Wednesday, March 2, 2016

北京麻雀 - London - 6

6
Olean, NY
1999

         The first half-hour of driving out Buffalo was to as a freeway was supposed to be. The land that Joyce Carol Oates grew up in - fighting a rooster, and a codling a hen. There were a few exits and a few signs. But in about 2 miles all of that ended - there were fields prompt of a group of signs huddled together advertising beer, maps, and other things useful for getting on to the next town. Thus this was it, even the antique shops were not antique shops – but pure, fine, unadulterated – junk. He was leaving the land were Joyce Carol Oates was a small girl, playing on a farm with a chicken – which she called a boy but was really a girl, thinking strange thoughts until she bloomed out of an age which admired her taciturn way of speaking. Because within it was something magical to its time – and time when a rooster could lay an egg, and his owner thought nothing of it. But it one looked at the terrain one would not see anything unusual, except a few hills masquerading as mountains in the distance, but in this world a woman rose to consciousness and wrote novels galore, some of few of which would be classics in their own right.

       It was an hour and a half of flat monotonous ground bumping along at 55 mph, when finally he cited Olean, with its past bridge on one side – which was actually just outside of the city. Up ahead was the last town of the plains, which then became whatever mountains existed in this place. He knew from twice before sleeping in Olean, that it was the end of the alluvial plain. Just to the south what the people of the East called mountains, started. They were not really mountains in the sense of the West – who at best would call them foothills, but everyone back from around New York knew nothing else, to them the Catskills were a set of mountains. The mood here was euphoric, even here, the seem to know that the stock market was up, and was not that what everyone hoped for?

       Even though he had only been to his destination once, he immediately went there. There were only two places in town with which the Director would allow himself to sup himself. And this one was the best of the two. It was a rather posh place for Olean, the place where athletic directors took out there friends for dinner or lunch. Since the upgrade to the cable company, there were a lot more lunches and dinners to go round, the sons of the cable company made sure of that. But they were not particularly generous, in point of fact. The wife of the cable company – who, again, I will note had every penny go through her head – made sure that there would only be two places to eat at. Which is why there were only two places where the Director dined. He knew just how much money was going to the extracted, and he brt that would have all of his people out in time. He had made this bet 23 times before.

         And more importantly, he had never missed. Ever.

         This is why Sebastian Shah was there, because he was one of the best both consultants and directors. And he would make sure that the young people – or at least young to the company – would be sharp. This was his second meeting with him, the first time it was in a different airport, because no one knew which of the airports was the best to get in to the cable company from. The first choice was not the best. Finally they had decided that coming in through Buffalo while not the most direct route, had the advantage of being a jet – rather than a turboprop. Thus, either you were with some one – and got to talk strategy – or you were alone. Mister Shah was of course on a different plane in to Buffalo – first-class and with plenty of drinks; they were not counting because they knew that if they booked a flight on he would be one of the first in line. Most of the time, they would stay the night in Buffalo, but Shah sent him an email saying that he wanted to talk about something. And he really meant, normally when a boss wants to talk about something he means that he is talking and you are listening.

       He was there well before Shah, because his plane was the later, and so occupied himself with studying Gödel, on his famous PM proof. Of course is translation was in English, and it was paperbound – he saw clearly in his mind's eye a clear German edition. He did not read German, but recognized it. Most people did not know that the relational database which there were was based on was, to a large extent, based on his work, and a view others. But that is what made him valuable – he knew the relationship, and when it could come in to play. Then he saw Shah, and put his book aside. Stood up. And greeted him with a firm handshake. Then he seated – not plopped – his way down. Knowing full well that Sebastian was neat and orderly. He did not look like much of anything – he was a bit on the short side, even for an Indian. He was dark, which meant he was from the South and probably spoke a Dravidian language – probably Tamil, though he had not been able to guess. He wore spectacles and was a bit chubby in the cheeks, though not in the rest of his form. He was neat and well dressed, though not ostentatious. He wore a suit of some kind – though which one it was was not specific. He imagined that the sales director could finger it out, but no one else could. He had no mustache or other forms of decoration – unlike his second in command who had tattoos on both his arms. He was of course a sailor and was caught in the last bits of fighting in Vietnam. There was no more to tell about Shah, even if one looked – and he preferred it that way. No one knew about him, he step from India, as if from some drama on the independence made in the last third of the 20th century – in London, of course. He had that way of speaking about him – faintly Britsh.

        While the first meeting was slow and latterly, this meeting began before they were completed seated, with Mister Shah beginning: “First, I want to tell you how well you have done.” Which in fact meant had not done well at all. “But you have been reassigned to working solely on this one contract because they need people, and we have two upsell of them on the entire team.” Which was true, their were not many people who could work as long as he could. Even if it meant through the night. “So I first one to assure you that your position is in no danger.” Which was half true, because if it were in no danger then this sort of thing would be mentioned. But he knew that Shah was precise, and their was nothing to worry about – at the moment.

        He said: “I am glad of that. I was, actually, concerned.” Not that this would remove him from his actual job mind you, but it was a cushy assignment.

       “What is important, however, is getting off with the right feet. Because the Director has not actually met you before. And I do not need to remind you of how important that is.” He only nodded at this, though taking note that Shah mangled the English language, a little bit. “Then you can make money in the stock market, because stocks are shooting up.” Actually he thought that after taking profits, it would be a good time to get out of stocks for a while. When everyone on TV is saying “buy”, it is actually a very good time to sell. The insiders think so, and who should you be to contradict them?

        It was at that point that a waitress came to take their order, and nothing further need be discussed. But there was a suggestion that one more problem and he would be searching for a less comfortable position. The problem was not professional, it was political, because you see the wife did not think he was quite the sort to be dangled in her face. And he would be conscious of this fact, in future.

         He avoided the wine that Sebastian drank, not that he was any sense of the word avoiding drink; but he had to keep cool and think about the email to his real employers, and be ready to get him out of here. But in actual fact, though the wife. was displeased, a number of the other people praised his work. This because they did not understand, but it had the measure of being truly fine work. And if they could they would blame for everything, and then some. It was not the quality of the work which was the problem – it almost never was. But conversation is about to become a casualty.