Ding, ding ding, ding. God damn it.Here I am in my company’s kitchen, hiding behind my grande latte. Eyes closed, I feel like a fish hiding behind a small castle in my big fish bowl. Ding, ding ding, ding. Fuck me.It is only 8:30 but I’m just not ready to face this day yet. Just give me a few more minutes of quiet. Give me a few more minutes of calm and clarity. I gaze around the office kitchen buzzing with activity. Just a few more minutes.Ding, ding ding, ding. Shit.But that small bell sound on my phone will not be ignored. I half-heartedly look down to see my reminder screen furiously telling me I have a meeting in 15 minutes. Snooze or dismiss? My phone would appreciate a prompt answer.Bridgette plops down on the seat next to me. “Status in 15, did you send out updates to the team?” I smile, “At 6 this morning, from the comfort of my bed, all over it.” She nods, “You are great, good work. It’s like I say, Angie, know your shit. See you in there in five.” So much shit to know, I think. Bridgette gracefully rises from her chair and saunters over to chat with a few art directors. I pull my ass from my chair and without making any eye contact with the vultures circling, casually meander back to my desk.I do not have the same drive for this work as Bridgette does. She hails from the East Coast and everything about her screams, “I get shit done and I do it right”. She scares me. She is probably one of my closest friends at work but that does not mean her determination doesn’t dismember me sometimes. When she starts rattling off broadcast times and shoot costs I can feel my arms start to disengage themselves from my sockets and yes, that is my arm on the floor. I guess I can admit that advertising was not really where I had pictured myself. I graduated with a degree in art history and after a plum internship at the Art Institute of Chicago, I realized that money would not be blooming like Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers anytime soon. So I looked for an alternative. I figured if I could get into another field for a few years, eventually I would be able to return to my walls full of Degas and slides depicting Gothic architecture. That was three years ago. The only things on my wall now are calendars with big red “CLIENT MEETING” announcements, a few pictures of friends, and endless papers that cover costs and times and reminders of when celebrities can and cannot take time off from their busy schedules of saving the oceans and bathing in the oceans to come shoot an hour of commercial time for which they will be paid an insane amount of money. Oh the tough life they lead. I quickly answer a few e-mails before grabbing my notebook and unplugging my computer. Where did I put that phone number for the new printer? My poor desk is a plethora of post-it notes. Each one has some salient information that will be expendable over the next week but will be needed at a second’s notice before Friday. I frown as I grab a pen. I silently assure my little desk of yellow, I promise to free you soon. Steph sulks up to my desk. “God, you know, I thought Sunday was a weekend. Right? When they say ‘weekend’, they mean two days. The one after Friday, called Saturday, and the one before Monday, called Sunday. Also, the Lord’s Day, Day of Rest. Please, tell me if I am off here in any way because the way my phone kept having a vibrating heart attack yesterday, I thought it had to be a work day”. I look at her and laugh. “Mine was the same. I think my upper thigh has permanent vibration damage”. Steph rolls her eyes as we make our way to the meeting room. “Well, I tell you, after all these weekends and late nights, if we don’t win this pitch that phone and I are taking a shower, together”.This is our final meeting with our new client. It is “do or die,” as our fearless supervisor has informed us, or more, embedded into our brains. It is the final leg of the race, it is the final shot of a tied up game; oh, all of those winning analogies spewed at us to galvanize our souls. Reality is, we get it or we do not. They choose us or they choose another agency. It usually has little to do with our department. It is about risk taking. Is a company willing to show a baby flying through a hoop on fire over a pool of sharks to sell their never-leaking diaper? Some companies say that carries a risk they just are not comfortable taking.The difference with this new client is that compared to the rest of the companies we deal with is that they are quite small and new to the whole big agency thing. They hail from the fields of Kentucky, a small whiskey company that is run by a fabulous eighty-three-year-old master brewer named Huey Henderson. The first time I met him, he came with his older son to the company. Huey was dressed in his signature bright floral Hawaiian shirt and a University of Kentucky basketball cap. After the CFO of our company had introduced himself and my supervisor and my manager, Huey looked each of us up and down, then saw me standing in the back, and smiled. He walked up to me and extended his hand. “I’m Huey,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “That means intelligent, heart and mind.” I smiled and extended my hand to meet his. Shaking it I said, “Well, Huey, it’s very nice to meet you. My name is Angie.”His smile spread across his face and he put his other hand over mine.“Angie, like Angel. I think you’ll be the perfect asset to all this devil’s work we have going on.” I laughed. “Huey,” I said, “I am no angel by any means, but I promise to help where I can.” Huey squeezed my hand before our CFO whisked him off to tour the facilities. Bridgette came up beside me. “It’s always better to have the client like you from the start. Keep him happy, Angel”. I nodded. Of course I would keep this adorable old man happy, Bridge, I thought, he reminded me of my own grandfather. There was no way I was going to say no to any demands this man made for his whiskey. If that meant having girls in little devil outfits pass out whiskey samples at whiskey festivals, then so be it. I quickly assess everyone sitting around the table as I walk into the room behind Bridgette. On my left is our team: Bridgette at the head, my manager, Emily, next to her, and on the end, Andy, the art director on the project. I swallowed. Shit, I did not realize Andy would be in the meeting. Andy, the I-got-too-drunk-one-night-and-made-out-in-the-bar-with Andy. And of course I also made a fool of myself the next week at work thinking that me fawning over his ideas and our little mouth wrestling at the bar might lead to an actual date or night out, oh silly girl. Art directors, they are a one stop shop, only enough room in their lives for their heads (the one on their necks and the one pitching a tent in their pants), their laptop and, of course, their liquor. Andy politely said he was too busy to grab a drink. I politely avoided him for two weeks. On my right are Barnaby, Huey’s oldest son, and Huey sitting in his perennial floral Hawaiian shirt and his dirty University of Kentucky basketball hat, his permanent smile radiating in the dimly lit room. And next to him is a woman I have never seen before but everything about her exudes cheap and gaudy. She has bleached blonde hair, the color and consistency of straw and has teased the ba-Jesus out of it. Her too tight, harlot red suit is uncomfortably squeezing her enormous at least E-sized breasts up to her chin. Her lips are neon pink which match her glue-on fingernails. The small diamond detail of flower petals is not lost on me. My inner amusement is safely camouflaged by my well trained poker face as she rises to introduce herself. Bridgette walks up to Sam, trying to hide her surprise, and reaches out to shake the woman’s hand. But before Bridgette has the chance to speak, the woman pointedly interrupts. “I’m Samantha but everyone calls me Sam.” Her booming Southern accent echoes along the walls, “I’ve been in the liquor business for eighteen years and these boys here,” she nods towards Huey and Barnaby, “they want some insight into this whole advertising thing and well hot damn, I’m just the woman to do it.” Bridgette smiles sweetly back at her and says, “Well, Sam, I’m Bridgette, lead on this team, and I bet we can work out some great ideas together.” Bullshit, I think, pulling my bottom lip with my teeth to hide my smile, and I’m Mother Teresa. Well call me an ass, but I’m assuming if this Sam woman has her way, we will be putting pictures of large, handsome, shirtless devils up on billboards in the South swooning “Please be my advocate” to passersby. I can already tell, watching Bridgette, eloquently poised, and Sam, one hand on her hip pushed out to the side, that the battle has not even started.The thing that is constant in advertising, regardless of the size of the client, is the client always comes in with one vision. They have one idea and they think; no, no, they know, it is the right idea. It drives the creatives nuts, hence why there are account people such as ourselves. Clients and creatives do not talk to one another much because each believes they are right and well, how do I put this nicely, creatives can be the biggest dicks out there. They are the gods in advertising which means they can get away with murder and treat people as they please. So, they need us little people, also known as the account managers, to relay their always right and perfect ideas to the clients. Then the clients can question and get upset with us when the ideas are way out of their comfort zone. And then the creatives can get mad at us when we tell them the client would like us to scale it back. It is really a joy being the middle man and ruining people’s days daily, something to make you want to get out of bed each and every morning.As we take our seats, Bridgette starts to lay out ideas on the conference table as Andy describes the vision he has for Devil’s Advocate. “Really, I think, after speaking to you, Huey and Barnaby, that you can go a lot of ways with branding this whiskey. But, after visiting your distillery and hearing the stories of how this whiskey came to be, we should really focus on the family history and the story of playing a devil’s advocate.” I look at the drawings and ideas spread about: beautifully crafted pictures of devils on whiskey barrels, cut-outs of angels versus devils, t-shirt designs, book designs, and, of course, the most important design of them all, the meticulously crafted bottle in which the whiskey will be displayed. God, Andy is talented; a real dick, but talented. I stare at the bottle. It is different from any whiskey bottle I have ever seen. In the shape of a half of a heart, the bottle has been painted with a picture of the side of a devil’s face. The cork is black and made with a certain material to keep the whiskey tasting fresher. The story of what it means to be a devil’s advocate, which required countless late nights for Andy’s writers, is beautifully written in cursive on the back. I look over at Andy as he speaks and see him periodically look at the bottle, his pride and joy of the project.Huey and Barnaby look over everything and nod enthusiastically as Andy continues with his vision. Huey picks up the bottle and his smile widens. I start to relax and peer over at Bridgette whose eyes are not looking at anything on the table but are fixed directly on Sam. I slowly follow Bridgette’s gaze and immediately feel my breath catch in my throat. Sam is frowning. Not even frowning, she is straight-up scowling at all the plans. I close my eyes and wait for the floodgates to open.Bridgette pauses Andy for a minute and looks at the clients. “If any of you have any thoughts or comments on anything, please do not be afraid to pipe up.”I open my eyes and start the countdown…three…two…one…“Well, darling,” Sam says, right on cue, “I just don’t know if I like it.” Bridgette’s smile thins into a straight line. “Don’t know if you like what, Samantha?” Sam’s neon pink lips part to reveal slightly stained front teeth. “It’s Sam, honey, Sam. I don’t know if I like any of it. The whole story of the devil’s advocate seems cheesy to me and I think the drawings are too fancy. A devil is a devil, they all look alike. And do not get me started on the bottle. We are selling whiskey here, not ‘cham-pah-nya.’ Whiskey is dirty and hard and tough. This bottle has prissy written all over it.” Holy hell. I realize I have momentarily stopped breathing. Everyone on my team just stares at Sam. Andy turns pale. I pull my gaze away from Andy to sneak a peek at Huey and Barnaby both smiling as if they could not see that my supervisor was about five seconds away from jumping across the table and strangling Sam. I glance at Bridgette; I can see her eye twitching. Please, for the love of God, someone say something. Bridgette calmly looks Sam in the eye, smiles, and with the patience of Job, speaks. “Sam,” she says, “I mean no disrespect, but out of curiosity, how many new brands of liquor have you actually helped launch in the past?” Sam’s smile disappears instantly.“Well,” she stammers, “I mean, I was on teams, I helped make decisions on colors and prints and materials.” “And I’m sure you did a great job,” Bridgette keeps her voice level. “But I’m asking how many brands did you launch? As in how many bottles did you design? How many sketches did you draw? How many meetings did you attend where you took feedback from the clients and assessed data collected by yourself?” Sam looks across the table at Bridgette and brushes an invisible piece of fuzz from her gigantic bosom. Bridgette continues. “Again, I mean no disrespect whatsoever Sam, I am just trying to point out that my team and I, we are not strangers to this whole advertising thing either. Me personally, I have launched three liquors before Devil’s Advocate. Andy has designed and developed four for this agency and a few for his previous agency. Huey and Barnaby,” she nods towards the Kentucky boys, “they are new to this as well. I know Huey has developed over fifteen different whiskeys in his time though, and Barnaby has run his father’s business for seven years now. But they came to us when it came down to launching and selling their own beloved whiskey. So we came up with a story. You say it is cheesy, but guess what, you remember it don’t you? And that is the whole point. We want consumers to tell this memorable story as they sip on their whiskey.” Bridgette stands up and starts to pace the room; game, set, match, Bridgette scores the final points for the account team. “Devils do look a lot alike to most everyone and that is exactly why we need our devil to look different. Our devil needs to stand out from the norm. Our devil needs to be recognized by his face.” Bridgette reaches to the table and grabs the bottle. “And our precious bottle,” she looks down on the bottle as if it is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen, “this bottle is unique. There is no other bottle out there shaped like this. And you know how it was made? It was pushed and molded and shaped into this half heart. Thus, it is supremely tough. It used to be completely black before it gets polished up, dirty as sin. And lord knows the liquid in this bottle is as hard as any whiskey any of us drinks. It’s ninety proof, which means Devil’s Advocate is forty-five percent alcohol. Even women grow hair on their chest drinking stuff this strong.” Bridgette sets the bottle down and looks Sam directly in the eye. Take the train home girl. “So Sam,” Bridgette says, “with all that in mind, I want to ask again, do you have any comments or questions regarding everything presented in here today?” Everyone looks at Sam. It is taking all my will power not to stand up and let out a crow call of victory for the account team. Sam twirls her blonde clip-in extention around her pointer finger and finally looks over at Huey and Barnaby. “Boys,” she says, “I think these crazy kids might be on to something.” Huey lets out a laugh and just like that, the heavy tension in the room subsides. Bridgette looks over to Andy and nods for him to continue. I was left gathering up the layouts and designs as Andy and Bridgette talked over launch dates with Huey, Barnaby and Sam. Steph walks past me carrying story boards for the next client coming in that afternoon, McDonald’s, I think it is. She stops and glances over at the happy union between my clients and my account team, looks at me and mouths, well fuck, that’s different. I smile and continue to gather up the last of the work. As I turn to walk past everyone, Huey comes out of the circle and stops me. “Angel girl,” he glows at me, “I just want to thank you for everything you did in there.” I look at him, confused. “Huey,” I say, “all I did was sit there.” He shakes his head and laughs. “No, no, that is not all you did.” The twinkle appears in his eye. “When I looked over during the meeting I saw you had your eyes closed and I knew you were praying for everything to work out.” Jesus, I need to work on being more discrete. “I brought Sam here today knowing full well who and what she is and all that she is not. I just have to make sure that even if there were a few large bumps, pardon the pun, in the road, that your team will still be able to handle the car. And you all proved that to me here today. I think your little prayer may have just been answered.” My poker face abandoned, I laugh and, unfortunately, snort in Huey’s face.“Huey,” I say, “Maybe we are just the angel advocates you need.” He grins and pats me on the back. Barnaby and Sam came over and the three of them walk toward the exit, excited for the future and ready to head back to Kentucky. Bridgette comes over and grabs some of the materials from my arms. She looks at me. “It’s like I always say Angie…” “Know your shit,” I finish. Bridgette smiles at me as we head back to her desk to reconvene with the troops. Meeting one done for the day with happy clients and it is not even 9:30. Fuck yeah.