A Season of Firsts
Below is part of an e mail I sent to two of my colleagues from Maine about my recent trip. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent and to honor NDAs. I added the photos to give it some visual interest.
So, what a long strange trip it’s been. I’m home, and glad to be here.
Lots of “firsts” on this trip, starting with getting to the airport.
The AHOD [quarterly company meeting] on Tuesday was running over, and I mentioned to Kelley that I had a plane to catch – she suggested I share a cab to the airport with Bill, the Mark of Excellence guy. He was fine with it – and as it turns out, the cab was actually a town car. So, I had “a car” take me to the airport. Fancy. Bill was also a really nice guy and we had a good conversation on the way.
I ended up delayed in Cincinnati due to bad weather in Philly. I had a quick dinner, then did some work while I waited. Once I got to Philadelphia, two hours late, I picked up my car, which once again, had Tennessee tags. Ha! Drove to the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, and almost procured enough venison for the winter when Bambi and Faline darted out in front of my car. Thankfully my braking foot was swift, and they were swifter.
I slept for about six hours, got up and met the sales rep, then we went to our meeting, which was just weird. I don’t normally give demos, but I think I did a good job in Jill’s absence. The main guy we were working with looked a lot like Peter Sellers. I didn’t mention that to him, but I could not stop thinking of Dr. Strangelove.
Once I got back on the road and stuck in horrendous traffic, it became clear that I might not make my flight. I swore my way through New Jersey and Philadelphia and made it to the rental return without fueling the car…another first. I will probably get reamed by accounting for it, but I stand by it – they were boarding when I got to the gate. I will point out that my connections that night were so tight, I ended up not eating dinner, so they can take it out of that, if they choose.
I arrived in Greensboro, NC and took a cab to the hotel. Had a really interesting conversation with the cab driver – he was from Liberia, and was impressed that I at least knew that the capital city was Monrovia, so named for James Monroe. From there we touched on Mia Farrow, Naomi Campbell and blood diamonds. And then, I got to the hotel. It was late, I was tired. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
|Just take me to my hotel, where I can take a hot shower to wash off the shame.|
Yesterday morning, I met the sales rep for breakfast and she outline her plan for the two meetings. My plan was to listen to what they wanted and then wing it. That’s always my plan. I don’t share that with the reps though, because it freaks them out.
Her boss came and got us, and we got to Big Tobacco Conglomerated, Inc. for the first meeting. So, that was weird. Being in Winston-Salem, I expected some level of tobacco culture, but this place was insane. There was a huge artsy hanging sculpture in the lobby of Davey Dromedary [one of their logoed mascots]. Once we got into the offices, there were all these vintages cigarette ads, and even a huge Smokey Smokes [brand cigarette] box – about the size of a Great Dane was placed next to the elevators. I mean, it was a nice office, but it was bizarre. And it got weirder. In the conference room, there were ashtrays on the tables. And two of the guys we were meeting with had spit cups and were actively using them. Awesome. Full disclosure: Matt uses smokeless tobacco from time to time and I hate it, but it’s not a battle worth fighting. He also smokes cigars from time to time, and that doesn’t bother me at all.
|My mother has this poster in her laundry room and has for over 35 years. Not surprisingly, I'm not a smoker. Well played, Mother. Well played.|
Anyway, it was a really odd meeting. We suspect that they’ve already picked a different vendor, but are required to have three proposals, so we were just there for the dog and pony show. I suspect this because the main guy asked me a question about a report, then gets up and walks out of the room as I start to answer him. What could I do? I just kept talking to the people who were there.
After BTCI, we had lunch at a little Mexican place. It was fine. Better than Taco Hell, not as good as my favorite place, La Hacienda. It was lunch. The two sales reps, neither of whom I’d spent any time with before yesterday, asked me about myself. What to say? I can’t give them full Allison in a 30 minute lunch! I told them about Jellygate, which, to my mind, gives them my essence without having to work too hard.
So, after lunch, we headed to the Delightful Dream Doughnuts HQ – aka, the real reason I went on this trip.
They have an office right off the interstate, and it’s a pretty building. We walked in and the receptionist signed us in, gave us badges, then pointed to her left and suggested that we get coffee and doughnuts while we were waiting for Larry. They had a huge glass case filled with doughnuts, and every kind of coffee and coffee fixin' you could ask for. I selected a chocolate iced cream filled and basically inhaled it.
Larry came to get us, and we walked through the lobby past a “water feature” – sort of a fountain that looked like a sheet of frosted glass with water cascading down it – it looked just like the glaze bath they run the doughnuts through. And you know that’s not just a coincidence.
The meeting went well. I sometimes wish that sales would remember we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, but that’s my beef. The Delightful Dream folks were impressed with my knowledge of their brand. They were mentioning a location in Atlanta where they’d need training in about four additional languages, and I said, “Ah, would that the one on Ponce de Leon?” They were amazed. I know my doughnuts, people. I also know my hometown.
|I think I love you...|
As we were leaving, I mentioned that the water feature reminded me of the glaze bath, and he beamed as he told us they’d had it specially made for that. He then showed us a hall that had photos spanning the 75 year history of the company. I told him it must be great to work for a company that brought joy to so many people. He said it was. Score one for Allison. Larry encouraged us to get some more doughnuts. He pointed out to-go boxes and suggested we fill up before we left. The local rep got some for his kids, I got a glazed to go, and with that, we were off to the Raleigh airport.
So, for some reason, I got booked first class on both legs of my trip home. I got to go through a fast line at security, for starters. That was pretty sweet. Then, I was working at the gate and they made an announcement that they would check any roller bags to your final destination for free because it’s a full flight. SCORE! I dumped my bag and went and grabbed dinner.
Now, I’ve never flown first class before, I may never get to again – but it was kind of nice. They kept calling me Mrs. Everett. They knew who I was! I got to board early and drink a glass of wine while I watched the teeming masses pass me by.
They also offered me snacks. I took a fun sized Snickers, which actually goes well with white wine. Who knew? The second flight – from Atlanta to Nashville, clocked in at 35 minutes and in that time, my seat mate got up to use the bathroom three times. He was the window seat. Really, guy?
I got my bag, took a non-descript cab ride to the house and that’s pretty much it. With that, I guess it’s time to start getting back into the rhythm of being a curve dweller. Hope you are both well. Had I thought they would survive the journey, you know I’d have sent doughnuts. Instead, I send my best wishes. Hardly as sweet, but certainly less calories!