Having come down in ten minutes I was indeed treated with a walking-distance trip to the head-office. In retrospect I was happy we left our hand-luggage at the hotel, the pavements sucked as there was construction everywhere. Erase earlier complaint on having to go to the Hotel in the first place.
The Budapest office was impressive; I mean really. I stood there in my scruffy clothing with my white plastic bag of sweets and chocolates in the all marble coated multi-store lobby, feeling like an alien. It was like a current day Apple store, but more prestigious, less ‘brandy’. The sounds of high heels echoed off every surface and seemingly eloquent voices followed. Reflections of smart dressed ladies and gentlemen shined off the polished floors and walls and moved like ghosts through the space, but when I looked down, I was just met with a mirage of my dangling candies and some guy in lazy fatigues holding them.
Immediately to the right of the main hall was a coffee bar. Their prestigious coffee-bar. The place was filled partially with locals that could advertise themselves pre-Starbucks. The contrast was however, that the remainder contained 65+ (aged) people who’d taken all the best spots as they probably were there since opening. Irony beats showing off.
To my left was the reception, reminiscent of a solid white block of ice, carved slightly to the purpose of a desk. Where Jesus stood announcing our arrival. Below us, I would find out later, is a wine cellar, with private collections worth more than my flat.
We were picked up like in a movie in the middle of the big hall by a stunning director’s assistant. She took us a few floors up to management, but didn’t fail to walk past the visual treats littered throughout the office. Yes – all very neat, very professional and very… Oh my God! I smack an elbow in Jesus’s ribs, like he couldn’t notice the change in scenery, whispering: “No offence Jesus…”
We just entered the call center for the Budapest head office, filled from top to bottom with Bond girls.
“None taken” he replies all smiles.
Now I might sound sexist but it must be tough working as a woman here, look at the level of everything. These women had invested in every inch of their body. From tippy toe to highlights (it’s 2001 baby), they had taken women backwards since errr well, Bond movies. We got scanned as much as we tried to scan them, but they won, so we started looking for plants or other forms of distraction. The fragrances and smells made all the visuals connect somehow, I will never forget their habitat. There was a thick sense of social control in the air, if you had the same heels as the alpha, you’d be dead before lunch.
But never mind all that, because surprisingly close was our ultimate destination: Management.
We follow ‘our’ assistant into the management wing, now the smell of coffee and perfume filled the area. It was a classy but modern open-office with about 6 separate offices in a row on both sides. The open office part had small lobbies and desks for the assistants, which were separated by glass sheets. Every second lobby had a small pantry, although no-one but our host and assistant combo were there, coffee was still set on all pantries. I think the rest left at normal hours.
The host’s office door was closed of course, we asked if we could just knock, but we had to be paged after she installed herself, this was more impressive.
Our host came out super enthusiastic and waved us in. Our host, whom I will now refer to as Odin, had chairs set up but we had to unload our chocolates first. He was a nice tall man, with a kind Swedish accent. I had only seen him a couple of times in Amsterdam, but he seemed like a very decent man. He respectfully accepted the gifts, exchanged some highlights of the holiday with us and then we sat down.
Before I could find my sweet spot on the chair, he leaned back -inhaled- then moved back forward and exhaled. I thought he might have a serious update for us, which could involve mutations in our work. This was not the case, sadly.
Indeed he had updates, but they all were plans for the week nights.
Nothing serious, but involved about everything you would expect in an entertainment district in Singapore during Pirates of the Caribbean. He then explained quickly we’d eat at the boss’s restaurant first of course, not to loose touch with us, with as dessert the previous mentioned entertainment.
I was perplexed, Jesus leaned in forward.
Odin changed from tall friendly father type into an overly excited person that was selling us a naughty cruise through town. I look back at Jesus, and he was grinning and nodding a lot. Apparently he had been here before and forgot to mention this part about our host.
Options were simple, but chaotic since they included: the strip club, a party, maybe another strip club, clubbing or a bar. Whatever we wanted, “guys”. Since we decided on food first, we were eager to leave, but before we could, he had to call the house he wouldn’t make it tonight.
Red flag number one: Just gave up my chocolates for the kids, got invited for stripclub after some dinner, oh btw those chocolates: the kids can wait.
He then paged the assistant he was leaving for today, pointlessly I thought, since we cross her path anyway 20 seconds later. Not much of a head start. Well at least he won’t eat chocolate for dinner, then again, he’s probably not even hungry. Wait, did Odin take something? Clubbing? Or worse, is there a thing as Strip-clubbing?
We’re almost out the door and Odin stops us in our tracks towards the taxi, because he remembered we just HAVE TO SEE the wine cellar. No point doing that another time, this has been here since forever as the cellar is a dry and dark place, meant to store wine for longer periods.
Apparently the ‘page’ earlier was about getting our cab sorted, not a 20 second head start. Before we entered the cellar Odin made sure his assistant was updated on our itinerary before our signals dropped.
We got a tour in a catacomb which had no public nor employee access normally he affirmed. Spread over a few rooms were multiple rows bottled and keg wine. He was boasting as if they were their prizes and bounties of great accomplishments. They sure accomplished to make me thirsty. “Even the boss has his own collection here.” he said. I wondered if that brought extra merit, if someone ever says that.
Getting impatient, Jesus hints at the taxi to Odin, who is still busy talking wine but while continuing tries to text his assistant. Which doesn’t work since we’re still in the cellar, so now we could happily exit. Smart move Jesus.
We come up and see his assistant waiting for us next to the reception desk. We can take the taxi waiting in front of office building, we drive of into the night. A beautiful night. The view of Budapest is amazing, but Odin is yapping about the boss’s restaurant to me and I feel responsible to give him at least eye contact.
Good, we’re almost there.
I started thinking that people with bad habits, probably shouldn’t be an executive abroad in Budapest.
To be continued in “Not exactly reaching Valhalla”.
PS: The office has moved recently (as in: since the last 16 years), so I have no accurate pictures of the ambience, hence the picture of Budapest at night.