Have you ever paid for sex? It's not something that most people would admit to, and probably you'd hope it wouldn't be necessary. I felt that way. I'm happily married with two great kids and a wonderful sex life, but I still ended up paying for sex. It's not something I set out to do, or that I needed to do. It just happened.
Some time ago I was working as a Financial Controller for an IT company that was based in the UK with several European subsidiaries. As part of my job, I had to visit all of the subsidiary companies on a regular basis and conduct detailed reviews with their accountants to make sure that their financial statements were accurate and that they were in line with the corporate policies. It was during this period that I realised that international business travel was not all it was cracked up to be.
Don't get me wrong. I love flying. When the plane sits at the end of the runway and I hear the jets winding up to full thrust, I always get excited. Then you get that huge shove in the back as it accelerates down the runway followed by the marvellous floating feeling as the wheels leave the bumpy surface. Not even my Dad's Porsche comes close to that experience. I love to look down on cities at night, and the soft white blankets of cloud during the day. I like the immaculate stewardesses who pander to your every whim, within reason. I even enjoy airline meals. Each one is like its own little voyage of discovery as you open all the packets to find out what they've given you. It's an added bonus if it tastes good, as it invariably does if you fly in business class.
Unfortunately, flying is only a small part of the overall experience. You have to deal with the miserable foreign airports, with a limited range of shops and where the selection of food available stretches to sandwiches, filled with cheese or ham, or cheese and ham. My nightmare is to be trapped in Brussels airport due to delayed or cancelled flights. It has become a reality twice. The hotels are usually nice enough but you are often on your own, away from your family, and marooned in a place where you cannot understand most of what everybody else is saying. Anyone who has ever eaten alone in a busy restaurant or sat by himself at a bar will know exactly what I mean. Even the simple act of taking a taxi to the office can seem like taking your life into your hands when the drivers are at best psychotic and at worst suicidal.
There are consolations, of course. The hotel food is often excellent, and you get the chance to sample as much of the menu as you like if you are staying for several days. There's nice wine to go with your meal. Hotel showers are the best. They're always really powerful and invigorating. Most of the beds are comfortable, and in the morning somebody else tidies up after you. Continental hotels also seem to be much more liberal with the television channels that they offer you. I've seen some pretty hot stuff over there, and helpfully the pay channels only show on the bill as 'hotel services', like room service, so you can claim it on expenses with impunity!
The best consolation ever, though, was when I visited the company in Poland with some members of the senior management team. My boss, the Finance Director, was there, together with the Chief Executive and another senior finance guy. The Polish company was in trouble. Their profits had taken a nosedive and they'd run up a large enough overdraft that the bank had voiced concern. We were out there to find out why. We took the accounts to pieces, performing the most detailed analysis in order to get to the bottom of the problem. All in all, we spent three solid weeks there, mostly working from eight in the morning until eight at night, including weekends, only returning to the hotel to eat and sleep. There was one exception.
On the night in question, the two directors of the subsidiary took us out for a meal. They'd been recently appointed to try to turn the company around, and I think they were out to impress us. They took us to a traditional Polish restaurant in the old part of Warsaw. The surroundings were picturesque, a far cry from the city centre which was dominated by new high-rise hotels and the forbidding Palace of Culture built by Stalin after the war. We stuffed ourselves with delicious food that we couldn't pronounce and washed it down with copious quantities of vodka, neat and chilled. No one was in any state to resist when the two Poles suggested moving on to an excellent club that they knew of. We piled into a couple of clapped out taxis and headed off to an insalubrious area of town, where the Poles took us into a seedy looking nightclub.
After someone had paid the entry fees, we were seated at a large round table and almost immediately a group of beautiful women joined us. I mean they were stunning. Not one of them would have looked out of place on the cover of Vogue or FHM. I realised what was going on when their leader, an older woman who claimed to be called Elvira, asked us what we would like to drink. After we'd ordered some of the excellent flavoured vodkas, a local speciality, she asked if we'd like to buy the ladies a drink. We all knew what that meant, but every one of us was hypnotised by them.
"Sure, whatever," shouted my boss, waving an expansive hand in the air. I wondered what this round would cost him, especially when the tray returned with a bottle of Champagne and seven glasses in the middle of our round of vodkas.
To my delight, some music started to play, and one of the women then got to her feet and began to revolve slowly around a small stage to the left of our table. Shuffling her feet and swaying her hips seductively, she unfastened the halter neck of her very short dress and gradually pulled it down to reveal an exquisite pair of breasts. She continued to gyrate as she eased the stretchy material over her full hips and let it drop to the floor. Underneath, she was wearing only a pure white satin thong. This was before thongs had become really popular, and I'd never seen one before. I was entranced by it, the way it was there but not there, simply disappearing between her shapely buttocks. Even the material looked sexy. She danced like that for only a couple of minutes but it seemed like an eternity.
After another round of drinks and a further dance from one of the other women, the hostesses asked us if we'd like to go downstairs.
"Is private club," one of them explained. "The girls, they go further down there."
As she spoke, she indicated her crotch and carried on to explain that at street level the women were not allowed by law to remove their knickers. As the subterranean part was private, they could strip completely naked. We eagerly agreed with her proposition, anxious to see more. Someone parted with what looked like a hefty sum of money and our hostesses led us down a narrow flight of stairs into a windowless underground room. It was very large, with soft lighting, plush carpets and several doors leading off it. At one end was a stage, on which a pretty brunette danced to unobtrusive background music, completely naked but for a pair of strappy heels. We sat on wide, comfortable sofas and watched her, the women pairing off with us one by one.
Mine introduced herself as Natalia and told me that she was from the Ukraine. I have no idea whether or not that was her real name, but she certainly had an exotic foreign look about her, with a sultry accent to match. She was gorgeous. You often read in books women being described as having almond-shaped eyes. Well, that description fitted Natalia's vivid green eyes perfectly. She had a small mouth with the most delicious looking pout, and a bob of curly blonde hair down to her shoulders. She had a perfect body and flawless skin the colour of honey, most of which I could see outside the abbreviated outfit that she was wearing. She was one of the most stunning women I'd ever seen.
We chatted for a while, with her asking questions about me that she'd doubtless asked countless times before. In a strange way, I realised this, but at the time it seemed that she was genuinely interested in me. I guess that's how they make their money. The ones who can't fake sincerity don't make it. She was very good at her job. She snuggled up very close to me so that our hips and thighs touched, and her small hand sometimes rested on mine. Next to me my boss had a woman on each side of him, both leaning in to him and both running their hands up and down his legs. Natalia took one of my hands and rested it on her bare thigh. It felt like silk. I squeezed gently, and stroked it up and down.
"So, Phil," she looked at me from under lowered eyelids. "Would you like me to dance for you?"
.... There is more of this story ...