The Negotiator



I got mail…

Dear Rinalda, Would you consider a massage at the Hyatt towards 20:30 tonight ? Many thanks and best regards.

Following day…when I saw the email, I wrote:

Namaste. Do forgive me, but I am only now seeing your request for a massage. If you still have need for such, maybe we can arrange one for some time today. Kindly contact me by telephone – 767-9165. Thank you.

Namaste You are totally forgiven. Tonight could also be possible depending on when I finish my meetings. Please indicate your full price for 30, 45 and 60 minutes. Many thanks and best regards.

Namaste. Please see prices below (copied from website). Also, you may view the website for details It would be kind of you to give me reasonable (1 hr) notice. Thank you.

Thank you. I can not access your website because it is in Flash, so I will assume the quoted prices are all inclusive. Are you familiar with the Hyatt ? Will give at least one hour notice of course. Many thanks and best regards.

Namaste. I am familiar with the Hyatt. You will need to meet me at the elevator. It would be helpful if you could clarify ‘all inclusive.’  Thanks.

I went about my business for the day, then a client called for an appointment…he was staying at the Hyatt. I went over and was greeted by a very large arrangement of fruits in his room. After the massage he inquired whether I would have some of the fruits. Of course! Interesting enough, that night I just happened to walk with the smallest handbag I own. The bottle of oil and my purse had already occupied most of the space inside.

I was told not to worry. There is a solution. I did leave the room with the fruits…in a white laundry bag. I stopped by the elevator and rested my laundry bag on the table by the window and tried to tie a knot at the top so that I would have a better grip. Then I checked my phone. Missed two calls from the same number…overseas. I suspected that it was my emailing friend. I called.

He asked whether it was possible for me to do a massage at that time. Sure. I was already in the Hyatt. He told me to meet him downstairs. Fine. I went down and waited, and since I sat where we agreed, he was observing me in the distance while I had no idea who he was. He took a few minutes before he came across and introduced himself. We headed for the elevator…and his room. When we entered, the clock was saying 9:20pm. I had just done a 2-hour massage on the fruits guy, in slow-motion, and now I had to do one in haste.

He seemed like a nice guy, but given that I had not gotten a response from him regarding his meaning of ‘all inclusive’ I decided to just be quiet and do the massage. During the massage he asked if I got his email. Email? No. I was busy doing offline stuff. Besides, I did suggest that he call, and he did. Now I was curious about the email, and he did not seem eager to rehash it. The massage continued in silence.

At 10:05pm the massage was over. I went to wash my hands and returned to find him with a curious look on his face. Has an hour passed so quickly? No. Kindly forgive me for cutting the session short, but I need to be home before the curfew begins. Oh! The curfew. Yes. Sure. Thank you very much.

I got a taxi on Wrightson Road that took me to Frederick Street…as if I couldn’t walk that. But time was not exactly on my side. I got another quite quickly to get me to San Juan. And when I got to San Juan, a man who had just picked up his wife from work and was on his way home obliged me a drop. According to my clock, it was 10:43pm when I got in the door.

I put on the computer. I wanted to see what the guy had said.

Namaste Great ! Forgive me the insistence on all inclusive, I’m negotiating a big purchase agreement all day… all I want is a full body massage and the price you mention should include your transportation. Kind regards.

Well! Okay then. I think I can go ahead and like him now.

The next day, I got mail.

Namaste, Would 9PM be possible tonight ? Thanks and regards.

I was offline and did not see the email. He wrote again:

Namaste, Thanks for yesterday. I very much appreciated your talents, although I was shivering cold in the end ! Sorry for that, I should have put some heat on. A pity you had to leave early at the height of the session ! Would 20:30 be a safe time for a full hour ? Kind regards.

Namaste. Thanks for facilitating me last night. Yes, 20:30 would be quite fine. Do give me a buzz about 19:30 (or thereabout) to confirm, so that I get to be on site on time. Have a productive day.

I went over and was greeted with a very firm handshake. As we walked the carpeted corridor to his the room I asked whether he was an Engineer…the kind who locks off and/or tighten valves in an engine room. He smiled. When we got to the room, he cautioned me to stop. I did. Can you hear that? I did hear a sound like someone using a vacuum cleaner inside. He laughed. That’s my heater. Heater? Okay.

When he opened the door, the sound grew louder. It was the blow dryer. He had put it on ‘hot’ and left it on the table by the mirror. The heat was directed towards the bed. I had to laugh. I like this guy. The man was cold one night, and the next night he improvised. I wondered whether management knew of the fragility of some of their guests’ sanity. This guy is one of those ‘up there’ persons who prefers to keep low profile, and I respect that. Interacting with him made me consider (for the 100th time) whether aiming for the stars was such a good idea. Knowledge is inexhaustible, and some of us fill ourselves with so much of it that it takes us high; so high that the moon comes into reach. And soon enough, a Degree of Lunacy is conferred on us. We may not realise it, but others see the signs.

During the massage, in the pleasantly warm and snug room, I learnt that he was from Norway. Said he fled to France. Fled? Yes, fled. From the gray and cold. Interesting. I thought that once you were born in a cold place you had the genes to live in a cold place. No. Said he stopped wearing jeans since he was fourteen. Hmmm. We have jokes now. He said I have jokes, he read some on my blog. You read that? Yes. Not all of it. That’s understood. You’d be exhausted right now if you had. I’m going to write about you, but not for the eyes of John Public. That’s okay. Not that anyone will know who I am. Besides, this may be your chance to write about a guy from Norway.

Then he decided to take me up on the inquiry into his profession. Why did you ask about me being an engineer? Because the handshake was so firm, I thought you intended to lock my bones together permanently. Ooooh! Sorry! I did not mean to do that. I know you didn’t. Turns out that handshakes are a big part of his job, so over the years he has perfected it. As perfect as a vice.

The next day, I got mail.

Namaste, Would you have some time for me tonight as well ? Thanks.

I went over. How was it? He asked as we walked to the room. It, what? The handshake? Oh! Well, I guess it was good. Tonight’s handshake certainly did not make the indelible impression like last night’s. Good. I’m glad I did not hurt you this time. As we got closer, I could hear his heater. He opened the door with a smile.

The massage was mostly done in silence. He intimated that he was planning to go to Tobago the next day, and was advised that he had to be at the ferry terminal by 5am for a chance to get on the boat since he had no ticket. He considered the time ridiculously early, given he was close by. What do I say? The system is the system. Sometimes we are annoyed because foreigners are allowed to sidestep the system. Other times we sympathize, but we feel a sense of satisfaction that there is no bias.

I noticed that on each occasion, after massaging his legs, he would bring the soles of his feet together and remain in that position for a while. I inquired whether he was meditating. He laughed. His Physiotherapist had suggested that posture for stretching the medial leg muscles because the ligament was inflamed and painful. I would say it’s back to that inguinal thing. Anyway, I told him that another client was advised by her Doctor to increase her sexual activity as treatment for excess tension along the medial muscles.

Three days passed. Then he called again. He wanted to know what time I could go see him. He was in a taxi on the way to the hotel, very hungry, and wanted to know if we could have dinner before the massage. I’m cool with that. I had prepared dinner, but was busy doing something else and did not eat. Now that I had to leave home, the hunger suddenly registered. So the last thing I did before leaving was to take a fruit from that laundry bag, which is in the fridge, and hurry out the door. I got a few bites out of it then rested it down to close the door. Ooop! It fell downstairs. Okay. Guess that meant I should not spoil my appetite. Dinner awaits…

He looked regal in a black suit and tie. To avoid the coldness on the inside, we got a table outside at the end of the dining area. So did you write about me? He asked as we took our seats. Nooo. I shook my head from side to side. I’ve been deciding, then deciding against it. Okay. That’s okay. He ordered champagne and I got water, and we cheered to good health. Then he took out a cigarette. Said he had three kinds in the two different boxes that he had placed on the table. Some were regular. Some were filtered. Some were from Cuba. He had a regular one, then one from Cuba…which he got from a Russian friend in Siberia. Wait. A Norwegian guy got Cuban cigarettes from a Russian guy who lives in Siberia? Yep! If I were you, I would not smoke that. Those cigarettes must be extremely tired form all that journeying. They would only add more stress to your stress.

Ordering dinner was a bit fussy. Limited options, for the likes of me. I told the waiter I did not want the ‘Eggplant whatever’ that my client ordered, though it seems totally healthy. I wanted the Lamb dish without the lamb. He began telling me that I had to accept it as is, and I interrupted. All night he was buzzing back and forth (the unwanted attention was overbearing) checking to see if we needed to sneeze or spit, now that I wanted something, he was telling me that it was not possible. He then decided that I could get the macaroni cheese from the lamb dish and some plantains from another. Fine. What about the vegetables? He said that that would be in the macaroni. Fine.

And they took forever…and ever…to put my two bits together. And my dear client told me that my order probably caused confusion in the kitchen. None of the chefs knew how to make the lamb dish without the lamb. Quite possibly. Then the food came. I scooped the macaroni onto a plate and spread it out. Not a piece of vegetable was to be found therein. Maybe they had ground it to bits. Maybe, because it was so terribly dim outside I could not see the vegetables. So I basically had two heavy servings of carbohydrates and fat. Sure, there were a few milligrams of the other nutrients. But, all in all, whatever was on my plate tasted good.

Before they had filled the dinner order, the waiter had brought a basket with pieces of something. I helped myself to a piece. My client said it was ‘nan.’ What? Nan. It’s an Indian dish. Really? Nan? See what I mean about fancy names? It seemed like small, evenly cut pieces of parata roti dough (with added sugar) that were fried, and they served it with selection of three different sauces. Having lived most of my life with a Caterer, I know well not to pay too much attention to names, but rather to have an idea of the ingredients and the cooking method. One drop of brown chocolate on the center of a large white plate has a fancy name. You don’t want to order that. Especially if you are hungry.

When the food arrived, I said a word of prayer. Literally a word. What’s that you said? My dear client asked. Bismillah. Bismillah? I nodded. Every time we meet you say: Namaste. Every time you write, you say: Namaste. Now you say: Bismillah? I nodded. Isn’t that a bit mixed up? It is, but no more mixed up than you smoking a Cuban cigarette here in Trinidad that you collected in Siberia from a Russian guy. He laughed. This is why I say: live and let live. At the end of the day, he smokes (filtered, unfiltered, or else) to deal with his stress. And at the end of the day, I say what I say (in this language, or that tongue) in acknowledgement of the Divine. When my petition goes before The Throne of Grace, it is my sincerity, not my politically correct prayer, that allows me to obtain mercy.

Enough of that. Between eating and conversation, the time flew. As he wiped his fingers on the napkin, he inquired what time it was. I checked my phone. 9:04pm. Exciting. Is that enough time for a massage? He asked. It is, if we start now. Then should we make a run for it, he suggested. A run for it? Yes, a run for it. He had had yet another stressful day trying to close a major deal, and was unable to get the relevant signatures on the final document because of some tiny thing. So, yes, the least I could do was soothe the nerves. We made a run for it. I did ask him if he felt that the company would back out. No. The deal is definitely on, and the signing would take place soon, but he disliked not have a ‘trophy’ to take back with him.

The run was a brisk walk. The clock upstairs was saying 9:18pm by the time he was done setting up his heater, and taking a quick shower. At 9:57pm I was wrapping up the massage. At 10:10pm both of my feet were out of the hotel door. And our last session indeed ended like the first, with me trying to be under my own roof before the clock struck eleven.