I had tentatively – meaning maybe I had, maybe I hadn’t, I wasn’t entirely certain – dipped my toe into the murky waters of bribery, so that our beach chairs would be set up and waiting for us every morning during our stay. I now had to do what was required – descend to that nefarious netherworld and quietly pay somebody off.
Being a first-timer in this dark and alien underworld raised immediate questions. First and foremost, how much do you have to shell out to a person before they legitimately feel “taken care of”? Forget any exact numbers – ballpark.
Knowing this, would be essential to the “Embarrassment Factor.” What if my “taking care of” payment was insultingly puny? Or worse, egregiously over the top? A “C-Note” for a book of matches.
What exactly was the etiquette? Where were the guidelines? Take my hand – I’m a “Stranger in a Sleazyland!”
My only hope was for “professional guidance.” I needed direction and I had to pick exactly the right person to ask, someone who wouldn’t be offended when I walked up to them and said, “You bribe people. How do I do it?” I would not present it that way. Still, they could easily take offense.
“You calling me a gangster?”
Considering my selection carefully, I landed on the friendliest guy in the hotel. I knew he was the friendly because the man even bothered with me. “Friendly Guy” had been Christmasing at this hotel for more than fifty years, and it was clear he was experienced in the “taking care of people” arrangement. His chairs were in place when he got off the plane.
Catching him lunching with his family, I made my way to his table. Too nervous for small talk, I immediately dove in. “If you want your chairs out there… what is it… how much…“taking care of” …what do you do?” Not too articulate, but throw in some gestures, and he got the idea.
“Friendly Guy” was extremely helpful. He explained that a payment was required at the beginning of the trip, an amount he later duplicated at the end of the trip. What was that amount, I shakily inquired? He mentioned a figure, hefty but not “choke a horse.” Having received the information I needed, I gratefully thanked “Friendly Guy”, leaving him to his lunch and his family. I was ready to dive in.
(Post Mortem Acknowledgement: “Friendly Guy” was the late and always delightful Garry Marshall.)
It turns out I had run out of steam. For me, it took great energy to approach a virtual stranger and ask advice about bribing people. And on the same day I was expected to approach another stranger and surreptitiously hand over some money?
I was sweating profusely, but not from the temperature.
Worn out from my descent to the “Dark Side”, I decided the “Big Payoff” would have to wait till tomorrow.
As will the conclusion to this story.