You’d think a stretch Hummer would be spacious.
Being smashed into one with twenty-three other people like groupies going to an opening turned it into a Mini Cooper for all the room I had. One of my arms was pinned behind my back––how that happened I still don’t know––and the other was bent at the elbow and stuck half-way up to my face like a DEVO video on my DVR when the darn thing needed to be rebooted.
Buzz. I struggled to reach my phone. Swiveling my wrist, I managed to dip my hand into my purse, thanking God I didn’t bring one with a zipper. Catching my reflection in the limo’s windows, I realized I resembled one of those excavator games. The ones strategically placed outside supermarkets with the bucket-clamp-thing that no one can seem to control that never, ever, snags the coveted pink teddy bear and only comes up with those cheap Mardi Gras beads or the plastic dinosaur.
I strained to unearth my phone. Buzz. Buzz. Isn’t the MUTE function supposed to be––well––mute? Gotcha!
“A stretch Hummer, Jessica? How Un-Green,” my assistant Hedy shrieked from the speaker. My co-sardines gasped.
We were, after all, going to a funeral.
A business-funeral. Two words that should never be next to each other, let alone hyphenated. You don’t hear them coupled in newscasts or illustrated in those how many people can we show who were at the same event photo composites New York magazine does every week. But they exist. And we attend.
I stared at my uber-hip iPhone with enhanced sound and picture. Not only did it project the verbal faux pas throughout the dimly lit limo, the full-color screen of Hedy’s direct-to-my-phone live stream shone like a drive-in movie.
On the tiny display she continued, “Your shoot tonight, the one we had that flap with the DP over whether or not to shoot 35mm film or HD? And had to get the permit to shoot on the Brooklyn Bridge? The one we hired the stedi-cam operator for? Union no less?” She waved a bright blue post-it at the screen. “Well, I just got word it was cancelled...by the client!” She rolled her eyes, then snapped them back to the camera, frozen.
OH. MY. GOD. Of course it was cancelled by the client! He’s dead. I AM GOING TO HIS FUNERAL!
Quickly tapping my phone off before she could say anything worse, I gripped the darn thing so hard it squirted out of my hand and landed somewhere on the floor of the great beast. Terrific. I’m never going to be able to bend down and get it and I’m definitely not going to ask the driver to retrieve it after he’d groped me on my way in. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my skinny black dress after all.
The deceased was Bentley Winston. My Big Client. He went hot-dogging on his son’s skateboard at the skate park on 109th and tried to execute a 360 shove-it kickflip, whatever that is, and broke his neck. In addition to having been my Big Client, Bentley was the VP of Advertising for Aardvark, the newest/hippest/young/music/dress/trends TV network. They sure liked their adjectives. Apparently, he had also been well connected since we were headed downtown to bury him at the Marble Cemetery of Manhattan.
I Googled it, hoping the whole place might actually be made of marble and I wouldn’t have to worry that my Jimmy Choo sandals with the 4-inch heels that I grabbed online at the Shoe Warehouse for 1/5 their retail price would sink into the mud at the gravesite, and discovered that the only way anyone could be plunked down there is if they had ancestors in the ground already. They’d stopped taking new families in 1902. That catapulted me into worrying that the press was going to be there, thus the reason I decided to wear my skinny black dress––which is most likely what inspired the limo driver to cop a feel.
“I’ve stepped into Bentley’s position over at Aardvark since the incident, Jessica,” someone on my right whispered.
Incident?? Who the heck said that? And why were they whispering? I felt like I was in a John LeCarre novel, only not as clever. I didn’t recognize the voice. This person was going to be in charge of all the advertising for a TV network and he couldn’t bring himself to say accident?
The Hummer space issue was rapidly becoming a problem. My shoulders were so hunched together I couldn’t turn my head to see who was talking. My large Audrey Hepburn picture hat à-la Breakfast at Tiffany’s was now folded up and resembled one of those very cheesy sombrero nacho platters. I wore that hat because, in truth, I looked like Audrey Hepburn. It was usually a good thing. It got me into clubs when the bouncer didn’t realize the person I was a dead ringer for was no longer with us. But now, I didn’t know if I still looked chic or would be getting what the heck is on her head looks once we de-Hummed.
“And I’m a loyal person,” the whisperer continued, almost inaudibly.
Waaaa? Did he say loyal person or Lloyd Parson? Did I know a Lloyd Parson? Or a Roil Pearson? No. Don’t be ridiculous. He definitely said loyal person. Excellent. Excellent. I love people who keep the status quo.
Figuring I’d be expected to shake hands with him once we were outside, my ears strained to pick up something–– anything––that might give him away.
“A very loyal person,” he repeated.
Wait. Was that a hint of a foreign accent? Have they imported someone? Maybe from the aardvark’s homeland itself? Would they go that far?
“Loyalty is so very important in situations like these,” I murmured, taking an appropriate tone. Just who are you?
Trying to lean forward to put a face to this “loyal person,” I felt a sharp pain around the bruise that started forming an hour ago at the church when I slammed myself smack into a pew after sighting a giant aardvark rummaging around next to the casket. This made the snuffling creature either another mourner––it could have been Bentley’s pet––or just a branding opportunity for the network. I started to drift away. Why didn’t they bring in some ants to keep it busy instead of letting it wander god-knows-where?
“So you understand we won’t be working together. I’ll be working with my own team,” Loyal Person whispered in what was now registering as a very annoying affectation.
A few muffled coughs and yes, there it was. The almost imperceptible shifting of bodies away from me. I had to give credit to the people on either side of me. As almost impossible as it was to accomplish under the cramped circumstances, they managed to put some space between us. Suddenly, I was an island in aardvark-land.
I felt my right eye start to twitch. This is flipping perfect! I’ve developed some sort of adverse reaction to cortisol, I thought, remembering a Times article I’d read with one of those diagrams of a human body showing the “fight or flight” hormone squirting out of the adrenal glands and STRESS stamped all over the torso in bright red letters. This response to extreme situations has apparently been going on for ages. Eons even. I could either flee the Hummer like a Cro-Magnon man trying to stay one step ahead of a wooly mammoth or just friggin’ sit there, absorb the stuff and hope the twitch wouldn’t become permanent.
If your company is going to crash and burn because you refused to heed the clichéd advice from your mother only because it was such a cliché––does it still count? Bentley had been my only client. My only egg in the basket.
Only now, it was a casket.
Beta testing LOVE on the streets of Manhattan
Romantically challenged, thirty-something Jessica Vogola, a dead ringer for Audrey Hepburn, had a humming-right-along creative agency in Manhattan with CLIOs and Emmys on her desk, a view of the Chrysler Building and one big client. Then…he died.
Jessica has four months before she’ll be bankrupt. She needs something fast. Fast becomes possible when she stumbles across the LoveBeep, a small retro pager lookalike that does just that––beeps out a signal that you’re looking for love. Kinda like sonar with benefits. Jessica buys the rights and hypes it as, “The device that will revolutionize dating.”
The upside? It just might do that. The downside? It needs major reprogramming.
The LoveBeep is a tad bit difficult to program, even by the handsome programmer working on the project.
And Jessica’s nonexistent love life? Can it be saved by the actual thing she put her savings into?
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Print available March 1st.