Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Crear Para Creer (2002)
The old meeting room at the Hotel Colonial buzzed with excitement from the power-networking of sales and business executives. Mottled beige-terra cotta Talavera tiles from the 1500’s virtually disappeared under the highly polished black shoes of the business executives and the beige and tan summer footwear of the salespeople. Polished shoes and boat shoes lined up for registration. Tailored pinstripe cuffs rubbed together, as did tan khakis and even blue polyesters. Some of these were snagged and slightly dirty around the frayed cuffs. These hovered over work socks and shoes that looked like the castoffs from the more prosperous – alike in form, but worn beyond use if the wearer was rich.
Rich, poor, or on the make, Anna saw to it that the hotel supplied emergency egg and cheese burritos and coffee to every standee. It was not their fault that she had allowed a same-day late registration option. She should have known her countrymen better. So what if she spent an extra 7,200 pesos? There was almost ten times that amount standing in line. She would be damned if she would start a convention on relationship marketing by angering her clients!
“Señorita, estamos listos para servirle,” the head waiter approached, the first cart of steaming burritos and cloth napkins in tow.
“Gracias, yo sirvo mis clientes mi mismo.” Anna unrolled five 100-peso notes, and asked the head waiter to distribute these. The head waiter puzzled over this largesse momentarily, thanked Anna, and left to prepare a second cart.
Anna began greeting each client as if he were José Lopez himself. She had taken the exceptional step of hiring a nanny – something that she had promised that she would never do. Gabriel was not far away, though; in the presenter’s suite, attached by a cell phone, Aracely had the little boy pretending to be a salsero. Confidence. This is one of the foundations of building relationships, Anna would relate to the four-hundred-plus people, almost all men, who were trying to find out what magic trick would help them sell more. Little did they know that Anna’s confidence blossomed from the security that she felt in Aracely. Confidence begets confidence.
One after another, the men received the proffered burrito, with or without coffee. Few responded with more than casual politeness when Anna took the opportunity to introduce herself by name and to ask a few questions of each client.
“Are you in sales?”
“What is your goal from attending our conference?”
“How large is your company?”
“How large would you like it to be?”
Anna’s name was on every invitation, on every reservation form, on the welcome letter in the hotel lobby, and autographed in every copy of the book available at the convention, like this:
“Crear para creer. Anna Garcia”
However, almost no one noticed that it was her who was passing out the free breakfasts and making small talk. Note to myself: Use this to show the people how badly their assumptions about place and status are hurting their businesses. Anna made note that given the right balance of circumstances and training, the most naco delivery truck driver could be wearing dungarees one year, and a crisply pressed suit and silk foulard power tie the next. In a flash, a new drill came to her: Blindfold the person in the circle, and make him describe the lives of the speaker or speakers on the outside of the circle just by listening to vocabulary and dialect.
Cesar Castilanez and Arqueo Gomez chatted about the upcoming midterm elections, the impact of the previous year’s 9/11 terrorist attacks in the Tierra Gringosa on trade between Mexico and its northern neighbor, the future of President Vicente Fox and his Center-Right PAN party with the Northern Monster under attack and Dubya, also known as U. S. President George W. Bush, unable to talk immigration or narcotraficantes because of concern about terrorists posing as campesinos, Cesar’s engineering firm and Arqueo’s chances for partnership in the architectural firm he had been at since graduating BUAP, the miserable bunch of no-name players and revolving-door coaches that represented Puebla in Liga Prima…..
“Gentlemen, welcome to the conferencia. I am personally very pleased that you chose to spend your time and your money learning about relationship marketing. As a token of my appreciation, let me offer you something to keep your hands busy while you wait for registration.”
Cesar glanced at Arqueo. Arqueo shot an upward eyebrow at Cesar. Both noticed the petite 24-year-old Anna as a girl more than as a woman, hardly as an empresaria capable of filling an expensive meeting room. In the background, her friends Sandrina and Antonio, and even her ex Hector and some of his friends, were madly rushing chairs from the hotel’s storage locker, trying to stay calm and polite while relocating the registration desk to the hallway in order to allow the program to proceed, and passing out 100-peso notes to various stunned staffers at the Hotel Colonial, now suddenly booked to capacity on a random Thursday night a week before Semana Santa. The two men could have worked for the same firm, based on their tan cotton trousers, brown gaucho leather belts, and silk shirts with broad, pointed collars. Arqueo wore lime green, while Cesar had chosen navy. An identical navy, it turned out, to Anna’s starched cotton blouse, popping out like a photographic negative against her cream-colored suit jacket with matching mid-thigh skirt. Over trim, tan thighs. Callate, the men told themselves.
“My name is Hernán. People who know me call me Arqueo. ¿Y tú?” Given that Arqueo was, in his own eye, about fifteen years Anna’s senior, the familiar tú-form was appropriate, even in Puebla, where the dialect tended more toward the formalism of Central America. Actually, the gap was only about nine years, but Anna looked no more than a college underclasswoman.
“I’m Anna Garcia. Welcome to our conference. Have you read our book?” Noting the architect’s play for status, Anna called his bluff by promoting herself to co-author of the book. ¡Pinche pápi! I wrote the book for you out in the field. You didn’t know about “relationship marketing;” you played the chords and I made the melody.
“Cesár. No, I have not, nor has my friend. You could write or do, at your age, chica, but you wouldn’t have time to do both.”
“You haven’t, verdad, or you would recognize that it is not wise to underestimate your business associates or your women, señor; Chapter 9.”
“De acuerdo. Well spoken, Anna Garcia.”
“Le toca a Usted. ¿Cesár que? Chávez?” Anna knew that this subtle class slur would put this Cesar on his heels.
“Gutierrez. Cesar Gutierrez. Me encanta, señorita.”
“Padrisimo.” This friendly slang expression gave rise to intersecting vectors: the angular eyebrows of both businessmen meeting in midair.