So as I mentioned yesterday, I kissed Diego goodbye, got on the train and presumed that was the end of it. Ahh, but life is funny sometimes…
Fast Forward 3 years…
Since I meeting Diego I have graduated from university, sailed around the world, moved to Boston and then transfered to Amsterdam for work. It was a blustery Valentines day, and a group of us girls went out to dinner together. Most of us were either single or had boyfriends who were far away (I was in the first category). We went to this terrible Chinese restaurant, near Dam Square. We had been in Amsterdam only a matter of weeks, so figuring out where the good restaurants were was still kind of tricky. We didn’t have any Dutch friends yet, so it was mostly co-workers clinging to each other for friendship while we navigated the relocation process. It would be another full month before my furniture was released from Dutch Customs. I was sleeping on the floor of my empty apartment.
We had a lot to drink that night. We were entitled. The transition was not going smoothly.
Towards the end of the sloppy evening we started talking about romance. Inevitably we went around the table and each shared the story of our most romantic night ever. I had not forgotten the chilly night walking around Venice with Diego and the poem he recited to me by memory. This is how the conversation went:
Me: …And so, I got on the train and said goodbye.
Random Office Friend1: Did you get his number?
Me: It just didn’t occur to me to do so.
ROF2: Aren’t you and Meghan going to Venice in a few weeks to for a negotiations trip?
ROF2: You should go see him!
Me: NO WAY!
ROF1: Why not? You know where to find him, he’s probably still at the Caffe` Aurora!
Me: It was a perfect memory. Why go back now and find out he’s a jerk, or ugly, or doesn’t even remember who I am? It’s better just to keep the memory perfect as is.
ROF1,2: That’s boring and unromantic. You should be banned from celebrating Valentines day (fine with me, I thought).
So, yes, Meghan and I trotted off to Venice a few weeks later to visit our suppliers. She was responsible for hotels, I was responsible for guides and restaurants. Business was booming and we needed to find new vendors to support our growing tourism volume. Venice is always tricky, since the local mafia essentially prevents new businesses (like hotels) from taking hold by controlling the companies that transport cargo down the canals. And since there is no other way to transport cargo in Venice, getting “unapproved” businesses off the ground is nearly impossible. There weren’t enough hotels to support the tourist boom which meant prices were being jacked up from the skyrocketing demand from all the tour operators like ours.
The only thing to do was cash in on every favor, follow every lead in our network and try to charm the pants off (not literally) every hotel manager in the city. This was our mission. I was 25 at the time, my manager traveling with me, Meghan, was a year or two older than me.
We went to see one of our agents, Roberto, who sent us to see his wife’s friend’s daughter’s boyfriend’s fifth-cousin-once-removed (you get the point) who was the hotel manager at the Hotel Savoia. He called ahead for us and put in a good word. We were skeptical but excited since the Hotel Savoia is in a great location just off San Marco and is simply gorgeous.
We arrived at the hotel and asked to speak to the manager, let’s call him Giuseppe. I noticed, in my quest to find new restaurants, that the hotel also has a restaurant set a little bit apart from the hotel structure which also has a great outdoor patio seating facing the canal. Giuseppe offered to show us the hotel, and I asked him to show us the restaurant too. He started the tour in the restaurant. While walking through the beautiful dining area, Giuseppe said, “Let me introduce you to our Food & Beverage Manager.”
Yes. You know what’s coming next.
Out came the F&B manager and of course it is Diego. The one and only Diego. We were introduced, we cordially shook hands and I gave him my card. He said he would be happy to prepare some sample menus while Meghan and I went on a tour of the rest of the hotel. I smiled and said “that would be great”. I gave him a second look, but didn’t see a flash of recognition in his eyes. Granted, it had been 3 years and I now had long blonde hair, not the short red hair I had when we first met.
Leaving the restaurant, I sharply elbowed Meghan and mouthed to her (as not to draw the attention of the hotel manageer), “THAT IS DIEGO. YOU KNOW. THE DIEGO!”. She mouthed back, “NO WAY!”. I mouthed back again, “I SHIT YOU NOT!”
I am certain the Hotel Savoia is lovely. Filled with Antiques, facing the intersection of St. Mark’s and the Giudecca Canals. I hear the walls are covered with beautiful brocade and the bathrooms are all marble. I don’t remember any of this. I have not a clue what those rooms looked like. They could have had orange shag carpet for all I knew. When we were on the tour of the hotel all I could think was, “H0-LY CRAP”. I was sweating. Profusely.
We finished the tour and Giuseppe took us to the office so I could talk menus and prices with Diego. Yes. I have to negotiate with him. I was nervous, for obvious reasons plus it is actually the first time I was negotiating with a vendor in person. Sure, I had done it on the phone from Boston various times. But face to face is a whole different issue. As we walked into the office, Meghan whispered to me, “This one is alllll up to youuuuu” and gives me a wink. That doesn’t help my nerves.
He presented a menu. It was too expensive.
We made a few changes to the menu. The price came down, but still too expensive. I could not pay more than 30,000 Lira. He would not budge below 33,000 Lira. I sold him all the reasons he should work with my company. He still would not budge and we came to a stand still. A few quiet moments passed and I said…
Me: Didn’t you use to manage the Caffe` Aurora in Piazza San Marco?
Suddenly, I see the recognition in his face. He remembers me.
Diego: Ah, yes. I thought you looked familiar.
Me: Can’t you give me a good price…you know… for a friend?
Diego: Fine. We’ll do the menu for 30,000.
And then Diego became my supplier.
We worked closely together for another year and I saw him a few more times, most memorably when I arrived in Venice on the Orient Express (what an incredible experience– and once again all in the name of “work”). Diego sweetly met me at the train station with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We dated for a while. But the distance wasn’t ideal for either of us, and one day he called to tell me that he was going to be a father of another woman’s baby and, well, that was the end of the affair. Not long afterwards I changed divisions and Venice was no longer my territory. I’ve never spoken to him since.
But you never know when you might cross paths with someone unexpectedly. Again.