Now I’m a pretty easy going guy, but there’s one thing that really gets under my skin. That thing is when people don’t respect my time. It really pisses me off. I guess it goes back to being a lawyer. We get paid for our time and when people don’t respect it, it feels like I’m rolling down the highway tossing cash out of the window. In this case the feeling is elevated because I’m extremely anxious, and because I don’t have my phone, which means I can’t text, surf the web or check my email. In other words, I’m going nuts sitting here waiting. But I know that I need to swallow that attitude and start off on the right foot. After about ten minutes, and two visits from an overly-helpful waiter, the door slid open. It was Vanessa Boudreaux-finally. Everything about the woman was well put together; the hair, the jewelry, the clothing, the shoes, the walk-everything. This was a woman at the top of her game, and I was completely intrigued. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have someone like her in my life on a daily basis.
As she glided into the room, I stood and moved toward the door to greet her. My excitement was immediately dampened, however, when she extended her hand and gave me the universal symbol for “wait a minute.” The message was clear, so I sat again to wait for her to wrap up her call on the Bluetooth device attached to her ear. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but feel put off. I probably had no right to feel that way, but I would never have done that to her. Between the waiting and the phone call, I just had the feeling that this meeting wasn’t as important to her as it was to me. My thoughts were interrupted when she finished the call and gestured for me to stand to greet her. I extended my hand to shake hers, but she grabbed me and pulled me toward her for a warm hug. Then she apologized for being late and for the phone call, and all of the negativity I had felt moments earlier evaporated into thin air. In order to avoid another interruption, however, I told her that I wouldn’t take any calls during lunch if she wouldn’t. She winked and said she’d try. Of course, I really didn’t have to worry about it since my phone was probably lying in pieces on some busy Atlanta street, or, even worse, being offered for sale on Peachtree Street by some enterprising citizen.
As our conversation began, I realized that I had so many questions I wanted to ask her. Where was she from? What did she do for a living? Where’d she go to college? Does she like sports? Is she a good dancer? What is her favorite food? What does she do for fun? Oh, and who was that guy she was with the night I first saw her? I didn’t want the conversation to seem like an interview, but I hoped to have the answers to some of my questions by the end of our lunch. And what a lunch it was! We ate and talked and teased and talked some more. It was one of those conversations where everything she said prompted another round of conversation.
Vanessa was certainly a “no-list” girl. A “no-list” girl is one who is really easy to talk to. The term goes back to when I was in high school. I used to make a list of topics for our conversation before I would call. Sometimes I’d call someone and run through my list in five minutes. With nothing left to talk about, I’d awkwardly rush off the phone. On the other hand, sometimes I would call a girl and I could stay on the phone forever without looking at the list a single time. Needless to say, I did not make, or need, a list with Ms. Boudreaux.
I learned so much about her during our lengthy conversation. The 37-year-old daughter of two prominent physicians was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. She’s never stepped foot in a public school, and had her choice of cars on the day she turned 16. She graduated from Spelman College, and received an MBA from Wharton. After Wharton she joined a prominent Wall Street investment banking firm, before moving back to Atlanta to start her own. She’s traveled extensively, and lived abroad for extended periods. Vanessa was also kind and compassionate. She volunteers for several children’s organizations. Physically, she appeared to be about 5’9” or 5’10”, and was blessed with a natural beauty that made men of all ages do a double take. Yet, she was extremely humble. And the icing on the cake is that she’s a huge sports fan, and has season tickets to the Hawks, Falcons and Braves.
Although the conversation was still flowing freely, both of us knew we had to get back to work. We’d settled our check long ago, but just couldn’t leave. As we attempted to wrap up the conversation for the fourth time, she took a deep breath and nervously asked to change the subject. “So, Jeffrey, let me tell you why I really invited you here. I’ve got a proposition for you, and, frankly, I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about it.” She sat up straight in her chair, and prepared to lay out her proposition. “See, I’ve been . . .” She stopped in mid-sentence as the door suddenly slid open. It was the maître d followed closely by Anita, who appeared to be very agitated. Anita screamed at me, “Mr. Law, why haven’t you been answering your phone? Judge Thompson’s office has been calling all afternoon. There’s an emergency hearing set to take place in 30 minutes in the Walton case. I’ve got the file, let’s go.” I dashed over to Vanessa and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Hold that thought,” I whispered before dashing off with Anita.
I can’t think of a more terribly abrupt way for our lunch to have ended. And the one time that I didn’t have my phone, there would have to be an emergency. As much as my mind should have been on the upcoming court hearing, I kept thinking about the lunch with Vanessa. It was going to drive me absolutely crazy wondering what her proposition was all about. But there was no time to worry about that. I had a judge to face, a client to take care of, and an angry assistant to deal with.