I was once eating lunch at a financial services client, with whom I’m a customer. The entire customer and consulting team shared a table. The client bragged about how their lunches are free. And there were right to brag; there was an impressive spread of food: a salad bar, sushi bar, pizza bar, sandwich station, and more. It was one of the best stocked cafeterias I’ve seen in my career and also had some of the best natural light I’ve experienced in a cafeteria. But I soon had the realization that I, as a customer, made this lunch possible. I did everything to control myself to not retort, “My policy holder dollars paid for that pizza and Diet Coke – you’re welcome.”
But the food spread and my jealousy of said spread were not the most interesting part of the conversation.
During lunch I mentioned how I was struggling to find a rug for my child’s nursery. Susan, from the client, said that “I’m going to Istanbul in a week, and I know a rug guy. I can get you a great rug for cheap.”
“Oh yeah? Do you go to Istanbul often”
“I go several times a year. Since last year I’ve been six times.”
“You know after the divorce, I told myself this was going to be the ‘Year of Susan.’”
I picked at my salad while she continues.
She never divulged how Istanbul became the selected destination. But I quickly learn why.
Somehow she gets to making this statement: “I have my A team and my B team, and when I’m go [to Istanbul], that A team better be available because this is the Year of Susan.”
She continues talking and gets into describing what sounds like a sugar daddy situation.
Again, mind you the entire client and consulting team is present and stoic. I’m not sure if we’re stoic because the meeting fried our brains or if we’re just being polite.
At the end of describing the Year of Susan I decide that I don’t need this woman couriering a Persian rug across a hemisphere, for what will surely be a mismatch with the nursery. I politely decline her repeated offers. She offers others at the table to be a courier for other textiles.
She then asks her right-out-of-college subordinate, Maria, if she’s ok to drive her to the airport next week.
Susan then let’s us know that Maria is a godsend to her. “Her and I stay up late texting every night.”
Maria smiles. “Yeah – it’s like we’re besties.”
There’s at least a 20 year difference between these two. While it can certainly be a May October friendship, it seems that Maria is completely subservient to Susan and her whims. Harold and Maude they are not.
Then Susan lets it be known that her and John, our account executive, also text late at night. A lot. Over the next couple of weeks, John would start the day regaling us with what sounded like tabloid headlines – but it was gossip from Susan about the project and her coworkers. I can only imagine what else they texted about.
The day of our first lunch, we return to a conference room for the afternoon. At the end of the day I get in the car with my coworker and my brain finally processes the lunch conversation and I have a moment of clarity. I ask my coworker: “Did Susan just tell everyone that she goes to Istanbul for booty calls?”
“Yes! What was that about?”
“Why does someone need to fly half way across the world for that?”
“What do you think she tells her kids when she goes there all the time?”
Based on what I learned at lunch, it sounds like the Year of Susan extended into the 18 months of Susan. In fact, she dialed into a meeting from Istanbul next week and was clearly inebriated. I like her dedication, and I’m glad Susan is happy, and I’m happy that she’s happy to tell all of us, but I wished for simpler times when I didn’t have to turn down offers for Persian rugs while pondering if my life insurance payments were being prudently spent on lunches.