High Value, Chapter 4: Rob Freehet

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Rob Freehet sat behind his desk on the second floor of the lodge at Sleepy Point Resort. It was a pretty ordinary desk in a fairly underwhelming office, but it was an office. He was one of the few resort employees working inside who didn’t have to share space. That was worth some prestige points, even if the view out the small window was the back of the latrine and some dumpsters.

Freehet had received an email that morning summoning him to an urgent meeting with his boss, the CEO of Sleepy Point, Mark Kopf. The email had provided no agenda but included ominous phrasing, describing the meeting as being “on the future of Sleepy Point Resort.” That felt troubling, and Freehet had managed to get little done since opening it.

As the Director of Hospitality and Marketing, Freehet’s job was to bring guests to the resort and to make sure they were having a good time while there. He had a lot of independence, but his actual day-to-day tasks were a little murky. When things were going well, people left him alone. When things were going poorly, like the extended dry spell they were currently in, then the job was more of a pressure cooker. This was not the position he wanted, but he had settled into it once he recognized that he had climbed about as far as he was going to go at the resort.

Freehet had worked his way up, a real self-starter, from being a dock boy in high school to managing the grounds crew and, finally, to this corner office. There was some community college and a few correspondence courses along the way, all of which amounted to a degree in hospitality management. It met the prerequisites to open some doors and provided a base level of credibility, even if it wasn’t the kind of degree one hung on the wall.

He left the office and walked through the cubicles where his staff were fielding calls to help guests, answer questions, and take reservations. Nobody made eye contact with him, which he interpreted as a show of respect, but he also had a lingering sense that it might mean the opposite. That latter feeling became more dominant as he descended the steps and headed outside.

Kopf’s office was three buildings down, on the second floor of the clubhouse. His office had a stunning view of the lake while the conference room adjacent to it overlooked the ninth green of the resort’s golf course. It was a quick walk, just a couple of minutes, and Freehet arrived plenty early.

As he approached the clubhouse door, he spotted movement at the nearby ice cooler. A man was halfway inside of it, his big head, sizable shoulders, and thick arms evident even when partially obscured. Freehet knew right away that it was Chris Ekte, the ice man, and not one of his employees. Ekte was moving bags of ice around in the cooler while a cart full of new bags sat ready to be loaded. Freehet thought about playing a prank and spooking him, but he was afraid he might get punched in the nose if Ekte were actually startled.

“Hey! Chris,” Freehet said.

Ekte pulled his head out of the cooler, then straightened his clothes a little before responding.

“Hey, Rob. Just filling the ice.”

“Yeah, I see that. How you doin’?”

“Not bad. Nice weather today so, nuttin’ to complain about.”

“Yeah, always good around here when the sun is shining.”

Freehet had a few minutes. “What do you think about that meeting the other night,” he asked.

Ekte looked at his ice, knowing it wouldn’t melt, but also knowing he needed to get it in the freezer. Still, he had a lot on his mind about the meeting.

“That was messed up,” he said. “I don’t know why Nancy always has to get everyone riled up. Why fix it if it ain’t broken?”

“Yeah, I was thinking that, too,” Freehet replied. “She always has to put her nose into everyone else’s business. It’s not like she has run a business or knows what it’s like to make a payroll.”

“True.” Ekte looked at his ice, knowing that, of the two of them, he was the only one who really knew what it meant to make payroll.

“Say, any idea what the meeting afterward in the hallway was about?” Freehet asked.

Ekte started to pick up bags of ice and toss them into the cooler on the side where the old bags had been cleared out.

“Justin said it was some kind of pre-submission thing,” Ekte said.

“Yeah, but for what? You have any idea?”

“Nope.” More ice went into the cooler.

“Probably some lake setback thing. Or maybe another homeless shelter; another thing to get people all riled up over.”

Ekte grunted, remembering the prior year’s battle over an apartment building. There was nothing really wrong with it, but the wealthy people who lived on the lake didn’t like it. They were at every meeting, demanding environmental reviews and claiming all kinds of potential harm. Ekte had enjoyed voting for that apartment.

“That’ll make Ashley happy,” he said.

They both laughed at the thought of their young colleague on the planning commission. Ekte kept throwing in ice while Freehet started to reluctantly move away toward the door. Ekte suddenly stopped flinging ice.

“I think Brendon was out of line. I mean, I agree with him on the sign stuff, but he didn’t need to go off like that. I know he’s your friend but he’s not making many others,” Ekte said.

They stood facing each other, Freehet nodding gently.

“Yeah, I’ll talk to him,” Freehet said.

Ekte went back to pitching ice. Almost half was in the cooler and then he would have to rearrange again before depositing the rest.

“I got a meeting,” Freehet said, pointing a thumb in the direction of the door. “Take care, Chris.”

“Thanks. You, too,” Ekte replied, then stuck the upper half of his body back into the cooler.

Stay tuned next week for chapter five!

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