business tone.  

 Now, I’m trapped.

to be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment