Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Bad Penny

Due to the limited number of flights available from Lafayette, Louisiana, it was more sensible for me to stay over the weekend between our two-week training program. However, three of our five-person team were scheduled to return home on Friday night. Two of them aren’t coming back for the second week, but Bernie is coming back.

He checked out of the hotel where we were all staying that morning. After our last class, he drove the other two to the airport. I returned to the hotel with visions of frosty mugs of beer dancing in my head. Two days without Bernie. It’s almost hard to imagine. It’s like looking in the mirror before surgery, trying to guess how you’ll look once they remove a big tumor from your face.

I changed to comfortable clothes, finished a couple of tasks on the computer, and relaxed. It was 5:30. Normally, Bernie would be hassling us to go out to dinner, because like many people his age, he goes to bed early, so he has to eat early. Tonight I could eat as late as I wanted. The stress of work and dealing with Bernie slid from my shoulders like a great weight, and then the phone rang. It was Bernie.

The airline had oversold the flight, so they asked the passengers if anyone would give up a seat for a free travel voucher, and Bernie, displaying the reflexes of a mongoose, pounced on the deal. He figured he could use his frequent guest points to stay overnight for free in a hotel near the airport and fly out the next morning. But he no longer had his rental car, so he called me because he needed a ride to the hotel. Plus it was 5:30, so he needed to eat.

Depressed, I drove to the airport. I called Bernie as I approached the terminal to let him know I was pulling up. “Oh, I guess I should have called you,” he said. “I decided to take a cab to the hotel. Can you pick me up for dinner?”

Now I was pretty upset, but Bernie’s hotel was on the way back to my hotel, so it wasn’t out of my way. I stopped out in front of the lobby entrance and he got in the car. It seems that this particular hotel consists of several buildings, and his room was about a hundred yards away. I drove him to his building so that he could drop off his bag.

A few minutes later, he emerged and told me that his room key card didn’t work. Seething with irritation, I drove him back to the lobby. He went inside and came right back out, chuckling to himself. “Can you believe it?” he asked. “I was using the key card from the first hotel!” Idiot.

I’d had enough of Bernie for that day, so I denied his demands that we go out to eat immediately. Instead, we drove downtown where a local music festival was being held. Beer was flowing like water, and I drank deeply. Bernie sat glumly on a bench, trying to look pitiful and hungry.

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Meanwhile, I had a long conversation with Sandy (the other employee who is staying for the weekend), in which she revealed that Bernie has some personality qualities that make young women uncomfortable.

After we had deadened our sensitivity to Bernie with alcohol, we decided to take pity on him and get some dinner. We walked to a nearby neighborhood and found the Girls Gone Wild bus parked outside of a club. God only knows what they were doing in there. I had Bernie take this picture. It took him five minutes to figure out how the camera worked.

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Sandy asked me to take this picture – I swear it wasn’t my idea.

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As soon as we finished, two giggly young women walked up with a camera and asked if I would take their picture in front of the bus. Bernie once again displayed his mongoose reflexes and sprang forward, grabbing the camera out of their hands. We then spent an uncomfortable five minutes watching Bernie fumbling with the camera and trying to make conversation with the girls, who went from giggly amusement to frozen smiles.

Next week is going to suck. Bernie won’t have a rental car, so I’m going to have to drive him anywhere he wants to go.

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