In my line of work I get to meet many types of people.
I have dual citizenship into the territories of labor and management.
When I dress well and my bags are neat I can take the front elevator.
Most of the time it is just easier, with all the gear, to ride the service car.
I showed up at one residence for a small repair and was very clean that day so I went up the front.
The elevator operator surveyed my zipped and colored canvas totes.
“Are you going on vacation with the so and so’s?”
The Company sent me for a job at a lakeside rustic house in the mountains.
It was a weekend trip, with the clients, and my husband came along to assist me and round out the group.
This was back in the days when: “money didn’t mean anything” according to the client in a more recent reflection.
That was before the dot-com bubble burst and before the recent housing derivative crash.
We flew with the clients in a small plane, a 6-seater.
They brought books and Mrs. M. proceeded to comb through auction catalogs circling items and taking notes.
She was in the gallery business and knew the gallery and the owner where my husband was working.
There was a lot to talk about but she made it clear that she needed time to read.
“We read while we fly,” Mr. M told us and we took out our books and joined them in silent study.
The sun went down and by that time we were over the forest, a vast aquifer region that provides water for the state.
It was a dark landscape below, no lights.
The pilot called out, did we want to see the comet?
He turned off the cabin lights and we flew alongside Hale-Bop.
It was a “watch and learn” weekend.
Without much discussion I understood that I needed to be the first person up, make my coffee and take a cup over to the guest cabin for my husband.
By the time I had donned my work apron, Mr. M was arriving in the kitchen to prepare a breakfast-in-bed tray for Mrs. M.
When he left the kitchen my husband joined me in the main cabin for our project, glazing new wood to look like the old, smoke stained wood on two walls of a room.
They made lunch for us, and also dinner.
We ate together and they were expert at conversation, professional in fact and that does not mean unnatural.
After dinner the men had drinks from a shelf that does not exist in our household, that is, the top shelf squared.
Us women had herb tea and then Mrs. M went to her cabin to read and we joined Mr. M for a chat in the media cabin.
He turned on a basketball game and marveled at the players.
“What discipline,” he said in admiration.
They discussed the stock market and I could hear the gears in my husband’s brain moving as he listened to a man who wrote about economics and worked at Goldman Sachs.
People paid to get some of the information that a casual conversation would unearth.
The talk confirmed that Yahoo, a small company, emerging in a tight pack of new businesses, was something to pay attention to.
It was Easter weekend and the day we had completed our work there was a sudden spring snow of almost a foot.
The power went out for what became 2 hours and Mrs. M became agitated.
She had her husband call the power company on the old rotary phones they used up there.
He called and was congenial but Mrs. M, getting out a box of candles was a step beyond impatient.
“You were too nice to them,” she said.
“They said they would look into it when the roads are clear.” He said
“You call them back and tell them you are retarded and just don’t understand how they could not have already cleared the road to check the lines.”
My husband and I sat quiet with a middle distance gaze.
Mr.M called back.
He was still nice, but he was firm.
They needed to get a plow on the road and find the break in the line, he said.
The lights were on in a short 20 minutes.
Mr.M turned to my husband and offered him a drink.
He poured a generous measure from the top shelf and they toasted.
“A man always has the last word,” he said, after a long sip, “And it is ‘Yes dear.’ “
The next day we left the cabins.
The storm cleared the sky and the mountains were suddenly revealed across the lake, Olympic sized mountains.
Mrs. M requested that the sheets and towels be brought down and packed first.
I understood the art of packing from the complex arrangements my own family made in the days when we drove from St.Louis to Maine.
Things are rolled tight and placed in order.
Mrs. M beamed a big smile at me when I arrived at the car, ahead of the appointed time with the linens folded and my bags ready.
I understood her.
She wanted things to work according to plan.
We boarded the small plane and taxied down the tiny runway, then went off into the shoulder and we had to get out and help the pilot push the plane back onto the runway.
All of us were in our travel clothes but Mrs. M had thought to bring goulashes.
My bosses called me in for a debriefing.
I had been given a talk before I left as well.
This was perhaps their largest client and certainly the most important.
“Mrs. M said she had fun,” my boss said, sounding surprised.
“Yes, we did.” I confirmed, “They are good cooks.”
“What did you talk about?” he asked.
“Cats, dogs, food, wine, art, galleries, gardens and stocks.”
“Oh,” he said, and then, “Good job.”