Carrie Thompson was meticulous in everything she did. When she woke in the morning, she let the buzzer on her alarm ring for exactly five seconds before shutting it off. She would then get out of the bed from the left side and have a shower that lasted precisely eight minutes.
Carrie allowed her bread to toast for exactly two-minutes-thirty-five-seconds and poured her coffee two-thirds full to allow for her one tablespoon of non-fat cream and one sweetener.
She would leave the house methodically at 6:35 AM, to arrive at work by 7:15 AM allowing her fifteen minutes to use the restroom and freshen up before her shift began at precisely 7:30 AM.
Carrie worked as an event planner, so her perfectionist qualities reflected on the reactions of her clients faces on the day of their events. She made sure that every detail was overseen personally, giving her inspections a white-gloved approval or disapproval.
If there was one thing that Carrie could not handle, it was a nonchalant attitude from anyone she hired. One such person, was a contractor named Lance. He was the epitome of apathetic behaviour.
Lance owned a party supply warehouse that rented out tables, chairs, and other party accessories. Carrie was used to dealing with the previous owner, Jake, but had yet to collaborate with Lance since he bought the company a month earlier.
It was two days before New Year’s Eve and Carrie was organizing a spectacular gala for some of the city’s hierarchy. The mayor was expected to attend, along with the police commissioner, a few celebrities, and some of the wealthiest benefactors the city had to offer.
The main event would take place in the ballroom of the Whitmore Hotel, an elegant twelve story building with ornate moldings along the exterior and interior walls. Lance was to provide circular tables and padded chairs for the majority of the guests, but with the dignitaries being placed at the front of the room at rectangular tables.
Lance and Carrie had been squabbling over the cost since Lance had yet to give Carrie his final quote. His reply each time she asked, was, “Don’t worry about it. I will get it to you soon.” He had been saying that for the past two months.
She called him on the phone to reminded him again of what all she required for the event and what time he needed to be there to set up. She was growing nervous about using his company, but there was nobody else that she could get on such short notice, so she had no choice.
The day of the event, December 31st, Carrie arrived at the hotel ahead of schedule. She had hired the hotel’s catering staff to cook and serve for the event, and they began preparations early that morning.
The florist had arrived by 10:00 AM and scattered larger bouquets around the room. The smaller arrangements were supposed to be set on each table, but Lance had not yet arrived. Soon after, the master of ceremonies, a prominent doctor in town, poked his head in the door to check that everything was going as planned and Carrie assured him that everything would be ready on time.
Carrie tried to call Lance at the office, but there was no answer. She waited until after noon for the truck to arrive, but he was still a no-show. Carrie became frustrated and tried to call Lance again, but still no answer. She couldn’t have a dinner with no tables, and the hotel only had enough to support half of the guest expected to attend.
At 3:45 PM, Carrie was notified that a delivery truck just pulled into the loading dock. “Finally,” Carrie said under her breath. Lance and his crew began bringing racks of tables in by 4:00 PM. First came the rectangular tables. There were six on the cart, but Carrie only required three.
Then came another rack, again they were rectangular tables. Carrie shouted out, “Stop right there!” to the workers. “Why are you bringing in more rectangular tables? Where are the circular ones?”
Lance came over and introduced himself. He was dressed in a grubby, worn, winter jacket, and wore a grey winter hat with a pom-pom on top. “Is there a problem here?” he asked Carrie.
“Damn right there’s a problem!” she yelled back. “Where are the tables I ordered?”
Lance pulled out the work order and read down to the third paragraph where it listed the items required and read, “It says right here that you need three round tables and fifteen rectangular tables, so that’s what I brought.”
“You idiot!” she responded forcefully. “You got it backwards. It was supposed to be three rectangular tables and fifteen circular tables!”
“What’s the difference?” Lance retorted. “You still have room for everyone to sit, right?”
Carrie threw the work order back at Lance and it fell to the floor. “You have exactly one hour to return here with the proper tables and chairs, or you are fired.”
“Oh, you needed chairs too?” Lance asked. “I guess I missed that. No worries. We can have them back here in a jiffy. How many folding chairs did you need?”
“Are you serious?” Carrie exclaimed. “I asked for padded chairs, not folding chairs!” Her frustration grew stronger as her blood pressure raised higher. Carrie was almost at her wits end with Lance.
“Yeah, I got it. No problem. How many do you need?”
“I need a total of one-hundred chairs. Can you handle that?”
“No problem. I got it covered,” he said before heading back to his truck. “See you in a couple hours.”
“ONE HOUR! ONE HOUR, OR YOU ARE FIRED!” Carrie screamed as she stomped off aggravated.
She kept looking at her watch. Finally, at 4:58 PM, Lance and his crew returned with the proper tables and chairs. She rushed to get them set up. The caterers then began covering them with white linen and champagne glasses. The centerpieces were set in place on the tables, followed by the silk napkins and silverware.
It wasn’t until nearly 5:30 PM, that she noticed Lance still loitering with his workers at the back of the venue. One of them let out a loud belch that echoed throughout the nearly empty ballroom. Carrie went over to enquire why they were still there.
“I thought we could settle up the bill for the rental,” Lance said as he handed the updated work order to Carrie.
“This is much higher than your original estimation,” she exclaimed.
“Well, with the one-hundred chairs, the cost went up. Besides, I took off the double delivery fee.”
“Took off the delivery fee? It was your fault the order was wrong in the first place!”
Carrie wrote Lance a check and slapped it into his hands. “What time will you be back to pick these up?” She asked. We should be finished by 2:00 AM. Can you be back by then?”
“Are you crazy lady? This is New Year’s Eve! You’re lucky I am open today at all. I will be back around noon tomorrow. I need to give my boys a chance to recover from their hangovers. You know what I mean?” he said as he laughed.
“But the hotel needs this room back in the morning. Can I convince you to come back sooner?”
“I’ll tell you what,” Lance replied. “Do you plan to use these tables after you eat?”
“Not necessarily,” she replied.
“Okay, so why don’t you fold up the tables after you eat, and I will swing by around 11:00 PM with one or two of my boys to load them up? I might need to pay my boys extra cash though. They won’t be happy if I pull them away from their parties for too long.”
“Fine, I will pay you for your time. Just promise me you will be back tonight.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll be here.”
The event went off without a hitch and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The mayor was so pleased with how things turned out, that he arranged to hire her for another gala event in the Spring.
As dinner had finished and the dishes had been removed, Carrie began folding up the tables and standing them along the wall near the rear exit. She stacked some chairs and left the remainder out for guests to sit on.
With the majority of the floor now cleared, it was time for dancing. The DJ started the night off with a crowd favorite, “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang. In minutes, the city’s dignified elite were shaking their behinds on the dance floor.
At 11:15 PM, Lance arrived, but he was alone. He was no longer wearing his grubby clothes. Instead, he was dressed in a sport coat with casual pants. His face was clean shaven, and he smelled of cologne. Even his hair was neatly combed, unlike his earlier appearance. Carrie almost didn’t recognize him. In fact, she suddenly found him quite attractive.
“Where is your crew?” she asked as she approached him.
“I couldn’t convince any of them to come back tonight. They all had plans, so I will load it all myself.”
“You look so different,” Carrie stated.
“Yeah, well, I knew this was a big deal for you tonight, so I didn’t want to look like some bum that wandered in off the street.”
“I appreciate that. Are you in a hurry, or did you want to stick around for a while? I can help you load some of the tables up later maybe.”
“Thanks, I guess I can stick around for a bit, but you don’t need to help; I can manage on my own. I wouldn’t want you ruining that pretty dress of yours anyway.”
Carrie took him by the hand and led him to the bar next to the stage. “What’ll you have?” she asked.
“Just water is fine. I’m not much of a drinker,” he said.
“Well, how about one glass of champagne to bring in the new year. I mean, midnight is only twenty minutes away.”
“Okay, one glass, but that’s all. I don’t want to be driving that big truck of mine after a few drinks.”
Carrie asked the bartender for two glasses of champagne and handed one to Lance. She took a sip, but Lance refrained. She noticed him swaying to the music and asked him if he wanted to dance.
Pointing to the glasses, he asked, “What about these?”
She took his glass and set them on the bar saying, “We can get a fresh glass later,” then led him to the dance floor.
Just as they started into a fast dance, the DJ spun a slow track for them. Carrie smiled, and Lance smiled back and held out his arms. Grasping her right hand in his left hand, and wrapping his right arm around her waist, they began to sway side-to-side in rhythm with the music.
Carrie found the scent of his cologne to be intoxicating. She found it hard to believe that this was the same man she was shouting at mere hours earlier. Instead, she laid her cheek against his chest and listened to his heart beating in time with the song.
When the song ended and a faster song came on, Carrie still held him tightly. Lance did not resist. While everyone around them was spinning and jumping in time with the beat, Carrie and Lance became lost in one another.
At 11:55 PM, the DJ announced that it was nearly midnight, and asked everybody to grab a glass of champagne. Carrie and Lance returned to the bar and ordered two more glasses.
At ten seconds before the new year, the countdown began: “TEN…NINE…EIGHT…SEVEN…SIX…FIVE…FOUR…THREE…TWO…ONE…HAPPY NEW YEAR!” everyone shouted as the DJ played “Auld Lang Syne.
Before Carrie had a chance to react, Lance’s lips were upon hers. She was surprised but didn’t resist. Instead, she pulled him closer.
“What about the tables and chairs?” Lance asked.
“They can wait.”