Talking Story
The Iliad Library. Photo taken from my writing vantage point with a wide (repeat, very wide) angle lens.

The Iliad Library. Photo taken from my writing vantage point with a wide (repeat, very wide) angle lens.

Whenever I travel, I always look for the quiet nook, the place away from the karaoke bar scene and the disco fever, where I can sit and write. Last night while exploring the ship I found a little room called the Iliad Library. There are four tables, a few chairs and a couple bookcases—locked bookcases—where left-behind airport gift shop favorites are kept rigorously unread behind blurry glass.

Perfect, I thought.

But tonight when I sneak in with my laptop, Diet Coke, and ice pack for my throbbing heel (surgery three months ago and still healing), I interrupt a West Indian couple and a Sales Dude working them hard. I sit at the table the farthest away and start tippy-typing away.

Seriously, for 10 minutes nobody on their side of the room says a word. They’re just waiting for me to figure out the all night buffet is three levels up or that the conga-line is grooving on the Lido deck. Finally, Sales Dude remembers time is money and starts yammering about a vacation photo-package. He starts at $999.99 and over the next five minutes sweetens the deal with a memory book, a CD, and an extra free 8×10.

He can’t see me, but the couple can. As he offers his best and final price, I keep shaking my head no. The lady nudges her husband. Slowly the price keeps dropping. Sales Dude throws in a genuine diamonette necklace, discount shopping coupons, and a souvenir tote bag. When his price hits $300 and he throws in free daiquiris at the bar, I hear desperation in his voice.

That’s when I catch Wife’s eye and shrug. It’s on par with a photo shoot and print package at some place like a Target or Sears Photo Studio back home. Considering Sales Dude is showing printed photos, many of his costs are already sunk and he’s behind the eight ball.

Husband sees me, but sets his jaw firm. $280, he offers. Sales Dude says there’s no way he can do that. Husband crosses his arms. $280. Wife looks crushed. She really wants those photos. I start to feel a little guilty, but then Sales Dude sighs and says okay, but you can’t tell anyone the deal I’m making special just for you.

At that point I start to wonder if we’re still too high since Sales Dude’s a little too happy, but it’s done. They can pick up their vacation photos in an hour.

As they leave, Wife waves at me through the glass and gives me a thumbs up. At least they’re happy. Sales Dude packs his stuff more slowly, never giving me more than a dismissive glance. Twinkie. Now I’m happy I saved the couple at least $500 bucks from when they were first going to say yes.

As Sales Dude leaves, a couple of teenagers bounce in giggling, looking for a place to smooch. They sit in the small conversation pit behind me, but it’s clear my tippy-tapping is worse than any chaperone and after a minute of muffled groping, decide to split.

I feel like I’m doing all kinds of good tonight. Time for another Diet Coke.

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