New Orleans Board of Hoteliers. The big, bold, block letters were proudly stated near the top of the twelfth floor building. Its frame certainly wasn’t the biggest in town, but definitely ranked the most powerful. From rich hotel owners, board kings- their lawyers- art dealers, and other wealthy business owners of the French Quarter- combined- made the NOBH a powerful nation in and of itself. If you were a business owner, especially if your business was in hotels and food, you didn’t want to cross those particular players. If you didn’t have their approval, or your business plans weren’t in line with theirs, you were cut to the quick, no questions asked. Your business wouldn’t be allowed to advertise with the others, your name would be left out of tourism pamphlets, you would basically go unrecognized, non-existent. Tourist would be strongly urged to visit other hotels, to make purchases with other, more “reputable” store owners, and to dine with other, finer restaurants that the NOBH would suggest. They persuaded by using power- money- that is, and by pressuring local proprietors with their own special brand of bully tactics. These mom and pop shops couldn’t stand up to that kind of influence, so usually they did as they were told. NOBH men and women, were a mafia of the wealthy, upper class New Orleanians who had the city at their fingertips, and controlled most cash-flow in and out of the city.
Caroline ran-walked to the front door, composing herself as she approached. She noticed a suit in her peripheral and prayed it didn’t notice her ungracious exit from the car moments ago, but since her hands were full she was hoping he’d at least hold the door open for her.
No such luck though. Figures. In he goes, out she stays, no door holding for Caroline.
She reached the door with full hands and blew her bangs out of her face. What was that saying about hope, she thought, you can hope in one hand… she dug deep for the rest of the phrase…and something in the other? No, that wasn’t it. Oh! It was something about a bird in your purse and a glass house? Wait… that didn’t sound right either.
Good with catch-phrases and quotes…not so much. Either way, with the right attention, she’d come up with something really clever and give that prick a good what-to-for. She was going to #handsomeprick all over Twitter-verse when she got to her cube. Mess with me and see, she thought. Clever is my middle name buddy. She giggled at her dramatics as she walked to the stairwell, humming the words, handsome prick, handsome prick to herself with a pleasant little beat that put some pep in her step for the three-story climb up to her floor. She considered taking the elevator, but she needed to work off the chocolate bread that she had for breakfast.
She inserted her key-card when she got to the door that kept her from her floor level, waited for the green light to flicker, and looked up so the system could do facial recognition. When she saw her employee photo and name appear on the screen, she counted a quick one and two, the door clicked, she pushed, and walked through. Finally. Employees almost had to leave the house early just to get through security and be at their desk on time.
It was impossible to get away with anything around there, everyone knew that. Getting to work late, and sneaking to your cube- not gonna happen. Caroline found that out the hard way. All floors were monitored, via their very large, very expensive, security system. Employees, ones who worked on floors one through five weren’t even allowed the ignominy of clocking-in with the other corporate monkeys of the world. All other floors did what they wanted when they wanted, and were never questioned. Any time regular employees entered and exited the building, their time was automatically generated from the security system, and sent to payroll-processing. And don’t even think about getting more than your scheduled thirty-minute lunch break. If you got held up in lunch lines, depending on whether it was tourist season or not, and were late getting back to the door- consider yourself docked.
And of course it didn’t matter that you got to work early and was actually doing work before your shift was even scheduled to start. You were paid according to your assigned schedule. No overtime unless pre-approved by the Uppers, and who wanted to ever request anything from them. No one, right? If you couldn’t complete your grueling tasks at the office, you took your load home. End of.
Every floor held different classifications of employees. Levels one through five were the hard-working people who actually had a job. Levels six through eleven were third parties who catered to different community needs that the twelfth floor instructed. And finally floor twelve housed criminals with careers, making and banking the money- as they liked to say.
As Caroline moved from side to side, dodging frantic expediters, office managers, secretaries, clerks and receptionist, she finally made her way to her own, decorated-with-care, cubicle that was littered with artwork and framed photos. Her cubicle was constructed of material screens, but she didn’t mind because she had her own space. Privacy was a joke, really, but complain she would not. In this economy, she was grateful just to have a job and thanked God every day for her blessings.
Her parents wanted to put her to work for the family business, but she didn’t want that, hence her employment at NOBH. She was there for the experience as she crept her way closer to her real passion- the art world. She could’ve wasted her time, and her parent’s money on university, but instead she applied for work in NOBH’s art department and with the help of some of her parent’s connections, she was now gainfully employed.
She wasn’t an artist, she just appreciated the art itself. She knew there were plenty of majors for art like history, restoration, common knowledge and so forth, but that’s not what she wanted. She just wasn’t the school type, or so she reminded herself every time she complained to herself about her job.
She liked to mingle and talk, discussing the elements and composition of different pieces. She tried taking a couple of classes, but she never was good at the whole attendance thing, and when she did make it to class, trying to focus was her own personal hell. Having that problem for as long as she could remember, that is, not being able to focus, she was only able to concentrate on anything when it involved the actual work of art. It just spoke to her, it absorbed her. When it came to viewing, she didn’t so much think as she did feel. So naturally, her job duties at NOBH placed her right where she wanted to be- talking to local artists, helping them place their pieces in prominent hotels, restaurants and galleries, and she was always on the lookout for new up and comers, and of course reporting NOBH’s profits from the artists they’d placed with different galleries in the quarter.
“Thought you were going to be late there for a minute, part-timer.” Her cube neighbor thought Caroline’s business was her business for some reason.
“I’m here. As you can see.” She hung her purse on a hook and put her salad in the mini-fridge that was stored under her table.
“I can see. You do realize that if you’re late, you’ll be docked thirty minutes.”
Duh. “Yes, Julie, I’m aware of the rules. I have been working here, for what, six months longer than you have?” sarcastically she asked the last part of the question. That’s right nosey bitch, take that. NOBH was a kill, or be killed type of environment which Caroline learned the quick, but hard way.
Julie put her hands up, surrendering, not caring a bit that she was being called out. “I’m just worried. You seem to be running later and later all the time. Mr. Dickerson was up here earlier looking for you. Of course, I told him you were in the powder room.”
Of course you did, she thought as she reminded herself over and over that this woman was not to be trusted.
And the powder room? Who says that anyway? “Thanks, I’ll give him a call once I get settled in.” And by “settled”, she meant figuring out what he could possibly want to discuss before she called him. He always put her on the spot with the most random questions that weren’t even relevant to her job, or his, but he talked down to her when she couldn’t produce the response he wanted. Too bad she didn’t have her Tarot Cards, or her Magic Eight Ball. She’d really show his ass then.
She picked up the receiver, hit extension 5241, and waited.
“Dickerson.” he practically yelled.
“Mr. Dickerson. This is Caroline.”
“Sorry. Caroline Booty.”
“You were in my cubicle looking for me earlier, sir. Third floor.”
He sighed heavily. “Yes…Ms. Booty. Need to see you in my office, immediately.”
“I’ll be right there si-“
The monotone sound mocked her while she seethed. Did he really just hang up on her while she was in the middle of talking? How rude could he possibly be? She filed some folders that were put on her desktop in her bottom right drawer and slammed it shut, the second door slam of the day mind you, and it’s not even lunch yet. She stood, straightened herself, with a couple of fuck-off breaths, and then took off.
Today’s Forecast: Scary.
After Caroline did the dog and pony show with her employee key card, she waited for the Administrative assistant to admit her access, knowing good and well the woman knew exactly who she was, and only made her wait behind the locked, glass door for her own pleasure. Power trips must be contagious on that floor.
“Have a seat. Mr. Dickerson will be with you shortly,” she said not even bothering to glance up at Caroline.
What, no coke and a smile?
“Shortly” ended up being an hour and forty-five minutes later, and while Caroline tried to control her flaring attitude, it was hard. Man was it hard. Mr. Dickerson did say immediately on the phone, and it sounded urgent, of course. As she waited began stressing out over the reports, with deadlines, that were due that morning and cringed. She really could have used her time a little more wisely, not that it was her fault…Dickerson was to blame… and boy was Dickerson a dick.
She heard the phone ringing on the desk. As soon as the call was disconnected, Mrs. Power Trip informed Caroline that she could enter. She tapped on his door and waited for acknowledgment.
“Enter.” was his one word command. Caroline cringed, and did as commanded. She entered.