It had already been a hell of a business trip, but we were finally nearing the end of the long haul. Dean, Linda and I had travelled from vendor to vendor, each of them desperately trying to impress us with their products. Each vendor in turn had taken us to visit reference customers who were clearly only putting up with our visits out of politeness to the vendors.
We had tried to minimise the stress of days filled with business visits and almost non-stop travelling by ensuring that we were booked into good hotels each night, but this had not really helped much – we arrived so late each evening and left so early the following morning that we got no time to appreciate any individuality they might offer.
We had definitely had enough.
This evening was not only almost the end of the trip; it was also our first real opportunity to relax. Our reference visit had completed at a sensible time and for a change we didn’t have a vendor insisting on taking us out for dinner. We were even spending our second consecutive night in the same hotel – absolute bliss.
Returning to the hotel by mid-afternoon we agreed to settle into our rooms and then to meet again an hour or so later. With our first real spell of leisure time on our hands we went for a slow wander through the streets of the city interspersed with a few drinks in local bars. Our walk conclude with a good meal at a nearby restaurant during the course of which we all shared a few of bottles of wine.
By 10 o’clock we were back at the hotel rested, cheerful and weaving only slightly. Dean decided he was too tired to want to do anything other than get an early night and, making his excuses, he headed off to his room.
As Dean headed off I said to Linda, “I fancied another drink myself, are you retiring too, or can I offer to buy you a drink?”
Several drinks later we were still at the bar, it was starting to get late and the bar was emptying out. The conversation had turned to TV and how little there seemed to be that was worth watching. Suddenly Linda said, “It’s so bad not even the porn channels are worth watching.”
For a moment I wondered if I had heard her properly, so trying to keep my expression as normal as possible I replied, “You’ve done an extensive survey on them then, have you?” I felt this was sufficiently neutral to avoid embarrassing her if I had heard her wrongly.
“Well I wouldn’t call it extensive. We’ve hardly had much time on our own in these hotels, but I’ve seen enough to know that as porn goes it’s a long way from the best.”
I had heard correctly.
What I said was, “You don’t seriously watch porn on the hotel TV do you? Don’t you worry about what will appear on your bill?” but in reality I was stunned by her frankness. Although I had not worked with her much I knew she had a reputation for being a hard-working, ambitious career woman known for her dedication to the projects on which she worked. Watching pornography was an activity which just didn’t fit in with this image and admitting to it seemed even more out of kilter.
She didn’t appear at all put out by my obvious astonishment. She simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Why shouldn’t I watch it? It just appears on the bill as a movie and as I’ve been away from home for more than a week for the company I don’t see why they can’t pay a little bit towards relieving the boredom.”
“But you just said it’s not very good, so why bother?”
Not only did she not seem put out by the question but she looked amused as she answered, “it may not be the best, but it’s better than nothing when you’ve been on the road for over a week.” She looked at me speculatively and went on “don’t tell me you never get bored or frustrated on a trip like this?”
I wasn’t used to a woman I hardly knew speaking so openly but then both of us were far from sober by this time and the alcohol kept any embarrassment at bay. I responded, “Bored and frustrated, well yes to a degree, but I don’t know, I’ve just never …” I left the sentence unfinished as I struggled to think of a response and instead challenged her in return, “… anyway how do you know it’s not that good? Lots to compare it with have you?”