A Smart Set Of CheatersbySW_MO_Hermit©
Another Friday evening and though I was late getting home, my wife Victoria was even later. I didn't like her going out after work with her friends but what can a man do? Every couple does need a life apart from their spouse and Vicky was very good about not only letting me know when she was going out but she also told me where they were going and made sure she got home early. She was usually no later than 8 p.m.
This afternoon I had been out on a job inspection and got a text message from Vicky. "Out 4 drink w grls home late luv u." Vicky is usually good about her going out. In fact it usually isn't more than once every three to four weeks so why does it bother me so much? Well, that's another story. To make it short let's just say I have trust issues of females in general—no, that's not true either. I have trust issues with people male or female that spend time in a bar with their friends and without their spouse or that take a lot of business trips. Vicky does both but the trips are the worst for me by far.
You might ask why I have these problems and how they effect my perception of Vicky. I will tell you a short, sad story so you can see for yourself. I grew up in a bar—literally. My parents owned and operated the most popular bar in our small town outside St. Louis MO. They also operated an upscale French Restaurant in the other half of the bar building. People would come from miles around to eat then would go next door to the bar/night club and dance the night away. I saw it all and at an early age my parents beat discretion into my hide.
It was the summer I was 16 and they decided I needed to learn the business. My older brother and sister had both began working in the business when they were 16 also. By the time I began working there my brother was 21, had a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and managed the Bar. My sister was almost 19 and just beginning college. Of course as young as I was I wasn't allowed to work in the bar. I was started bussing tables in the restaurant. I deeply resented this demand because like most teenagers I wanted to run the streets and do things with my friends. I wanted to work as little as possible for a lot of money at something I chose—preferably in a location where I could flirt with a lot of young beautiful girls.
I had only been working at the restaurant three weeks when I began to change my attitude about things. My GOD I got to see so much TIT I thought I would go blind. I also got to look up many of the proverbial Little Black Dresses. I saw my first bare beaver (well the first one I wasn't related to in any event) looking up the dress of one of the town's society ladies. What made it even more exciting was watching her and her date during the meal and after in the bar.
Several times my Father or Mother had to come to the door separating the bar and restaurant to send me back to my job in the restaurant. My sister was working that night. She came up to me and said, "Donnie you'd better get back to your job and ignore everything you see or you'll get in trouble."
I turned to her and said, "But Sis, that's Mrs. Horton and she's out with a man. She doesn't even have on any underwear either. Do you think Mr. Horton knows? God I can't wait to tell the guys! This is awesome!"
Sarah looked scared and looked over her shoulder then said, "Oh Shit," under her breath.
About that time I felt my Father's big hand on my shoulder. He squeezed it hard and said, "Don, come with me RIGHT NOW." He turned and walked through the dining room past the waiter's station and into his office. I followed him slowly and, in truth, fearfully. I had been sent back to my job enough that night that I knew I was going to have a serious discussion with my Father.
When I got into the office he looked at me and said, "Close the door and sit down."
I thought oh, crap, this is going to be really bad. I was almost sick at my stomach while I sat and watched my father look at me. Finally, he sighed and began talking. "Don I should have had this talk with you before I let you start working here but I just didn't. I had to have this same talk with your brother and sister too and believe me it doesn't get any easier with repetition."
"Mrs. Horton is a beautiful woman isn't she son?" my father asked.
I was so shocked at that I jumped a little and I felt a little dizzy. I wondered where my Father was going with that question and why the change of topic. While I was trying to frame my reply he said once again, "Isn't she?"
I swallowed and nodded my head 'yes' while I whispered, "Unh huh."
Dad leaned his elbows on his desk, laced his fingers together and rested his chin on his thumbs. I remember his sigh and look of sorrow to this day. Finally he leaned back in his chair and began talking again. I can still hear his words even twenty years later. He said, "Son this business is our life and livelihood. It supports the whole family. It provides us our nice house and pool. It sent your brother to college and it will send your sister and you to college also. It will take care of all of us for years to come IF we don't do something to ruin it."
"Don, if someone you know comes in here with their family you smile and greet them by name. You can visit while you do your job IF the customer wants you to but you have to remember one very important thing. When you operate a business like this you have selective hearing and vision. Part of being in the food service and bar business is discretion. You see nothing you shouldn't see. If someone you know comes in here with someone of the opposite sex that is not a member of their family you call them sir or ma'am unless or until they tell you to do otherwise. You don't remember they were here in that case. You especially don't remember anything they did or how they were dressed."
"If our customers do anything off color we ignore it as long as we can and we DO NOT talk about it outside this establishment. The entire staff is held to these same strict rules. If I ever hear of anyone on the staff gossiping about a customer I let him or her go. Over the years I have had to fire some really great employees because they couldn't keep their mouth shut about the customers. We are known for our discretion as well as for the quality of our food and service."
"Son you are young and I know how your hormones are raging. Hell, even at my age I check out women like Mrs. Horton if I get the chance. Your mother knows I do it and that you will but she also knows it is like window-shopping. You look and never, never purchase or try on the merchandise. I don't expect you not to look but I do expect your discretion and that you not make it as obvious as you have been tonight."
"Something else you should know son is that people like Mrs. Horton are always found out. Gossip will start somewhere else and eventually get back to her husband. If he is like most men it will end their marriage. People who cheat on their spouse always get careless and eventually the spouse finds out. We don't want to be the start of something like that. Many of them have small children and a divorce hurts children very badly. Now go back to work and remember what I said."
I returned to my job that day and worked in the restaurant off and on all through high school and college. I never gossiped about the customers but I saw way too much cheating for someone my age. After I got older and began bussing the bar area I watched as groups of men or groups of women came in on a boy's or girl's night out. I watched as the ones I knew were married did things I knew wouldn't pass the spouse test. I learned. Perhaps I learned too much because I also learned to be intolerant of people who went on the boy's or girl's night out and stayed late into the evening.
I learned that many of the people who were in the area on business would play around and try to pick up locals. This is fine, of course, if they are not married but many of them were—or at least they wore rings that said they were. In many cases they would pick up on one of our married customers. I learned to feel disrespect and disgust for them but everyone got treated with the same amount of courtesy and discretion. We did want repeat business after all.
I noticed the ones who came to the nights out and left early after one or two drinks had good, stable marriages. The ones who stayed until late in the night had troubled marriages and many of them divorced.
In my freshman year of college my father hired a new waitress. The first time I saw Victoria I fell in lust. As we worked together over the next two years we fell in love. We dated, met the families and other relatives. We talked and found we were soul mates. We watched all the cheaters that came to the business and laughed at their antics and stupidity. Finally the Christmas before we were to graduate college I asked Vicky to marry me. By then we both knew we were on the same sheet of music about life and would be a couple for life. The only hiccup in our relationship was our parent's request we do a Pre Nuptial Agreement.
Vicky and I knew we were life mates and thought it was stupid. My parents had the business and to my surprise a large investment holding. They wanted it protected should I inherit. I found to my surprise that Vicky's parents wanted the same thing. They had a very large estate and didn't want Vicky's potential share to be split with me if we should divorce. The way the agreement was written solved these problems. We agreed anything we owned before the marriage or inherited from our side of the family stayed with us in the event of a divorce. The agreement also addressed pensions. We each kept our own. The only thing we split was an asset acquired jointly after the marriage. The agreement even addressed childcare in the event we divorced with minor children. If one of us traveled more than the other, the children were to be placed in the custody of the parent that traveled the least unless that would be a danger to the children.
Finally graduation day arrived. Vicky got a BS in Finance and landed a great job with a locally headquartered Stock Brokerage Firm. I got a BS in Construction Management, minor in Landscape Architecture. After college I worked two years for a construction company learning the trade. Neither Vicky nor I was interested in the restaurant or bar. My parents had rolled it into a corporation and we let my sister and brother run the business. Mother stayed the bookkeeper and Dad was just Dad. He was boss even if it didn't show that on paper. After two years working for another company I opened my own construction and landscaping business. Since Vicky and I could barely make payments on our home and cars my parents actually provided the capital for the business from the family corporation. I received a salary to operate (manage) it.
At first things were hard for us but Vicky had been steadily working her way upward in her job. Finally one day she came home so happy. She had been selected for a position in the Compliance Unit of the Brokerage. This is the unit that makes sure the Satellite offices comply with all the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The only down side was her new job entailed some travel. Not excessive, just 3 or 4 days a month but worrisome to me with my background.
As time progressed my business grew. I progressed from small remodel jobs to adding rooms and garages to building entire new buildings and landscaping them. I was happy with the arrangement so never tried to get the business out of the corporation and into my name. I just kept drawing a larger and larger salary. To my pride the value of the business and our gross income grew larger every year.
I grew to accept Vicky's travel but was never entirely comfortable with it. I was happy with her girl's nights out though. She went occasionally but never more than once a month and usually was home by 8 p.m. Of course from time to time I had to travel also and I did go out for a beer after work occasionally with the construction crews or office staff. That is just good management. I made sure though that I left after a beer or two. Normally I got home no more than an hour later than I normally would even if I went out with my employees unless, of course, Vicky went with me.
After we had been married three years Vicky and I decided to have children. Our first child was Patrick, and then 18 months later came my little Suzanne. She was so tiny and as she grew she so controlled me. By the time she was 4 years old she looked exactly like her mother, junior version. She was going to be a heart stopper for sure when she got older!
As Vicky's expertise grew in her job she became known as the person to send to straighten out difficult offices. She found the problems and knew how to help them fix them. If she met resistance she wasn't afraid to straighten out the culprit. If that didn't work, she wasn't afraid to call headquarters and get the big guns out. Many were the office manager that crossed her and went looking for a new job. Because of this Vicky began to travel more. Now she was gone sometimes two weeks a month. I hated it and so did she. We talked. She thought she was on track to take over the department in a little under two years. Then she would no longer travel and would get a very substantial raise. We agreed to continue as we were pending that opportunity.
With the economy slowing my little company had to begin taking jobs we would have passed up before the housing bubble and the stock market crash. We had laid off about half of our employees already. We were in no financial difficulty because we had no large loans or overhead but we weren't as profitable as before.
One of the small jobs I went to bid started my marriage down the path to destruction. Oh, how I wish I had never agreed to bid that job. Perhaps I could have then stayed happily married. Perhaps not.
I walked into my office on a Thursday morning wondering why I even bothered to come in. I had stayed late the night before and finished all the paperwork I had on my desk. Vicky had been out all week on a Compliance Review. From talking to her I knew she wouldn't be home until late Friday evening so I worked. This morning I almost went straight to one of our three job sites to spend the day getting my hands dirty and "inspecting" the job. As many of you know the best way to keep workers on their toes and to ensure quality is for the boss to be on the job with them and to be able to do everything they can do.
I hadn't been at my desk long when my assistant buzzed me. She said, "Don (we're informal here. I try to treat my employees like part of the family) Mrs. Sloan is here and wants to talk about building a deck and landscaping her back yard. Do you have time to visit with her?"
I remember thinking 'Great a little deck and a few bushes' but decided to talk anyway. After all a couple days work could be fit in and would help keep some of the men working to feed their families.
When Mrs. Sloan came into my office I was shocked. I was almost speechless. She looked so much like Mrs. Horton, the first lady I had obsessed over that I could hardly talk. I finally got control of myself and stood to welcome her.
I smiled and said, "Mrs. Sloan I'm glad to meet you. I'm Don Patterson. Mrs. Simpson said you wanted a deck built? Is that correct?"
"Oh, excuse me," I said. "Please have a seat while we discuss your needs. I'm not usually like this but you remind me so much of a lady I knew when I was younger. It's almost like she just walked into the room. Please forgive me."
Mrs. Sloan laughed then said, "Don, its Jasmine." I suppose she saw the uncertainty and confusion in my face because she continued, "You know, Jasmine Horton. Donita and Alfred Horton were my parents. We used to come to your families restaurant all the time?"
"Oh my God," I said. "I'm sorry. You were so much younger and you've changed..."
Jasmine laughed such a sexy tinkling laugh then said, "Well, I guess we've all changed some. I was only 10 when mother and daddy divorced. She took me and we couldn't afford your prices after..."
With a sigh Jasmine began again, "Well, anyway, my husband and I have bought a house near where we used to live and he says we can build a deck and cabana with hot tub. I think we also have enough to landscape too if prices aren't too high. When I found out you had a construction business I just had to see if you would be interested before I checked with anyone else."
We spent most of the morning talking about old times and what she and her husband Steven had in mind. After we got it settled what she wanted in general I told her I would have to see the house and measure before I could make a bid. She said, "No problem Don. We can go out now or...I mean I don't work so any time you want to do that is fine with me."
"Tell ya what." I said. "Why don't I come by about one this afternoon. I need to check up on my work crews and grab a bite then I will have all afternoon to do the measuring and bid. Will that work for you?"
Jasmine left the office and I followed. I told Laura, my secretary, "I'll be out the rest of the day. I'm going to check on all the job sites, grab a bite then go over to Mrs. Sloan's to bid her little job. Just close up when you go home. If you need me, I'll have my cell."
Everything was going well on the jobs but I stayed a little longer than I should have to visit with one of the property owners. That threw me late for lunch and I got to the Sloan's about 1:30.
Jasmine met me at the door and the first thing I did was apologize for being late. "Mrs. Sloan, I'm sorry for being late. I got tied up with one of the property owners and ran over. I tried to call but I only got the machine."
Mrs. Sloan giggled then said, "Don, I told you its Jasmine. I'm sorry I didn't hear the phone. I was out cleaning the pool after I got home and forgot to take the cordless with me. It's no big deal. You're here now. Do you want something to drink or do you want to see the area?"
"I'm fine Jasmine. Let's just go on out and look over your back yard." I got all the measurements then said, "Well, it's no problem pricing everything I usually use but since you don't have a hot tub you really need to buy it before I bid. I need to know the dimensions of it before I can order some of the materials we will use."
"Oh," Jasmine said. "I thought you would furnish the tub too. I don't know much about them and, well can't you just include that in the bid too?"
I laughed and said, "Yes, Jasmine, I guess I can do that but we don't sell them and I will have to buy one somewhere else. To do that I need to know the size you want, if it will be in ground or stand alone, if it will run on 210 or 110 volt current..."
Jasmine looked so upset my heart went out to her. I remembered when she was younger how she could get so sad over the small things. Finally I said, "Well, let's talk about this a while then maybe you could call your husband or talk to him tonight about it. I can just hold off on this until you decide what kind of tub you want."
Now Jasmine looked really worried. She was almost shaking when she said, "Oh, no. I can't call him about this. He told me to handle it and I intend to do that. He is on a business trip to Denver so I won't see him until this weekend. Maybe we can just figure it out?"
I questioned Jasmine more about how they would use the tub and found out they entertained rarely and in fact it was just mostly her that used the pool and back yard. Sometimes she did have a friend or two over also. I finally had enough information. We went to my supplier and let her look at tubs. Jasmine decided to buy a smaller 5-person tub. I got the dimensions and we went back to her home. I asked if she had somewhere I could hook to the Internet so I could access my office. Some of the items I needed to do the estimate changed on Thursdays and I wanted the accurate price list before I started working.