A not so traditional Christmas Carol, except her name is not Carol....Part 1
I had just turned thirty-two years of age when I landed my best job ever. After years of searching all over creation for employment in my line of work, it had finally happened. With a bang too! Paris Presse Associes had hired me. I remember sending my application to them, thinking "Another waste of time". But to my surprise, they contacted me for an interview, and here I am! It's been almost a year, so I'm now part of the furniture and gathering dust, not going anywhere anytime soon. Paris Presse Associes is a group publishing daily printed regional newspapers all over France, as well as a number of magazines ranging from house decorating and food recipes, to fashion, racing and classic cars. And that's where I come in. I'm a writer for Autos d'Antan, a glossy, luxurious monthly publication specializing in antique and classic automobiles. A few months back, I was also asked to write a monthly short story for the magazine Femmes de Paris, another publication part of the same press group, and I gladly accepted the offer. For some unexplainable reason, my writing seems to push the right buttons in women. Don't I wish I had this talent in real life!
On occasion, at Femmes de Paris, we have a late evening hectic meeting, usually right before going to print, and I have to attend, even though I try to hide in a quiet corner and keep my mouth shut. I let the big female egos in there attempt to kill one another, something they're really good at, The spectacle amuses me.. And usually the subjects brought up are not my most favorite fields of expertise : "Should you consent to sex on a first date?" or "Bras in all shapes, sizes and colors". Interesting subjects maybe, but wrong place, wrong time for me! On a regular basis, as in...every time, Audrey Audincourt, the Editor in Chief of Femmes de Paris, asks me discreetly at the end of the meeting if I can give her a ride to her appartment, as she lives somewhere along my way home. I understand she doesn't want to ride the subway late at night, for obvious safety reasons. Of course, there are such things as taxicabs, but there is also a thing called me, and she seems to prefer that thing over cabs. Needless to say, this is big time "hush-hush". Not that it would get us in trouble at work. I mean, this is France, where sex and work can mix happily, as anywhere else in the world probably, provided the job gets done. We're just don't deny the obvious about it.
Didn't one of our former Presidents die in the arms of a prostitute ? And in more recent times, didn't another one hit a milk delivery truck at six in the morning, while driving his unguarded personal car back to the Presidential palace, shortly after leaving his mistress's appartment ? The press had a field trip after they found out she was a famous actress. Everyone loved the story, but in the end nobody really cared and the gossip went away quickly. No one condoned, but nobody pointed fingers either. We all know that as humans, we are somewhat flawed and we just accept it. Nobody was impeached, and no blue dress ever surfaced on Ebay!
So, I landed these writing jobs, and besides the occasional little escapade with Audrey, the favorite part of my work, by a long shot, is to write about my most obsessive interest : classic cars!
Two months after been hired, , I suggested to my Editor in Chief that our classic car magazine, entirely written in French, could be published with a separate supplement of a few pages with an English translation of the French text. This would probably give a push to the sales of the magazine in English speaking countries, also known as the rest of the world! Modesty brushed aside for a minute, I thought it was a great idea. Such a great idea in fact that before I passed it on to the editor, I wrote it down carefully in great detail. I copyrighted it and deposited a registered copy with a notary. I didn't want some bastard, somewhere along the chain of command, to pass this as his (or her!) own idea.
Boy, was I right! I submitted the idea to my boss, the Editor in Chief of Autos d'Antan, Thierry Daucourt, a great guy I like very much. He loved it, approved it, and quickly sent it up the corporate ladder. Hey, when sales go up, we all look good. And that's when the proverbial crap hit the no less proverbial paddles of the fan. Some corporate clown liked the idea too. So much in fact that he made it sound it came from him. I waited for a decision to be made at the highest level before doing anything about it. A couple of weeks later, we had a gigantic pow-wow at Autos d'Antan, and Thierry Daucourt announced the great news that had just come down form Mr. Big Boss himself. Starting with the next issue, we would now officially incorporate a supplement with the English translation of all the articles published, inserted in every copy of the magazine to be sold in a non French speaking country. Everybody cheered!
To celebrate the occasion, Corporate even threw a party for us. It was a thing of beauty. We ate like pigs, drank like fish, and danced, all on company funds until 4.00 AM. During the five course formal dinner, I kept a close eye on Romain Escofier, the owner and CEO of Paris Presse Associes. When he was about to leave the party with his wife, around 9.30PM, shortly after the end of the meal, I followed him. I caught up with him in the hallway while he was waiting for his coat, and I handed him an envelope while saying :"A little something for you to read before bedtime!", then I quickly walked away. The next day, a memo was widely circulated, giving me full credit for the idea. Less officially, I was handed a substantial cash bonus and given a raise. I never heard another word about it afterwards! I told the whole story to my parents, and my father said to me :"Son, I think you are just about ready to go into politics". Something I never had any intention to do, but nonetheless, I took his comment as a compliment.
Two weeks before Christmas, I was scheduled to go to England and write a series of pieces about the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. Which would include many pictures. During the week long trip, I would as well visit a number of English specialists working on different trades related to car restoration : engine rebuildiing, chrome, interiors, etc. By going early the week-end before and staying the week-end after, I would get to spend nine days in England, doing things I love to do. while being paid for it, including travel expenses. It doesn't get any better than that in my books! If I had gone on holidays, I wouldn't have been happier.
The plan was to drive my own car to Le Havre where I would catch the night ferry to Southampton. Sleeping aboard the vessel was a big part of the fun and I felt like a child on Christmas morning. In Beaulieu, arrangements were made to meet with a British photographer, and for the rest of the trip, I would shoot my own photographs to illustrate the articles. That's about where I was standing when Audrey Audincourt knocked on the lightweight prefabricated wall of my doorless cubicle. I invited her in and she sat down on my unique. seldom used visitor's chair, after I removed my jacket and briefcase which ended on the floor. She made herself comfortable and crossed her legs :
- "I have a small favor to ask you" she said . I looked at her, somewhat puzzled, and she continued :
- "You may have heard about this, there is an airline strike next week, I mean the whole nine yards. Pilots, flight attendants, ground personnel, it's gonna be a mess. The airlines have already cancelled about 90% of the regular flights to London. I have a photographer who needs to be in London that week. There's a major fashion show there and she's also been retained to take photographs during an exclusive interview with Stella McCartney, something I've been working on for almost a year. Needless to say, we cannot afford to miss such an opportunity, and I don't need to emphasize how important this is to me, do I?".
- "And where exactly do I fit in all of this?"
-"Well, I had lunch with your boss,Thierry, yesterday, and he told me you are driving to England on Friday to do some work of yours there next week. So, my question to you is : would you have room for a petite, size 4 photographer of mine ?" Without wanting to play any kind of game with her, I still needed a little time by myself to think about this, so I said :
- :I'll call you within the hour!"
- "Thanks Bertrand".
- "Don't thank me, I haven't agreed to anything yet!"
- "But you will, won't you, Bertrand ? " With a killer smile sending tremors down my spine !
- "I'll call you!" Trying to compose myself and look indifferent. After she left, leaving an unmistakably feminine trace of Chanel No 5 trailing behind her, I thought about what she had asked me to do, and honestly, I couldn't find any valid reason not to oblige. So, as promised, I called her.
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns
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