Monday, November 01, 2010

Country rustic in Yankee Land

It was the year 2003. My first ever visit to USA. On an assignment with my company to meet with some important prospects to help close some deals.

We had this all important meeting with a potential client. A client whose reference would go a long way in helping forge strategic accounts in future. The client was at that time, one of "America's Top 10 Advanced Computerized Healthcare Organizations" and very high on the list of "America's 100 Hot Wired Companies". The participants in the meeting included the drivers of information technology systems for the organization at the national-level. You can well imagine therefore, how carefully groomed and meticulously prepared our team was (which included the entire US office other than the CEO and our receptionist). With the time we had spent preparing the demo, I thought we were well-prepared. Well, we were well-prepared; no doubt, but only for the demo.

I was a little nonplussed therefore, when, following the smartly-suited executives, an elegant lady walked in, dressed in a startling purple outfit. Oh well, nothing like a little colour in a medical outfit, I thought. (No pun intended). Her outfit also looked like a robe I normally thought people wore at bed-time, but I hardly knew a thing about women's clothing (back then), so I dismissed it at that. But something drew my eyes towards her again. Er... um... well, to her outfit. I thought even by cheery standards, the purple was still a little too purple. It was then that I saw - for the first time - her hat. Yes, people do wear hats. Maybe not in a corporate meeting, but I am willing to make allowances for that. What I could not digest was that she was wearing a witch hat. Given that there had been no alcohol in my bloodstream for more than two metabolic cycles, I knew I could trust my eyes. (For those of you who were distracted by those metrics, rest assured there has NEVER been any alcohol in my bloodstream). But even so, to be sure, I blinked, hoping against hope that the darn hat would disappear when I opened my eyes. The confounded thing hadn't moved. And I realized this time that it had the same purple hue as her robe. With a lacy rim. (Gulp!). I blinked again. I had not only lost hope about that hat disappearing, but also, I was sure I would see something more this time. I was right. I noticed her earrings this time. Her earrings were a spider's web. Complete with a spider.

She was in a witch's outfit!

My stomach turned. If initially I was concerned that I was not concentrating on the meeting underway, by this time, I couldn't care less about the meeting. A gut-wrenching yell to "Mommy" was ready to leave my lips.

For the first time in the last 2 hours my stomach was turning for reasons other than the demo at hand. I glanced at my colleagues, but they didn't seem to have noticed. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" had been keeping this lonely soul company in the corporate apartment for the past several nights. I had on several occasions - including the previous night - allowed myself to be engrossed in the book into the wee hours of the night. I sighed, wishing that I had slept well the previous night.

And then - with a surge of relief - the "mystery" was solved. It was 31-October; Halloween. I wasn't seeing things after all. People dress up in Halloween costumes on 31-Oct and - you have my word for it - even go to work in those costumes. While I silently cursed my colleagues for not having warned me earlier, the experience helped. Or else I would have surely screamed on seeing the "skeleton" later in the day, in the rest-room washing his hands. But I was a man by then. I actually beamed at him. He beamed back at me. We didn't see the need to make any bones about his costume. (Pun intended, of course).

Happy Halloween!