I was in a rush that morning. I knew it was going to be a breakneck day. My appointments were stacked up in the Zoom world hour after hour all morning, with a lunch wedged in at noon with an IT consultant. Fortunately, with the Bulldog restaurant right downstairs from my co-op, I could spend most of the morning hours on the net or the phone. The noon lunch was about my website, which desperately needs an upgrade. Nothing stands still. I depend on a sophisticated, understated presence, free of cheesiness, to connect clients with people who can meet their needs, wherever they are.
The morning went quickly. I got most things done except for a contentious unresolved discussion with a supplier in Singapore, who whined about not having enough lead time to fill an order. I felt his pain – bah.
Before I went downstairs to the noon appointment, I threw on a presentable shirt and pants, then grabbed my laptop. The consultant I had the appointment with, was new to me, but recommended by a friend from San Francisco. As I came in the door, we recognized each other from headshots on our websites, and intros came quickly.
“Good afternoon, Georgia. I’m Stan Thompson.”
“Pleased to meet you, Stan.” She shook my hand with a firm grip and continued, “Billy Francis told me about your business and I’m excited to talk with you about it.”
“Yeah, Billy and I go way back. He was in my frat house at the U.” As we both sat down in a sunny booth next to the windows, I inquired, “Have you ordered yet?”
She replied, “I haven’t. I was waiting to hear your recommendation.”
After a short discussion, we both decided to have the seared salmon salad.
Georgia was an attractive woman who wore her soft-black brunette hair in a fashionable, median cut style. Well-groomed without ostentation, she wore a black turtle neck sweater accented with pearls, and khaki slacks. I guessed her to be in her mid-thirties.
As we talked about our work experiences and education, I couldn’t help but notice her nose. It was pert, cute in a way, with a subtle upturn. What I also saw, and it was distracting, was a black hair that protruded from underneath the bridge of her glasses. At first, I was going to say something to her about it, but the more I talked, I thought, I wasn’t so sure I should do that; this was a first meeting after all.We were barely on a first name basis. I was conflicted. What I didn’t want to do was say anything to set things off on the wrong foot. I knew it could be handled discreetly and in a matter-of-fact way, but even a mild embarrassment at this stage came with risks. Most people, in my experience, wanted to have any deficit in their appearance in public corrected.
In college, with my frat brothers, we could, and we would, try to call attention to discrepancies in one another’s presentation. It was one thing to tell someone when out with the guys at Stub and Herbs after a few belts, that the barn door was open and ask, “Are you trolling?” If you were out with a mixed crowd that hung around together a lot, you might also get away with that for a few laughs. But saying something like, “The bat is coming out of the cave, Jerry” (a booger peeking out of a nose), when one of your buddies was trying to make a connection with the blonde standing next to him was asking for trouble. So, I sucked it up. But my eyes kept returning to the dark whisker parked between her eyes.
Georgia was well-informed and asked the right questions, trying to get a picture of what I wanted for a new look. At one point, when I sought to clarify my thoughts about something she showed me on her laptop, I said with enthusiasm, “That is getting really close, Georgia, but just a hair off.” I felt myself blush. What the hell was I saying?
She didn’t seem to notice my discomfort or flushed cheeks. I hoped she’d just think it was a byproduct of the heat coming in the window from the noonday sun or a tendency of some red-haired, freckled-faced people to redden easily.
She asked, “Would you mind if I sat next to you on your side of the booth, so I don’t have to rotate this screen as we talk?”
“No, not at all, if it makes what we’re trying to talk about easier for you.”
I slid closer to the window as she turned her computer and scooted next to me.
As she settled in, I glanced at her for a second. The hair, at this close range, looked like a two by four! I squirmed and turned my body slightly sideways and leaned against the window, trying to get a little distance and perspective. She continued with her ideas.
“Stan, if we add this window up here, eliminate the wide banner on top and add a scrolling feature that highlights this link to the more extensive menu of your services on the next window below as you scroll, it should tighten things up a bit without having to switch to another page. People like to have clarity in their searches, and get rid of the whiskers along the side that make no difference.”
My God! I started to twist the tight curls on my head gifted to me by a grandfather, with my index finger. It was a habit I thought I’d eliminated years ago after taking a Dale Carnegie course on, How to Make Friends and Influence People. The behavior was distracting to others, even if it tamped down my lack of ease for a short time. In fact, one of my smart-ass frat brothers commented one time at a boring party on the West Bank, “If you keep that up, you’re gonna bore a hole in your head and then we’ll all find out there’s nothing in there.”
Georgia continued, “There are some other features that lend themselves to a more interactive approach for you, including adding a couple videos that could be linked to more information, without it overwhelming the client.” I nodded my head in agreement, and as I did so, caught a trace of “Din Dan,” an underrated perfume that my sister wore once in awhile. It’s lemony, crisp scent with a brush of fresh air, was even one I had experimented with.
Georgia lifted her eyes from the computer screen, looked directly at me and said, “What do you think, so far? Are we headed in the right direction?”
As she turned her head, the black beam started to weave back and forth in the air blowing down from a ceiling vent. I had to stomp out an impulsive, perverse urge to shout, “Timber.”
She glanced sideways at me one more time and said, “Is there something I’m missing here, that you’d like to talk about?”
“No, no,” I said, swallowing hard. I found myself drawn to her subtle green eyes. I could not, not look at them. To redirect my obsessiveness, I pinched my thigh, hoping to fracture the preoccupation. It worked and served to refocus my attention. I leaned closer to her and stared at the screen. She smiled.
“You know, Stan, if you want to put in the time, and spend the money, I’d also suggest throwing in an interview with a business-oriented journalist who could ask relevant and pointed questions about your approach and where you want to go with the business.” She looked over the top of her glasses and said, “That is, if you want to burn up a little more cash.” She shrugged, raised her eyebrows and smiled again. This time I didn’t lock her in with a concentrated inspection.
Georgia moved her large-framed glasses to the top of her head. I cringed. We were going to get to the root of my fixation. To my surprise, there was no call for shouting, “Timber” or “Watch your head!” There was nothing there, no beam, log or brush to clear away. I could see clearly now her hazel-colored eyes, green undertones embedded with intelligent regard; ready for the next venture in whatever form it came.
I could only say, “What are you doing for dinner tonight?”