Bianca swung through the revolving door of La Salle and Associates in Georgetown, blinded by sharp sunlight and hit by a fuming July heat smacking down on the street. She walked briskly up to M Street onto Clydes, past a wallowing saxophone player, to meet her older colleague Daisy Malcolm for lunch. Although Bianca held a more senior position, she wanted to discuss her discomfort working at La Salle. How should she raise her problem? Should she raise it at all? Daisy, a veteran in the office, always smiled and they had friendly chats at the coffee stand, and she seemed her best bet to get a better feel for the office politics.
When she entered busy Clydes, Daisy was already seated at a table in the back under a glass roof, surrounded by tropical plants. She waved and Bianca shuffled past the many male patrons at the counter followed by hungry eyes since they were still waiting for their order. As usual, the noise was deafening, but Daisy’s table was a bit more isolated.
“Hi,” Bianca said. “So nice you could make time for me.”
“Oh, it’s great to have a chat here,” Daisy said. “In the office, it’s always hectic with phones and all.”
“Geez, this stifling heat! It kills me. I love my Portland Main.”
“I know. Can’t stand it either, even though I’m from here. But in six months, we’re all complaining about the cold again.”
A waiter came by to take their orders. Bianca took a Caesar salad and Daisy ordered a pizza Margarita. Bianca noticed her colleague didn’t particularly care for her weight.
“So, what’s up,” Daisy said. “You wanted to talk about something.”
Bianca flipped her hair aside. She felt uncomfortable opening up to Daisy and hesitated momentarily.
“You’ve been with La Salle longer than I and you know the ins and outs much better. My first three months have been frustrating. I’ve talked about it to Bob. You know Bob well. What’s your take on him?”
“What you mean?” Daisy asked, as if she didn’t want to show the back of her teeth.
Why was she evasive, Bianca wondered? Was she the team player she’d hoped?
“Well, I had this morality issue with one of my accounts. Bob said La Salle doesn’t mix sentiments with business, and if I do, La Salle isn’t the place for me. Is that the way you guys work?”
“Everyone takes their assignments as they come. Part of the game. What’s your problem, really?”
“You know I’m anti-smoking. I am uncomfortable being a rep for a cigarette company and wanted a different account. Bob didn’t take that lightly.”
“So, what did he say?”
“As I said before, if I mix sentiments with business, La Salle isn’t the place for me.”
The waiter brought their orders and refilled their glasses with water from a carafe, the ice cubes tingling like nickels in a metal piggy bank.
“I thought Bob would be more flexible,” Bianca continued. “Give me a different account. What would you do?”
“What else did he say?” Daisy asked, skewing the question.
“Nothing, but his looks were revealing.”
“Kind of get the heck out of here? Maybe something you should consider, then.”
Bianca fell silent and ate her salad. What was this Daisy really like? Why was she so unhelpful? Was she jealous, after her job?
The noise in Clydes had reached lunch time peak. People moved incessantly from and to tables and conversation became almost impossible.
“I thought you could give me some better advice than just tell me to beat it,” Bianca said, still keeping her cool but getting edgy. “How’s our senior management handling issues like this? Would they listen?”
“Don’t even think about that. You’d be listed as a troublemaker. The boss always wins, regardless.” Daisy cocked her head and pushed her hand through her blonde hair, seemingly surprised that Bianca had even made the suggestion.
Bianca took a sip of water and gazed into her glass.
“It’ll be difficult to work in La Salle if you have that sort of issues,” Daisy added.”What if they change your account and something else comes up that bothers you again? Looks better you go and do something different.”
“And you tell me that in today’s economy? That’s crazy. Who can afford that?”
“What do you want me to say?” Daisy asked with a mouthful of Margarita. “Everybody in the office already knows about you. Walls have ears, you know.”
“So what exactly do you know?” Bianca asked, raising her voice.
“They say you’re a rabble-rouse, somebody controversial, a goner.”
“With whom do you hangout, Daisy, with Bob?” Bianca felt she was losing control.
The waiter dropped the check on the table.
“That’s none of your business, girl,” Daisy shouted. “I’m telling you where you stand. Pack up and go before they tell you to.”
“I won’t and I won’t,” Bianca shouted back, though it wasn’t noticed in the restaurant’s steel drum noise. “I get the feeling you see me rather leave so you can take my place, right?”
“That’s a stupid thing to say,” Daisy said, putting her share of the bill on the table, standing up. “I have enough of this conversation. And don’t think I will remain silent about it either.”
She took her purse and stormed out of Clydes, bumping into a few guys standing at the counter.
“Hey you, aren’t you one of those babes from the ex-wife series?” But Daisy was gone.
Bianca flung her money on the table and left. She would keep the Philip Morris account and screw them in another way.
A week later The Washington Post reported a story that a sales rep of La Salle by the name of Daisy Malcolm was overheard saying that Philip Morris cigarettes caused male impotence and the company’s stock tanked. By the time Daisy hit the roof and was fired, Bianca sat at a beach hotel in the Bahamas sipping punch in the arms of the Travelocity Gnome, her other account, savoring her revenge.