A Site for Sore Eyes

The temperature in the reception room was hot, much too hot for comfort as John sat, waiting. He’d already been there for twenty minutes after the appointed time. His collar was tight, his suit uncomfortable and the heat was definitely getting to him. Not that the heat was the main worry. Not by a long way. They’d come down from Manchester the day before. Max, his boss, the owner of Waite Webs Limited and himself with a pitch to make. John was just a web designer, not a salesman. He was just a technician. He actually called himself a geek. Great with tech, lousy with people. He avoided people when he could. But since Max had collapsed at the hotel, appendicitis it looked like and he’d been shipped off to hospital, John had been lumbered with making the pitch. Not just any pitch, this was the Big One. Max had bet the farm on getting this contract.
Waite Webs Limited employed fifteen people and needed this contract to keep going. But Max was the salesman, he’d set up the deal and John, was just a techie. Brought along to make any last minute changes, he now found himself about to take centre stage in the most important presentation the company had ever made.
He glanced across at the receptionist, she looked cool, smooth and aloof. She was clearly out of his league, a spotless, white high necked blouse, dark, swept back hair with not a single strand out of place highlighted the sharp edges of her cheek bones. Stylish spectacles with a dark frame gave her heart shaped face an authoritative appearance, rather like a stereotypical school mistress, sharp almost waspish. She hadn’t looked at him after telling him to ’Take a seat, Mister Propov will be with you presently.’ Her accent was crisp but vaguely foreign, the authority in her voice matched the glasses. He felt like some pet dog on an obedience test, ‘Sit! Stay!’ And down he’d sat and there he’d stayed.
No-one had gone in or out through the office door beyond the receptionist’s redoubt. He’d heard not a sound. The door was wooden, solid, almost forbidding and not likely to be battered down easily. Not that he was likely to try, he’d be much more likely to try and bolt out of the other door and escape back to the street, if only he could. If only it wasn’t so important.
Eventually there was a discrete buzz. The receptionist picked up her phone and listened briefly. She didn’t speak, but put it back down again. Now she deigned to look over at him. “Mister Propov will see you now.” She rose to her feet smoothly and glided to the door. Now that he could see her below the waist, she was wearing a black pencil skirt. It was pretty much as he’d expected. Finishing just above the knees and with not a single wrinkle.
John took a deep breath and entered what he’d started thinking of as the lion’s den.
The carpet had a thick, plain brown pile. He didn’t see the bones of any Christians lying around, so he decided to take that as a good sign. The room seemed huge, the walls almost receding into the distance. They were very pale brown, bare of any decoration except for a series of large photographs. Portraits of men and women. All wearing distinctive spectacles. At the far side of the room stood a large wooden and glass topped desk, empty except for a telephone. Behind the desk, seated in an opulent leather bound chair sat Mister Propov. He was a huge man, thick necked and shaven headed. He wore a suit that looked as though it would have cost more than John’s annual salary. His size seemed to owe more to muscle than fat and the suit had clearly been engineered to allow him to move without pulling. Around his neck, in place of a tie was a thick gold necklace. More gold glittered on his wrist and fingers. His face was impassive. He didn’t acknowledge the receptionist who introduced John as “Your 9:30 appointment, sir.” The time was 10:05. He didn’t look the sort that had to acknowledge staff. He probably had staff to acknowledge his staff for him. If it came to that he didn’t acknowledge John either. There was of course, no apology for the wait and no enquiry about the health of Max.
On either side of Mister Propov sat two other men, almost as big, but not quite, as though that would be some sort of challenge to the man in the centre. Their golden jewellery was slightly less ostentatious, slightly more restrained. Clearly not wanting to detract from the impression that their boss was giving. John was instantly aware of the almost overpowering smell of some exotic and no doubt expensive after shave. He sneezed, silently. He could feel his sinuses start to react.
John had been briefed on the technology before he’d come down so he knew that his laptop would log into the network in the room. His demo would be displayed through the projector hidden in the ceiling and would be visible to his audience, projected on the screen directly in front of the desk.
He began.
Badly. Public speaking was one of the people skills that had completely slipped past him.
“Er. Er. Good morning, gentlemen. I’m, er, er here to show you the er, the. Well, what we felt would be a good, er an excellent, er the best possible web site for your products. Er your glasses, er spectacles.” The five men opposite looked at him. There was no response.
He sneezed.
John knew the work was good. The site was polished, the graphics excellent, the message clear and easily understood. User interaction was, he felt the best he’d ever seen. The users could order their glasses on-line. Just enter their prescription details and select the frames. Exactly as the specification had demanded.
“Er, we have all of your frames available. Er the pictures of the frames that is. They’re all on the site. With prices of course.” He hurried to say.
It was at this time he realised that he’d not actually introduced himself!
He sneezed again. His eyes started to water.
“Er, excuse me.” He pulled out his handkerchief, blew his nose. “I’m John Harrison, chief design engineer of Waite Webs Limited. As… as..” He drew a deep breath. “As I’m sure you know, Mister Waite was hospitalised last night and I’m er sort of standing in for him.”
No response from his audience at that.
He sneezed again. More fluid leaking from his eyes, which were by now starting to sting quite badly. He carried on with his demonstration.
After a few minutes of clicking and stuttering explanation from John, Mister Propov raised a finger.
John stopped and looked expectantly across the desk. “Yes, sir?” He queried. Not quite sure where the ‘Sir’ had come from.
“What is name of site?” Mister Propov’s accent was much more pronounced than that of his receptionist, although seeming to come from the same part of the world.
The site was called and the graphics actually included the title, ‘Propov’s Special Spectacles’. In the office they’d actually taken to calling the project, ‘PSS’. Somehow John realised that the title hadn’t gone down with the client with quite the degree of enthusiasm that had been expected.
He sneezed, his eyes watered. He thought.
He’d always thought that ‘Propov’s Special Spectacles’ was a bit naff. “Well, we had a provisional title, as you’ve seen. ‘Propov’s Special Spectacles,’ But I think we might call it a Site for Sore Eyes. How do you feel about that?”
Mister Propov smiled.
When Mister Propov smiled, they all smiled.