Dateline Seoul: The Lotte Hotel, Sunday, 10:17
As Andrea luxuriates on the 17th floor of the Lotte, the opening banalities of the industry conference waft through the hotel. The organizers have gotten at cross-purposes with talent, one Lord Duncan, some kind of a minor royal somebody or something, who had been promised a major speaking slot at the conference opening. This was rescinded at the last minute on account of his financial ties to one of the sponsors. Someone saw a conflict of interest, and the Lord’s press agent is seriously pissed. He’s been relegated to a couple of introductions, reduced to a laugh line. No less than three conference people have tried to explain the situation to the agent, three poor souls, three different stories. The agent is chewing her nails, chewing her nicorette. The Lord is putting a brave face on things, puffing and posing, Lord this and Lord that. Blah blah blah. Andrea’s in bed.
There are a number of other people from her firm at the conference, and a name list, so she’s going to have to put in an appearance at some point. She decides to roll down about 40 minutes before lunch. This way she can drop into a session, stroll the floor for a bit, beat the lunch line, and eat some SOUP.
“Area man’s plan to stay home all weekend and play video games goes off without a hitch.” Like the area man, Andrea’s plan is foolproof in its simplicity. Before leaving her room she tucks the key in her valise, just in case.
Andrea puts on a black dress, tasteful but not demure, and black heels. Dressed to kill and ready for soup, she takes the elevator.
Dateline The Lotte Hotel: Sunday, Late Morning
The soup was pumpkin, of course. Pumpkin soup is the staple of international hotels everywhere. Most pumpkin soup is so-so; today’s was at least decent. Her hunger is sated, but that’s about the only thing about her that is. She’s bowed and scraped to a dozen industry veterans and talked trade with the guys from her firm. She’s been seen.
Today’s closing remarks are underway and the conference, 1100 strong, is packed into the main ballroom. Andrea circles to the back to the sound and light booth. This is the nerve center of the room and the man with his finger on the buttons is Mouse. Mouse is a known quantity–he is sound man to the world and works events just like this one 280 days a year around the world. He used to work full time for Bausch and Lomb before going freelance. A total pro, but he has a weakness. A weakness for Andrea.
She slides her arm under his; it’s a hello.
“How’s it going Mouse?”
“Same old same old. Drinks at 16:30. We’ll see how we are in a few hours.”
Were you dear reader in the medical tubing industry you’d want to tie one on as well. In tumult lies opportunity, thought Andrea.
Andrea hangs with Mouse for half an hour or so, asking various questions about the boards. She’s a quick study, obviously; she’s got the hang of things.
Bathroom break and Andrea bumps into the press agent. “They stitched us up, the bastards,” she rails to Andrea as they stand at the mirror. It could be anybody. Andrea makes sympathetic murmurs.
“How much were you paid?”
“17,000 pounds, bloody hell. And all he gets are two lousy introductions. It’s a total embarrassment.”
Good work if you can get it thinks Andrea. A couple more murmurs and she exits.
Dateline The Lotte Hotel, Sunday, 17:10
White wine, red wine, crab cakes, an item on a Saltine. Conference drink hours are designed for maximum intoxication with minimum calories. Andrea takes two whites back to Mouse.
“Baby I can’t drink on duty.”
“Sure you can–everything’s under control right?”
Mouse looks around, a tic. A tip for you Mouse my man, no one cares. I’m straight up telling you brother. People don’t give a shit.
He takes a couple sips and turns to Andrea. “Bingo is next–I gotta go up front and set the mic up.” Andrea smiles, “I got ya” she says, “I’ll watch the boards.” Famous last words. Mouse heads off and Andrea puts her game face on.
10 minutes later and we are bingoing. A bingo master has been trotted out, and it’s… Lord Duncan. He lets rip with a call of “let’s biiiiiiiingo” and the first number is called. There is nothing quite as captivating for a mixed audience as bingo. Bingo works baby.
Character Analysis: What do we think? I mean Andrea is a gainfully employed professional. She has a rep. And she’s not, normally, an anarchist. But there’s something in the air, some combination of boredom, stasis, and jet leg that adds up. Press that button/ your ass gonna go.
The tension mounts; the room can feel that first bingo coming. Big time action. Mouse is still up front; Lord Duncan is ripping and running. Andrea takes a deep breath and hits the light switch. The room is plunged into darkness. The conference giggles. Titters before tatters. Phase two, Andrea activates the spotlight and turns it full force on Lord Duncan. He does a little pirouette, making the most of the moment. “Lights please” he calls. Not so fast. He steps back out the spotlight and Andrea follows him. “And the next number is…” he jokes, gamely. Spotlight off. Spotlight on. His head is on a swivel, beads of sweat turning to rivults. Andrea leans into the microphone and in her deepest and sultriest voice intones: “in the event of an emergency, the nearest exit may be behind you.” Then she throws the light back on and takes three lateral steps to her right. Grabs a white from the sideboard and surges into the conference space, sidling up right next to Duncan’s press agent.
“When it rains it pours eh?” she asks?
“Jesus Christ what next?” replies the agent.
Mouse is back at the booth, wondering what in the world happened. But on some level he knows. Andrea’s a handful. He’ll cover for her–has no choice. It’s Day 1 and all will be forgotten. Ces’t La Vie partner. Price of doing business.
The bingo has been short-circuited after the disruption. Lord Duncan is guzzling wine with the agent. Andrea approaches.
“Are you some kind of somebody?” she asks.
“I’m the jester at this here party,” says the Lord, “apparently.”
“Are you in the tubing industry,” she asks, innocently.
“Good god no, I give speeches for a living.”
“Speeches about what?”
“Well, about being me dear. I talk about being me.”
“He’s the best in the business, and they treat him like this,” says the agent. “It’s intolerable.”
“Ginny is a little bent out of shape,” says the Lord, “there was a mix-up.”
“A mix-up or a muddle-up?” asks Andrea.
“Bit of both,” says the Lord. “Bit of both.”
to be continued…
Dedication: For K.I. Always.