At the last second, here comes Charley. He was a nondescript man of average height, normal features, in his middle age, wearing a jacket and slacks, and almost smiling as he sat close (right next to me) at the large and empty table set for eight. His hand went out and mine shot to greet him with all the enthusiasm I could muster at 8:00 that night. His limp palm brushed against mine in a light clasp.
After low mumblings, I believed to be introductions, we sat and ate our salads. He asked me to explain this conference space to me, as he was new to it. I have a patent on this discussion. It flowed from me with ease hitting all the key marketing points.
With a half smile Charley said in his monotone voice “That is the most limited and incorrect view I have heard on this topic.”
My retort was a simple smile and nod. I continued to finish my salad and watch the awards. After the final award was presented and the best speech of the night was made (“Thank you for this award,” the winner said and returned to his seat) dinner was finally served. Half way through the uncomfortable silence of sitting closely to me Charley stated that he like to kayak in the Potomac.
“That must be lovely – wake up early in the morning and see the nations capitol” I encouraged.
He looked at his food and began to eat again in silence.
I was eating as quickly as I could to get away however Charley wasn’t finished. He asked me another question about the conference. Again, he disagreed and said “you really are limited in your thinking, aren’t you?”
“Charley” I said as politely and gently as I could while setting down my napkin “don’t ask anymore questions. Not to anyone. You have all the answers. Excuse me. I didn’t save room for desert.”