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Jim was selected to represent his company to receive a prestigious award from Inc 500 this weekend – fifth fastest growing small business in the nation. Your’s truly got to go along and be his date!
The awards were held in National Harbor at the Gaylord, Washington D.C. The Gaylord Hotel is gigantic – complete with restaurants, stores (in the form of houses), several ballrooms, a spa, salon, elevators, escalators, shiny floors, fountains, streams, gardens, plus a beautiful view of the harbor.
Every girl loves to play dress up, and this girl is no exception. The shopping, primping, and the shoes – oh, the fabulous shoes that I found! Gold glittery Gianni Bini heels with straps – so elegant! I vowed not to mountain bike all week so that I wouldn’t have bruises and scrapes all over my arms and legs. That is NOT a classy look.
Twenty-one hundred people attended this event. That’s a lotta high heels and tuxedos! There were two tables at the front of the ballroom for the top ten, a live band, big screens, netted balloons in the ceiling, and cameras everywhere.
The first table filled up quickly, and Jim and I sat at the second, joined by the number seven recipient, a very nice lady from Seattle with whom we enjoyed very pleasant conversation. There were still several seats available, and about halfway through the four course dinner, we were told that the president of Inc 500 had four guests who would be joining our table. After the second course, an older guy, hair dyed brown, strutted in sporting a suit and neon orange tennis shoes, followed by an entourage of two young men in casual suits (one with a nice camera) and another guy in a black suit and tie.
Orange shoe guy immediately struck up a friendly conversation with our seating companion, arm on the back of her chair, while the others sat and watched. “Hey this guy’s mackin’ on our girl over here!” Jim exclaimed under his breath. The MC made announcements, the room abuzz with the excitement of the evening. Course number three arrived – a most delicious melt-in-your-mouth steak. Orange shoe pushed back his chair and commenced to gathering several of the extra wine glasses around the table and stacking them on top of each other. Jim and I looked at each other – was this guy really supposed to be here???
On glass six the tower toppled over, the bottom goblet full of wine spilling across the table, stopping just shy of my plate. We had been joined by another gentleman to my left who kindly asked if it spilled on me. This guy had been at our table less than 15 minutes and already he was on everyone’s nerves!!
He got up to seven next – “It’s leaning, it’s leaning” Jim, never one to sit idly by, declared in an edgy voice. Orange shoe guy straightened up the tower, turned on his cell phone camera light, stacked it on top, and declared it to be awesome. The young man with the camera jumped up and took a picture of the marvelous creation. Orange shoe stood behind it and posed for a pic. Jim and I sat there in amazement at the absurdity of the situation, still trying to enjoy our dinner. The guy was expounding to our girlfriend on the wondrous work of art.
The top ten were summoned backstage – which took everyone except for me and the circus. “Have fun…!” winked Jim. I pulled out my cell and texted like mad, acting like I was urgently needed (it was the kids asking about the crazy guy and the picture I’d sent of his glass tower). I realize someone is talking to me – “Maam, Maam – MAAM!” It was Orange Shoe. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I exclaimed. One of the young guys was smiling. “Do you know what the Dow was yesterday?” Oh brother. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t know.” (Of course I just forgot to check yesterday, usually I know.) He then jumped up and decided to make a new tower, stepping to the table behind us to gather more onlookers. This was my chance to bolt.
Since I had already gone to the bathroom and didn’t want to appear incontinent, I opted for the very back of the room. It was a long way off, it would kill some time, plus I could check out the harbor lights from the balcony. I did that, took some pictures, and re-entered the room. That took about five minutes. I took some crowd shots. I tried to see our magician from the back of the room, but couldn’t tell which table was mine. I slowly wound my way to the front, remembering that my coffee and dessert were probably waiting on me – I didn’t want it to get cold, after all, creme brulee from the Gaylord was probably pretty good.
He was working the crowd so I was safe for a while – a couple who had been recognized as up-and-coming entrepeneurs viewed his tower. He had them cornered for a while so I creamed my coffee and stuffed down the brulee. Young camera guy sitting across from me proudly motioned to the glass tower, as if I hadn’t seen it already. He held up his camera, gesturing. I decided he was inquiring if I’d like my picture with it. I declined. As I looked down and took another bite, he snapped a picture of me. I looked up, surprised, he held up the camera again, poised – I grimaced for a second – the guy in the dark suit burst out laughing, I smiled quickly – he snapped. Good grief!
Orange Shoe sat down, this time one seat away from me. The awards had begun with number ten. OJ took girlfriend’s dessert and stacked a glass upside down over her creme brulee. He did the same to four other desserts in front of him, gathering small votives (his young helpers lighting them) and placing them inside stacked goblets. He pulled apart the centerpiece roses and placed them strategically atop goblets which were on top of goblets, which were on top of creme brulees. I knew Jim’s dessert was next, and I was ready. Five more minutes, and he grabbed the plate. My cat-like reflexes sprang to action as I grabbed the other side. “I’m saving this for my husband.” I stated. “No, this belongs to the young lady that was sitting here” OJ said, “I was going to use it for my creation.” “My husband was sitting here and this is his dessert, and I’m going to save it for him.” I replied, probably in my mother tone. “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it was the young lady’s seat, I accidentally sat down one seat over. You can take it.” Yeah, right.
By the time he was done with the creation, he had placed the “Inc 500 Top Ten” sign as it’s backdrop, young camera guy snapped pictures, and OJ got a few more people to come pose with him in front of the piece de resistance, and number one was being announced. Everyone else was seated, number one was giving a speech, and this guy had his camera guy taking pictures of him standing UP at our table, in front of everyone. What kind of jerk does that?!?
Jim returned to see OJ’s last creation – yes, there was one more – complete with salt and pepper shakers teetering towards each other at the top. “You’ve heard of the Tower of Babel in the Bible?” He asked us. “Well, this is the Tower of Babel. Very unstable. VERY unstable.” “Yes.” We replied knowingly.
We were pretty sure this guy was not the invited guest, but a party crasher. Jim took his name, talked to his homies, found out the two boys were from the Ukrane working for him, and the guy in the suit was his limo driver. He then went home, Googled him – turns out is the CEO of a very successful business with chains throughout the U.S. and has held high profile jobs. I guess he just turned eccentric in his twighlight years!
It was a great night – despite the obvious – and oh – did I mention I got Jim on video accepting the award? After they announced his name and he walked on stage, the band played, “It Had to be You”! Yep, life with Jim Gray is never dull – I’m glad it IS you, hon!