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Texas | Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

The Saddest Valentine in Houston

by John Troesser

Besides Mother's Day, the busiest day of the year for florists is Valentine's Day. Since even the smallest floral shop is inundated with orders each February, good help is nearly impossible to find. Smart and experienced florists hire cab drivers to deliver - giving the entire delivery charge to the driver. Un-smart and inexperienced florists hire their relatives.

Floral shops are busy days before the event, unpacking ugly green vases, cutting greenery and organizing deliveries by zones according to the city map. The roses are added the night before. The military could learn invasion tactics from experienced Houston florists.

By the time the big day arrives, designers are given a break. They get to soak their badly lacerated hands in an anti-fungal solution. Floral designer's hands are as cut and swollen as the feet of ballerinas.

On the big day, with the heavy lifting over, only a skeleton crew is on hand to replace broken stems, take last minute orders - or coordinate deliveries over the phone. "No! no! The Pennzoil Building! Not the oil change place!"

Downtown Houston has the heaviest concentration of deliveries, but it's also the most problematic zone with uncooperative building personnel, long waits for elevators, and hundreds of women who are compelled to ask "are those for me?" And then there's the worst threat of all - having one's vehicle towed. It's also a big money day for wrecker drivers.

Would-be recipients who go home early or call in sick will usually have to wait for delivery the day after. This doesn't sit well with many people who want to have as big an audience as possible to see their flowers.

As the dreaded 5:00 delivery deadline approaches, floral personnel resort to drastic measures. They have even been known to cooperate with one another.

As a veteran of the flower wars, I finished my deliveries by 4:30 - so I was helping coordinate the last minute deliveries. One of the hired-for the-day drivers who was feeling the strain of three 15-hour days screamed when she spied an overlooked delivery that had been hiding behind the door of the walk-in cooler. The time was 4:40.

The address was the Tyrant Building - one of the more difficult and notorious downtown addresses. They were known to keep wreckers parked in their lobby with their motors running. The security officers were suspicious - of everyone and every one of them has seen every movie ever made that has ever portrayed security guards as chumps for spies, terrorists and disgruntled employees.

I took the vase and headed downtown. Traffic headed toward downtown was light and so I arrived at 4:48. I parked and raised the hood - a desperate ploy that sometimes worked.

As I entered the building the security night shift had already arrived and were busily unpacking food from their casket-sized ice chests. When I saw them gingerly removing a whole Key lime pie, I dashed past them unseen and into an express elevator that took me to the office of Jane Phillips - or at least to a warren of cubicles. When I found hers the clock read 5:03 and Jane was gone. On the beige carpeted wall were photos of a fat Tabby and a middle-aged couple from somewhere that looked like Minnesota or North Dakota.

On these dreaded occasions where the recipient is gone, the driver reads the message card that sometimes offers a delivery clue. This one didn't. All it said was:

"To the girl who never gets flowers on Valentine's Day!"
Love, Mom and Dad


John Troesser
2-5-2006
"They shoe horses, don't they?" Column
More Columns by John Troesser

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