Before my former colleagues arrived to show us the ads for the Equinox’s newest campaign, Andrew and I met in the dining room. By now my crush on him was becoming ridiculous. It’d gotten so crazy that I started a diary to document every embarrassing thought I had about him and I worried that if I suddenly died, my family would find the lonely handwritten words of a 20-something teenager, bemoaning the symptoms of puppy love. I’d die if they did.
“I can’t believe it, I scribbled. The most unthinkable thing in the world has happened. I have the wildest crush on Andrew. Can you believe it? He’s just so handsome, so smart, so kind, so worldly. I wonder if he knows. I wonder if he can see the way I look at him? I wonder what he’d think if knew that when he hired me, and rescued me from horrible Lane USA, he sparked my curiosity about everything. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.”
As much of a dork as I was, I still knew there was something hilarious about all of this. All of it. The fact that I’d die, for a second time I guess, if I died and my family found my diary. The fact that Andrew did not exactly fit my “sketchy bad boy” type and was instead a dignified, Swiss-born restaurateur. The fact that I’d known him for almost a year, mostly through emails, and here I was standing in a dark restaurant with him, wondering if he could read my mind. As rational as I am, and always was, I was also convinced Andrew was a psychic, who was just waiting for the right time to profess his overwhelming love for me.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked me as he switched on the lights. “Water? Coffee?”
“Uh sure,” I answered nervously, surprised he was not wearing the jacket of his Alan Flusser suit.
Wow, he’s in good shape, I thought to myself. Who knew? I like those suspenders. I wonder if he wears them every day.
“So what is it? Coffee? Water? Flat? Sparkling?” He continued, snapping me out of my first chance to look at the behind-the-scenes Andrew.
“Sparkling,” I answered trying to force myself to get over the shyness that I was convinced was ruining my life. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a jacket,” I mentioned, wondering if this would actually qualify as flirting or witty banter. Probably neither, I concluded.
“Well this isn’t showtime,” he told me with a wink. “When the curtain goes up at noon, I’ll hit my mark, wearing my costume. Until then, we’ll just have fun,” he explained, as he literally jumped over the bar, grabbing the railing like a gymnast and swinging his legs over the top.
Too shocked, I said nothing. My mind just wandered with a million questions. Did he do that to impress me? Was he an athlete when he was younger? Is he trying to tell me he’s interested in me? Or does he do that every morning? Does he think I’m a jerk? Should I have said I wanted to flat water? Or would coffee have been more sophisticated? What’s going to happen when Mark and Allison get here? Are they going to treat me like a pee-on, as they always have? Should I speak up and voice my opinions? Or should I just nod in agreement with whatever they said?
“Wow, you’re in another world,” Andrew observed correctly, handing me a bottle of Pellegrino. “Take a seat at one of the banquettes. I’ll get some glasses. It’s got to pretty weird to sit on the other side of the table, now that you’re the client.”
Wow he’s really athletic and fun, I thought. He’s not so wrapped up in himself that he doesn’t think about how strange all of this is for me. Lane was so different. There women were mostly work horses who were talked about like objects and used to crank out the presentations that the men showed the clients.
“No, not really,” I lied. “I had a lot of responsibility there. It was very collaborative. We worked in groups. I went to lots of meetings.”
Positively nothing could have been further from the truth. At Lane I was just one in a long line of assistants who worked for the General Manager, John, a hot head if there ever was one. I took the job knowing full well that I’d eventually be fired. The employment agency that placed me there warned that the last five girls had been canned – with zero warning. They simply reported for work and were told to clear out their desk. Then, they were all escorted out of the building by a security guard who watched as they tearfully walked to the elevator.
“Really?” Andrew asked, raising his eyebrow and putting on his suit jacket. “That’s not the George Lane I know. It’s not the George Lane anyone knows. He may be a legend, but he’s never been known as collaborative.”
Oh no, George is not a collaborator,” I agreed silently. When he brainstormed the direction of the control top hosiery ad, he didn’t even bother to ask a woman for her opinions. Instead he and Ted gave themselves high fives in the conference room for coming up the dubious tagline Slenderize Your Thunder Thighs. “Fat chicks will love it,” George announced. Perhaps not surprisingly the client rejected it.
“That’s just for show,” I lied again. “Behind the scenes, we all worked together all the time. I’m not worried about this meeting. Mark and Allison are great.”
Speak of the devils, just as I was continuing a long stream of lies to make myself sound far more respected at Lane than I ever was, and to suggest that I had attended even one business meeting in my life, Mark and Allison strolled through the lobby toward the dining room.
“Excuse me,” Allison called out in her signature private school lockjaw. “I see you’re both drinking on the job.” Alex forced a smile through his poker face.
“Hey Hannah, I see you have it so much better now that you’re not chained to a desk, typing memos,” she condescended, giving me a kiss on each cheek, as Mark and Andrew shook each other’s hands, palming the others bicep, like a candidate running for election.
“Howya doin’ kiddo?” Mark asked me without pausing for an answer. “Let’s get down to business. I know Andrew is a very busy man.”
As they flipped through a series of print ad ideas, all of which were variations of ideas the agency hand been presenting to other clients for decades, I carefully studied Andrew’s face, wondering if he knew everything in the stack was recycled. I couldn’t tell. But I certainly recognized all of it.
There was the Vh1 “Critics Choice” ad that was rejiggered for the restaurant industry’s James Beard awards. There was the Cheerios ad that was reimagined to sell pricey truffles and rare Barolos. There was the testimonial style ad featuring Derek Jeter, always one of George’s favorite pitchmen. There was even a variation on the Thunder Thighs ad, but this time the headline screamed “A Thrill from the Grill.”
“Andrew, before we hear your thoughts, I wanted to ask you quickly before I forget, where do buy your suits? You always look so elegant,” Mark said almost gushing, but with a deep leading man voice that hinted he was once a voice-over actor.
“Flusser,” Andrew answered, revealing with pride the label sewn into the jacket’s lining. “If you’d like, I can give him a call to introduce you.”
“Andrew, I would be honored,” Marked intoned with the theatrical sincerity he once offfered me in thanks for writing his son’s sixth grade essay about Pop Art. “To receive the sartorial guidance of a man like you would very much welcomed.”
From his jacket pocket, Andrew pulled a small leather-bound pad and scribbled a note to himself with his Montblanc pen and declared, “Done! Now let’s talk about the ads before I have to go make the donuts.” Allison and Marked laughed too loudly to be believable.
“I appreciate your coming here to show Hannah and me what you’ve been working on,” Andrew began. “I respect all the hard work you’ve put in and I want to take a couple of days to give it some thought. Either Hannah or I will be in touch soon. But for now, I must get to figuring out today’s seating. If I put the mayor next to his challenger’s biggest donor, it could get ugly.”
Mark and Allison laughed again, as we all stood up. Mark focused exclusively on Andrew, asking about his suspenders. Allison walked with me as we escorted them out of the restaurant.
“That’s a great color, Hannah,” Allison said, feeling my bright red blouse and undoubtedly wondering who’d made it. “Did you get it on sale?”
“I don’t know,” I claimed, trying to get the discussion off of my discount wardrobe. “I’ve had it for years. My mother bought it for me when I was in college.”
“Oh really sweetie?” Allison asked with a giggle. “Well you forgot to take the price tag off it,” she continued, showing me the Marshall’s tag that peeked out from one of the sleeves.
I was mortified. Not so much for wearing discount clothing, but for lying about how old the blouse was. I said nothing, but I am sure my face telegraphed how judged I felt.
“Thanks for visiting Ali. Please tell everyone I said hi,” I smiled, secretly pulling the tag off the blouse and hoping Andrew neither heard nor saw any of it.
“So what do you think kiddo?” he asked me with a smile that suggested he caught Mark’s tone when the meeting began. I rolled my eyes, trying to ignore it.
“The ads reminded me of something. I’m just not sure what,” I told him unsure whether it was okay to mention that every one of them was derivative of ads that had run many times before, for many other companies.
“Of course, they remind you of something. Those are the same ones he already sold to Vh1 and his cereal advertiser. George always does the same work again and again and again,” he stated matter of factly.
“So what are you going to do? Are you going to say something?” I asked, truly surprised that he was aware that Lane USA was coasting along plagiarizing itself.
“I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to make them wait for a few days to stew in it. And then I’m going to pick the best one and run it,” he explained, confusing me.
“Really?” I asked, trying to understand his logic.
“Sure the guy’s a genius. He’s been promoting this restaurant for 20 years. I believe in loyalty,” he said. “You’re only as good as the people you work with.”
I was thoroughly confused. As Andrew walked to Maitre d’s podium and I returned to my desk, I wondered what to make of it all. It seemed crazy to me, but I didn’t believe my ears.
“So?” I heard from just beyond the office’s door that was halfway open. I didn’t recognize the voice and waited for someone to enter. No one did. “Hello?” the voice continued. I stared at the door.
Just then, in the crack between the hinges and frame, I saw an eye blinking and recognized the wiggling brow. It was Jack, flirtatiously spying on me from the hallway.
“So what happened? Did you see the very beautiful ads the legendary George Lane created?” he asked as he floated through the door with a prance and a kiss on the back of his right hand.
“Yes, we did. Mark and Allison came over and showed us a bunch of them,” I reported factually, with no hint of an opinion.
“Is it the same bullshit they always show us? The guy is a total fraud; don’t you think?” he asked staring at me without blinking, seemingly intent on getting an answer.
“I don’t know, I…” I began to say before he cut me off.
“Oh really,” he responded with a mocking lilt that emphasized his Italian accent. “You don’t have any opinion at all? None whatsoever? You and Andrew are going to be perfect together. He’ll approve anything and you’ll back him up. Just what we need here: another fraud. Welcome to the Equinox, where we’re all asleep at the wheel.”
I sat there stunned for at least a minute after he stormed out of the office. At first I could hear him laughing and joking with someone who was waiting for the elevator with me.
“Madam, you look delicious,” I heard him say, turning on a dime from rage to charm. “Why don’t you come see me at 1:30? We can have lunch together. Do you like oysters?” he asked as she giggled. When I was sure they were both gone, I ran to the bathroom and sobbed, uncontrollably.
Why is he talking to me this way? Why is he treating me like shit? He doesn’t even know me. He didn’t even let me speak. I’m not a fraud! I just some girl people like to push around. Kiddo! Why did Mark call me kiddo? And Allison! What a bitch. I’m very sorry I didn’t grow up rich and marry a pig of a banker who lets me buy clothes, directly out of September’s Vogue. This Jack, asshole, has no idea who he’s dealing with. I’ll walk the fuck out of this hellhole in a second. I don’t get paid enough to put up with his abusive bullshit. If he thinks he’s going to get me sobbing over his mental health issues, he’s got the wrong girl.
Flushing the toilet to muffle the sound of my sobbing, I realized that yes, in fact Jack did just that. He got me to cry. My mascara was now undoubtedly dripping down my face. I was sure I looked puffy and pink and that everyone in the office would see I was just another wimpy girl who had no business working in the murky waters of a New York City office, where sharks were always circling.
I’m a loser, I thought. No wonder people treat me like shit. I can’t even manage to get the tags off of my dorky discount clothes.
Category: Strange but True
About the Author (Author Profile)
I am a New York City publicist who specializes in promoting luxury products and experiences and occasionally moonlight as a journalist.
Relatively new to the world of blogging, I have watched and enjoyed Bravo’s Housewives shows since the first season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I created this blog over the 4th of July holiday of 2011 because I enjoy writing and love to figure out how to blend images and words to create something that is both visually compelling and interesting to read.