Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mixing Business with Pleasure (and chocolate!)

"There's no keynote speaker this year??" cried Mrs. Hall, as she perused the convention booklet. "How on earth do they expect to get anyone from the eastern side of the state all the way out here?" The New York State Funeral Directors Association (acronymically referred to as "NYSFDA") had, in the past, scheduled some pretty high powered talent to speak at their conventions; but times being what they were, the powers that be had apparently scaled back the budget. Not only was there no featured celebrity in the field, but, as some were mumbling, it was on the 'shabby' side of the falls. "So much for home town boosterism," remarked Mr. Hall. Patriotism aside, however, the Canadians did seem to have the whole tourist thing down so much better in Niagara. Their gardens were lovely and pristine, and their boulevard overlooking the falls boasted some of the nicest hotels around. But the American side was where the convention was being held, so that was where the Halls were heading.
"The brochure says they have a block of rooms over at that Sheridan across the street from the Convention Center- are we staying there?" asked Mrs. H. tentatively. Mr. Hall assured her no; he had already made reservations at her favorite Hamptons, and Mrs. H. sighed a sigh of relief. (He made a great show of making it seem as though no sacrifice was too great for Mrs. H. but the reality was, the rooms were considerably less expensive and they accrued points for the stay as well. This was not, as they say, the first time to the rodeo for Mr. Hall.)
Without the usual two hour block of time allotted to their celebrity showstopper, the convention got down to brass tacks fairly quickly. To make the most of the seminars, the Halls usually split up and after taking notes, regrouped during the exhibition hours. The lessons seemed like slim pickings this year, but the organization had gone all out for the trade show end of it, and the strolling lunch stations were wonderful. "Is that a chocolate 'martini' station over there?" asked Mrs. Hall incredulously. Sure enough, mountains of candy sprinkles and bonbons were artfully arranged, between the casket salesmen and the mortuary shipping supplies. The hostess was scooping the sugary options over a thick chocolaty mixture poured into cocktail glasses. "I think I'll stick to the more traditional ones," said Mr. Hall, and suppressed a gag. His opinion notwithstanding, there were long lines of ladies queuing up for seconds.
A couple of days of mortuary accounting, cremation liability and funeral law sessions can wear on a person after a while, so it was with great relief the Halls faced the last day of seminars. "Take a look at all the serious swag I managed to snag in the exhibition room this week. " said Mrs. Hall, as she struggled to cram them into her bags. Mr. Hall chuckled and donned a baseball cap. "After this morning, I've got all the credits I need for this trip; how about we head on over the bridge and walk around the Canadian side?" Mrs. Hall was only too happy to agree.
Passing the souvenir stands and tourist traps along the way, they headed for the border post. Happy couples posed for pictures along the bridge and the Halls accommodated a number of them by taking pictures of them with their cameras. No matter what the season or the state of the markets, Niagara Falls continues to draw romantics from all over the world. They walked along the manicured gardens and marvelled at the mist rising from the gorge. After grabbing a snack in town, they crossed back into the US. "Do you feel up to getting a little wet?" asked Mr. Hall. "I've always wanted to take that path that runs right up to the American Falls. Are you game?" Mr. Hall, being the gentleman that he was, felt compelled to ask first, even though he already knew the answer would be yes; there is rarely an adventure Mrs. Hall declines. Taking the elevator right down to the rocks below, they trod the slippery gravel path that wound around the edge of the falls. A gentle breeze blew the cooling mist over them as their fellow tourists giggled and snapped pictures. Though a variety of languages could be heard in the group, it hardly required a linguist to translate the delight and awe in their voices.
On the way back to their hotel, they passed the Seneca Indian casino. "Just a little stop, just for a short while?" pleaded Mr. Hall. Mrs. Hall agreed, on one condition; earlier in the day she had talked some of the salesmen at the US Air booth into placing their large size table model of a Boeing 767 into the silent auction. They had to stop back and see if they had won.
Mr. Hall emerged, an hour or so later, somewhat wealthier for the experience, but it was short-lived. Mrs. Hall was seen jumping about, looking for him. "We won- we won the model in the auction!" she said. "Now all we have to do is write these nice folks a check!" Mr. Hall sighed and took out his checkbook.
It wasn't long afterwards the Halls could be seen, winging their way back to Syracuse. Winston groaned under the weight of all that swag, and Mrs. Hall was visible, but only barely- hiding behind a huge white box bearing their prize plane.

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