We banded together in defense against some of the other people in the office, one of whom was a sweaty, pale blond guy who spoke no Spanish yet was in charge of Latin America sales and who told me during my interview that he would never live in Miami (he lived in Boca Raton) because he had children.
I was quite puzzled, as there were many people in Miami who also had children, including my next door neighbor Mousson, whose 15 year old son Rudolf overfed my cats when I was out of town, telling me, when I gently suggested that he might have given them too much food, "But zey were 'ongry! Zey were crying!"
Then I realized that Pat was just a big fat racist jerk and that his opinion meant nothing to me.
Rolando and I tried to become friends, but I realized soon that there was no hope. The first sign was the day he saw the book Army of Angels in my briefcase. I rode the train from Miami to Boca, where the office was, 60 miles away, and had a lot of time to read every day. This was in the mid 90s, when people were not expected to work 24 hours a day just because they had laptops and cellphones. I read. I even had time to read The Economist every week. Three hours on a train every day will do that to you.
But Rolando was not a reader. He was not a student of history. I'm not sure what he was.
I don't want to sound like an intellectual snob. I know there are many bright people who have not been exposed to things that you would think everyone is exposed to. The great IT guy who was always so helpful to me in Memphis had never heard of Anne Frank.
He had never heard of Anne Frank.
How do you grow up in the U.S. and not know that?
But he was a product of Memphis City Schools, which, for those of you who do not know about Memphis City Schools, is not the best school system in the world. The county mayor once gave a speech in which he said that every day, when he woke up, he thanked God for Arkansas and Mississippi just so Memphis wouldn't be in last place.
Rolando asked what the book was about.
"Joan of Arc," I answered.
"Who's that?" he asked.
Rolando had gone to private school. His dad was a bigwhig with an international company. Rolando had gone to the good schools in Venezuela and Colombia and the U.S. He got his MBA at Northwestern, which did not admit me, not that I'm bitter about that. Actually, I'm not. I still went to a top school and I paid only $5,000 for two years of tuition and fees.
Plus it probably didn't help my chances at Northwestern in my interview when I asked the alum who was interviewing me what made Northwestern ten times better than U.T. that they charged ten times as much tuition. The alum was not amused and sputtered that you couldn't look at just tuition. I shrugged. I was paying for this. I wanted to know. But Northwestern made it easy for me and didn't admit me. Whatever.
But Rolando, who was educated and who had gotten into a school that had not admitted me, did not even know who Joan of Arc was. For dumb.
But that's not what made him so flaky.
One day, when I mentioned that my friend Susan and I were going to the Keys on Saturday morning to go canoeing, he asked to join us. Sure, I told him. Just be at my house at 7:00 a.m. That's when we're leaving.
Susan and I waited. No Rolando. We waited some more. Still no Rolando.
I finally called the phone number he had given me. He was staying with his parents until he found a place and I didn't want to call so early, but I was worried that maybe he'd had an accident between his mom and dad's house and my house and wouldn't you want to know if you were a parent?
His mom answered. "He's still sleeping," she told me.
"Screw him," I told Susan. "We're not waiting."
That's still not the flaky part.
Rolando and I had to go to Cincinnati for two weeks of training. We decided not to fly back to Miami for the weekend in the middle but just to stay up there. "There's some cool state parks in Kentucky," I said. "We could go to the park, stay in the lodge and the company would pay for it."
Our boss said fine. He didn't care. As long as we spent less than tickets back to Miami would have cost.
We checked out of the hotel that Friday before driving to the park. Rolando had a $150 phone charge on his bill. He had called the plant in El Salvador on the hotel phone.
"Why didn't you use the company calling card?" I asked.
He shrugged. "It probably wouldn't save that much money," he answered.
"What!" I said. "You really think that the company wouldn't negotiate a better rate than the hotel charges?"
"Nah," he said.
He had another $40 on his bill for laundry.
"What laundry?" I asked.
"My socks," he said.
"Socks? But why?"
"I didn't bring two weeks worth of socks," he said. "I had to have them washed."
"But you could have washed them in the sink!" I told him. "Or there's a washing machine in the hall! You could have washed them yourself for a dollar!"
"Nope," he said.
I was stunned. Such disregard for company resources! Not that I hold any love in my heart for that place. Just yesterday, LinkedIn sent me the suggestion that I join the paper company alumni group.
"Just as soon as I join the 'All the guys who have ditched me' group," I muttered.
But I was always a good steward of my employer's money. Why would anyone deliberately waste money? Especially when it was not necessary?
We drove to the park in Kentucky. The lodge, unfortunately, had only one room available. We were going to have to share a room for two nights. Ick. Not pleasant, but not un-doable. I would just rather not have that level of familiarity with a co-worker. Fortunately, I had brought my usual frumpy pajamas with me. Not that I think he found me in any way alluring. I had met his girlfriend, who was 15 years younger than he and I were and about 20 sizes smaller than I.
By the time we got there, it was too late to do anything but eat and go to bed. Rolando had a long conversation with his girlfriend - on the room phone - while I read a book and tried not to listen.
The next morning, he got out of bed, wrapping his sheet around him to walk into the bathroom, holding it closed with one hand while he grabbed his clothes with the other.
He had slept nude.
When he left the bathroom, after his shower, the sheet and his towels were on the floor.
Leaving your wet towels on the floor is so damn rude.
I said something to him and he told me that the maid could pick them up.
Yes, he was a spoiled rich kid.
Hotels have signs now saying that they are so conservation minded and they care and they will only change the towels daily if they are left on the floor. Towels left hanging are a sign that the customer wants to re-use them.
I have no problems whatsoever with using the same towel more than one day in a row. It is horribly wasteful to wash them every single day. But it is a bit disingenuous of the hotels to claim that they care so much. They are just counting on most peoples' natural courtesy and good home training to hang up their towels. Still, it's smart marketing and I don't blame them for it. I do wonder, however, about people who can just toss a towel to the floor and leave it there. How were they raised?
After breakfast, we went for a hike.
Rolando hated it.
Trees! And limbs! In his way! Bugs! BUGS!
Oh for pity's sake. I hate hiking and am about as big a whiner as you will ever meet if I have to walk up hills when it's not part of a gym class, but this was not bad at all. It was just pretty mountain countryside with very clearly marked paths. Birds, flowers, trees. Hiking lite.
We trudged back to the lodge and had lunch. Went back to the room, which the maid had cleaned, although I had hung the towels because I just couldn't stand it. Rolando went to look out the third floor window - and jumped back, shrieking.
"What's that? What's that?"
I looked up from my book and squinted. "Oh. A squirrel."
"But it's jumping!"
I looked up from my book again. "Yeah."
"IT COULD JUMP INTO THIS ROOM AND BITE US!"
"I doubt it," I answered dryly.
"IT COULD BE DANGEROUS!"
"No," I said.
"We should leave," he announced. "I don't care if we have another night here. We should leave."
I thought back on the time we had already spent together: nude sleeping, towels on the floor, grouchy hiking and now, irrational fear of squirrels. How much more of this could I take?
I closed my book and stood. "Great idea," I said.