by Jerry Guarino
Joseph had a successful
insurance business out of his home, a wonderful
son and a marriage that had become more platonic
than romantic, the only real frustration in his
life. He had been tempted before in his 15-year
marriage. Sales trips for a computer company and
out of town trade shows provided plenty of easy
opportunities for infidelity, but he stayed true
to his marriage vows.
He gave up technology to work at home, to spend
more time with his son. He coached him in soccer
and helped him with homework after school. The
upper middle class soccer moms smiled at him as
they dropped off and picked up their boys for
practice and games. But Joseph stayed true to his
marriage vows, satisfied with fantasizing about
the thirty-something lovelies in his small New
England town north of Boston.
In his work, he needed an insurance agency
management system, but didnt want to spend
the thousands of dollars it cost. Having that
technology background, he wrote his own program
and soon found that other small agencies would
buy it. After a few hundred mail order sales, he
started to get calls for training local agents in
using insurance technology.
Joseph answered the phone and heard a pleasant
female voice. Is this Mr. Mariani, the
person who wrote the agency manager?
Joseph thought this might be another $ 250 sale,
so he prepared to give his sales pitch over the
phone. Yes, I wrote the agency manager. May
I send you a demo copy?
I was hoping you could come by and show us
your software? Were in Malden.
Joseph knew that taking time from work for a
small sale wasnt cost effective, but was
curious about the inquiry. Well, Id
like to, but Im also an agent and have my
own work to do here. Most agents just try the
demo and order the program.
We need more than the program. We need
computers and a network too.
Joseph tried to contain his enthusiasm, so after
a pause, said. Yes, Ill be glad to
visit to give you a quote. He realized this
could be a big sale, a couple thousand in profit
and he was quite capable of setting up a network
of computers. He made the appointment for the
When he arrived, the owner greeted him at the
door. Mr. Mariani, thank you for coming. My
name is Maria Pantone.
Call me Joseph, Ms. Pantone.
Well, call me Maria. Let me show you around.
Maria was professionally dressed in a black skirt
with ruffled top, clearly Italian, perhaps in her
early 40s. He followed around as she described
We have six people in house and two
producers. We have been getting by on a couple of
computers for rating and quotes, but were
falling behind on service. I got a quote from
that group in Chicago, but it was over $60,000. I
dont think we need that much of a system.
Joseph took some notes and suggested they sit
down. They went into her office in the back, a
desk as cluttered as the room itself, the
blizzard of paperwork an insurance agency
I can see why youre ready to automate.
I think we can put together a system for a
reasonable price that will hold you until you
need the big system.
Maria adjusted her glasses. About how much?
Joseph tapped out some numbers on his calculator.
This is just an estimate, but I think we
can put in four network computers, a couple
printers and my software for about $11,000. Three
computers for the staff and one for your office.
The producers can share with the customer service
people here when they are in the office.
I thought so. They were trying to sell me
eight computers, the network and $30,000 for
their agency management system.
Like I said, you might need that someday,
but not for a while. With technology, its
always good to just get what you need, not
Maria liked what she heard. And you can put
in a network so everyone can share information
Yes, thats not difficult.
Maria stood up, smiled and shook Josephs
hand. Then I look forward to your quote.
As she was showing him out, Joseph noticed the
wedding ring on her right hand; one of those
oversized ones you sometimes see. He turned at
the door and smiled, taking her hand once more.
Ill be back with a firm quote and my
software to demo next week.
How about Saturday afternoon? About noon?
You can show it to the staff before we close.
Sure, I can do that. See you then.
Maria accepted the quote and Joseph began
bringing in the hardware, network and software,
installing on a Saturday after closing so he
wouldnt disturb her customers. Maria was
Can I get you a sandwich and a drink? Youve
been here a couple hours and it looks like youre
going to be here a while.
Joseph noticed that she had changed into jeans
and a casual blouse. Sure, anything, yes Ill
be another couple hours.
Maria went across the street. Joseph realized he
was alone with this woman, just about ten years
older than him, but still quite attractive. He
remembered his vows, his wife and his son, but
fantasized a bit about Maria. No
problem with fantasizing he thought.
As he worked, Maria puttered around the office,
doing paperwork and looking over the new
computers. Joseph continued the setup while
glancing at Maria whenever she passed by. They
were all alone, a perfect opportunity to make a
move, but he left his passion in his head.
Were all done. I should come back
later and train the staff, but I can show you the
Maria smiled and sat down at her computer. OK,
what do I do?
Joseph sat down next to Maria and explained how
to use the programs. He smelled her perfume and
could see her shape through the jeans and blouse.
What am I doing? Im married,
he thought. He was able to control his behavior
but not his excitement. Maria noticed as he
shifted in his chair.
I usually spend Sunday afternoon here
catching up on paperwork. Would you like to come
by then? It would be easier to show the staff
when the office is closed.
Joseph knew he was better off around Maria with
others in the room. Fine, I can be here at
Maria led him out to the door. Joseph continued
to fantasize while watching her in front of him.
See you Sunday.
Look forward to it she said with her
hand on her belt, perhaps an unconscious signal
Over the next few weeks, Joseph came by to check
on his major account, making friends with the
staff and continuing the training to people
unused to using computers, all the while a
romance story played in his head.
But Marias staff was making minor
complaints about using the system, mostly user
errors that he could correct. Maria was always
there and Joseph started to make his visits
toward closing time, hoping he might be alone
with her. Their conversations had gone from
professional to personally friendly. His
fantasies, however, had gone far beyond that. He
thought about ripping her clothes off when they
were alone in her office and ravishing her on the
black leather couch. Maria seemed friendly but
stopped short of flirting, until one day.
Joseph you need to come by. Several of my
staff are having trouble using the programs and
dont know how to fix it. She was curt,
but not angry. Joseph agreed to come by toward
Well, user errors turned to software bugs he hadnt
anticipated. Several visits later did not correct
the problems. Marias staff was getting
frustrated and so was Maria. After four calls
with a resolution, Maria asked Joseph to meet
with him after work.
If you cant fix these bugs, Im
going to have to ask you to take back the system.
Joseph knew he couldnt afford to do that.
His profit margin was being
diminished by all this time away from his own
agency. In his mind, he felt fear and passion for
Maria at the same time.
But even under this pressure, he thought he could
make it right by settling Maria down. As she sat
in her chair, he thought about standing behind
her and giving her a neck massage, leading to
relaxation and passionate lovemaking on that
couch. He thought about soothing her stress with
the shoulder rub, then leaning down to kiss her
neck, then unbuttoning her blouse and finally
kneeling in front of her for more ecstatic
maneuvers. He imagined that if he did that, Maria
could relax and give him more time to fix the
problems. He wanted to do it. Maria looked angry.
But it would be worse if his advances were met
with a charge of sexual assault and decided he
better just make his exit, never knowing if his
fantasy would be reciprocated. At least he had
kept his marriage vows, at least physically.
A week later he received a
legal notice. Maria was suing him for breach of
contract. Seeing her in the courtroom, he wished
he had tried to win her over with a passionate
The judge banged his gavel. I find for the
plaintiff in the amount of $5000. Please pay the