Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Dining Out on Business Travel – Part 5

Over the years I have come to a conclusion that there is a definite link between food and sex. OK, the alcohol served along with the food makes a major contribution but the ambiance brought about by close proximity, relaxation, liberated discussion and sharing taste sensations with each other aids in the dropping of inhibitions.

Maybe sharing a hot curry and lots of lager is an exception but the act of say feeding each other oysters and champagne is clearly a good illustration of this phenomena. All those who have seen that old ‘bawdy romp’ of a film Tom Jones can bear witness to the old oysters and booze syndrome. However, don’t try the same effect with Guinness as it plays havoc on the stomach at the most inopportune moments which is a real passion killer.

So what has this to do with business travel dinners? A great deal in my experience. Despite being relatively naïve with regard to what goes on around me at dinners and banquets I have seen and experienced much that could turn me into a successful blackmailer if I had carried a camera and tape recorder with me. Maybe I could hire a small person with a camcorder to sit under the tables of the high and mighty and record the goings on under tablecloth.

Under table groping is rife at many major business dinners which may explain why most banquet table fronts have a cloth that extends to the floor. The omission of such ‘modesty cloth’ can provide much hilarity as I discovered one night in an Italian restaurant in Edinburgh. We had taken over the whole place and the tables were laid out in a large square. Our then very high profile leader was sat in the place of honour and beside him, by chance I am sure, was our most eligible and eager lady sales representative.

It all kicked off by the middle of the antipasto. Unfortunately they were not aware that everybody the other end of the square could see every move. It started with warm patting of knees that progressed to thighs and I leave the rest to your imagination. By then my end of the table was spellbound. What was fascinating was that their faces and upper bodies showed no sign of the wild activity below, except that they were eating one handed.

The show ended when they noticed me grabbing a passing colleague and saying ‘hey look at that’ whilst pointing an indiscrete finger. Well I was young at the time and had yet to learn about discretion. After an icy stare in my direction that would have frozen hell all ‘down below’ activity ceased. The big chief left for his room soon after and, strangely, the whole experience must have brought on a headache in our young lady as she left soon after. In the same direction!

I have been on the receiving end of such overtures twice both directly and indirectly and neither was enjoyable in the least. Once in a banqueting suite in a Dubai hotel when a dinner guest’s wife started grappling me under the cloth. I think she was doing it more for fun (like a cat playing with a mouse) than intent but when you are sitting next to a husband that has no idea what is going on and is in the middle of discussing his business travel needs it isn’t easy. Also you could end up in jail for less in Dubai.
Fortunately she stopped before being discovered although she did give me a broad laughing wink as she departed hand-in-hand with her clearly doting husband.

My indirect experience was even more unpleasant in that it involved my then partner not me. My boss decided to take all his sales team to dinner as thanks for a great result that year. It was Christmas and everyone was looking forward to a big celebration made more enjoyable as spouses and partners were invited too. It was a Chinese feast where everybody could share dishes although I did not realise that my boss considered my partner to be ‘dishy’. He cut a strange figure. He arrived dressed in a Caftan (it was not fancy dress) and with a newly trimmed goatee beard. All this topped with a paper hat three sizes too small and a leer that would make a maiden scream.

He plonked himself down between the two of us and entered what he thought was a subtle and suave conversation about ‘sharing’ experience other than food. Alarm bells rang in my head but, he was my boss, I liked my job and hey, he was only joking, wasn’t he? The answer to that question was almost immediate when he shrieked and leaped backwards, made his excuses and left.

‘What the hell happened’ I asked of my partner. He squeezed and pinched me under the table she demurred. ‘Oh no’ I replied ‘but why did he yell’? ‘’ I pinched him back’ she explained, ‘very, very, hard and he will have great difficult explaining that bruise to his wife’. Not a woman to be crossed I mused as my eyes started to water at the thought. Not a man to continue going out with she must have been thinking as she dumped me soon after.

More to follow on this subject in part 6 so stay tuned!

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