It seems I am “personally invited” (by mail) to “a seminar with a complimentary meal.” Who knew complimentary meals conducted seminars, free or otherwise?
Oh, no wait, I see. If I attend this, um, seminar, which back in the days of reality would be called a sales pitch, they’ll feed me. They’re so certain they’ll nab a paying customer out of this that they can buy lunch at the Brio Tuscan Grille at Gulfstream for several dozen freeloaders with too much time on their hands.
And who is the “They” doing the buying? Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens and Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels. Funeral directors. Merchants of Death. Stewards of the Eternal Dirt Nap. Talk about The Last Supper. Anybody who signs the dotted line before dessert is begging for poison in the coffee.
I ask Guido, a fellow senior citizen, if she’d like to attend. She declines reluctantly — apparently she’s scheduled to have a clavichord X-Ray that day. Inspired, I ask my neighbor’s seriously fair-haired daughter, who’s in her 30s and has the sultry looks and distinctive curves that make grown men weep and young men reckless. Alicia thinks it would be a hoot. We devise a plan.
On the appointed day we arrive and take our seats at a table for 10, one of five in a private room dominated by a stage and podium at one end. At 66, and neither drooling nor leaking below-decks, I am among the youngest (not including my companion). Promptly at noon, a well-coiffed gentleman in a truly impressive dark suit assumes the stage, welcomes his guests (looks like about 40 out here), and goes into his pitch, which he promises will be limited to 9 minutes.
“Don’t matter to me,” some ancient toothless codger calls out. “Ain’t none of us got anything to do!”
This draws laughs, followed by intense coughing and gasping. Captain Sardonicus fires up the slide show and begins, tossing out words like dignity, celebration, security, eternity, and assorted rot. The slides are peaceful, soothing — green lawns, blue skies, quiet ponds — like a golf course except for the marble headstones. Soylent Green on steroids. Death, where is thy sting? Then he asks for questions.
“Can we eat now?” some hag croaks out from a dark corner.
Alicia raises her hand, impressing the entire table, where nobody has been able to raise a limb that high without assistance since President Alzheimer left office.
“I wonder if your company offers any kind of expediting services,” she says.
Captain Sardonicus, puzzled, asks her what she means.
Shooting me a long voodoo look, Alicia explains that while the services offered by the company here seem thorough, there’s the problem of committing to a contract with no clear start and end date, and after all, what she’s interested in, anyway, is, well, termination, and does Forest Hill have anything to offer to, um, expedite termination.
An awkward silence follows, broken by yet another crone who pipes up, “Honey — look at him. You just keep doing what you’re doing and the wait won’t be much longer.”
This inspires a liver-spotted fellow at the same table to cackle loudly, losing first his glasses, then his dentures, and then his balance — he face plants in his water glass, and tumbles to the carpet. (Alicia has this effect even on younger men.)
In the confusion that ensues, attendees make it clear that they don’t give a damn who needs to be shipped out feet-first, they’re not leaving before they get the meal they were promised. The main course arrives about the same time as Emergency Medical Transport, and trust me when I tell you the poor guy’s portions doesn’t go to waste. Alicia and I pick at the entrees, drink some coffee, and get the hell out while our dining companions are still shoveling handfuls of medications into their faces.
“Well, that was special,” says Alicia on the way home, rolling a joint. “Buy your date a drink?”
Hey, it’s the least I can do. And unfortunately, it’s the most, too.