A Sales Story: The Man In the Green Onion Suit…

“Sumthin’ scwewy goin’ on around here” E.Fudd

If you travel and meet enough people, as I did in my sales career,  then funny things happen along the way. This is one of the funniest. And it’s true… for the most part.

onionsMy day started early with a bakery stop before boarding a Chicago bound flight for our annual sales meeting of the screw company I represented.  It was expected of me to bring a couple dozen New York bagels for the office personnel. Today was no different, with one notable exception, I included onion bagels this time.

The passenger seated behind me was a businessman, too, judging by his tailored green suit and gold ‘power tie’. I observed him carefully folding the jacket and stowing it in the overhead bin. He was meticulous, and it was apparent that he cared about his appearance.

Me, I was in casual attire, sufficient for listening to speeches, looking at graphs and charts, playing golf and collecting a trophy for a successful year, actually a ‘second place’ successful year … again.

“Maybe I should wear power ties”, I thought, as I nonchalantly tossed my bag of bagels into the overhead bin where it slid to a stop against the businessman’s suit coat.   Settling into my aisle seat for the routine flight to the ‘Windy City’, I nodded off by the time we reached Lake Erie.

Then, somewhere over that Great Lake it hit me, the strong and overpowering aroma of bagels, especially onions. I quickly realized, this would not be a good day for that business coat, or anything else in the overhead.

If confronted, I would offer to pay for a quick cleaning.  However, I wasn’t. So, upon landing, I quickly grabbed the evidence, bee lined off the plane and never looked back, disappearing into the sea of faces that is O’Hare airport. Anyway, we wouldn’t see each other again…..or, so I thought.

What were the odds that he and I would sit beside each other on the return trip?  I recognized him by his ‘green onion suit’.

Imagine my amazement when he enthusiastically told me that he was just hired as a sales manager for a major baking company in Chicago.  And the interview clincher? Apparently, management was so impressed that he smelled like a product line he would represent, they hired him on-the-spot.

With a bit of bravado, he remarked, ‘You know, a salesman has to do what he has to do to make the sale’. But, hey, I knew that, I had another second place trophy in the overhead to prove it.

As they say in NY, what ‘chutzpah’!

People are fun, and a sales career provides the opportunity to meet lots of them and have lots of it. Surely, you agree.

Steve Bottcher
Srbottch.com.comTies

For hard-working Joe and his  Bagel Land employees of Brighton, NY, where you get the best bagels in town

And for my fellow salesperson, Mike M, who doesn’t have a ‘green onion suit’, but does has the first place trophy…and ‘power ties’

The Bar Chronicles: #3, The ‘Pinboy’

Bar Night 2

‘…bowling really blossomed, particularly among blue-collar types, in the 1950′s and 1960′s after the introduction of the automatic pinsetter’ John McDuling

It was ‘bar night’ for three ‘old’ friends at a local pub in Rochester, NY, ‘The Lost Borough’. Our plan, enjoy a couple of signature brews and add another saga to ‘The Bar Chronicles’. The pub was busy, ‘trivia night’, complete with a booming voice emcee, eager crowd and ample beer to encourage gamesmanship. It added up to a rowdy atmosphere with plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’.

We selected an ‘ale’ from a ‘flight’ and forged ahead with our own game of ‘remember when’, parrying back and forth with personal recollections of our earliest work experiences, our first actual paying jobs.

We were delivery boys in pickup trucks and shoeshine boys on Main Street. We were floor sweepers in a haberdashery and washed cars at a used car dealership. And we were pinboys’ in a bowling alley, at least one was.

‘Pinboys’, a romantic word in a nostalgic sort of way. I was too young to remember ‘pinboys’, but one of us was the right age to be one. He was a teenager and his work station was at the end of a bowling lane where he perched himself on a bench above the pit. When the pins exploded off the deck from the impact of 16 pound balls rolled down the lane like fodder shot from a cannon, he quickly jumped into the pit and went into action; rolled the ball back, cleared ‘deadwood’, or reset new pins for another roll.

Generally, a ‘pinboy’, or pinsetter, managed two lanes, hence speed was an asset, and a priority. Younger boys with small hands could handle ‘two pins a hand’ while the older boys managed three. With pins in place, he’d jump back to his seat, step on a pedal to lower the rods, or pin holders, and wait for the next roll. A good day returned 8 or 9 cents a game, and an afternoon of work brought in some extra cash for this young man’s coal mining family in the post-Depression coal mining region of eastern Pennsylvania.

Tell me about your first job. Did you like it? What did you learn? I cleaned metal paint pots for a painting company and abhorred it. But I learned lessons of responsibility and discipline that comes from hard work, and stays with you for life. I got paid, but it wasn’t ‘romantic’ like my friend’s job, a ‘pinboy’.  I wish I could have been a ‘pinboy’…alas, I was too young.

Srbottch
Srbottch.Com

 

The Piano Tuner…a story of ‘angst’

Piano by Wilson Burgosphoto by Wilson Burgos (wilsonburgos.com)
Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I never witnessed a piano tuner at his craft until recently…I hope to never witness it again!

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The evenly paced rhythm, the same key played, incessantly, over and over, until it emits the right tone, then duplicating the process on the next key, and the next. There are 88 keys in a piano.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The house is quiet except for these monotonous sounds, each key tested for perfection, absolute perfection!

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

 Our old dog stirs, stretches and retreats to a distant room, grumbling his displeasure as he searches for seclusion under a table, his heavy, long breathing juxtaposed against the fixer’s abbreviated movements.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I find myself a hostage in my own home, a prisoner to the repetitive plunking of a musical mechanic armed with an ‘ear’ for perfection.

I’m a writer, albeit a neophyte, nevertheless a writer. I ply my craft in a vacuum of calm and solitude, focusing on the word, the thought, the picture I create. He, the tuner, focuses on the sound, correcting it from what it is to what it should be. Both take time. The process is the work.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The constant tapping of the ivory, moving hammers and dampers against strings to make sounds, the same sounds, is tortuous.  Maybe, I’m too sensitive, too impatient, too digitized to today’s fast paced, instant gratification world.  Why is ‘art’ slow?

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

High notes, then higher! Low notes, then lower!  The steady intermittence of it all is unsettling, fraying my nerves like the end of a severed rope.

Finally, the tuner demonstrates his keyboard prowess and plays a wonderful, but brief piece of music, a way of testing his tuning expertise and signaling the end, a climax to his dull and boring work.  The old piano sounds good, even soothing.  I can recompose myself and almost relax.

The ‘mechanic’ returns his tools to their clam-like black case, closes it with two loud deliberate snaps, collects his due and leaves, phantom-like.  The edge of his wide brimmed hat is rolled down and his collar is lifted against the intermittent rain. It occurs to me, as I watch him disappear around the corner, has he played at an opera house?

srbottch

…for a neighbor who urged me to find ‘angst’ in my life…

Sometimes It’s Diamonds, Sometimes It’s Paint…

Paint 1

Honestly, it’s never diamonds. Perfume, maybe, but not diamonds. Oh, there was a diamond engagement years ago and another one at our 25th, but that ‘streak’ ended there, 22 years ago. Nowadays, prudence, practicality and pocketbook influence my choices..

So, this Valentine’s Day I gave a gift that satisfied all three criteria, the gift of color. I painted a bathroom for my wife, and, not surprisingly, it was one of the best gifts I’ve given over the years. She raved about it and appreciated my work and the new look. As pleasant as that sounds, it’s an unflattering commentary on my gift giving skills. I’m terrible at it.

However, I’m a good painter, it’s in the genes. My immigrant grandfather established himself as a ‘master’ painter. He begot three boys who continued the trade. The line of succession produced more sons, yet, who donned the white overalls, joined the union and called themselves ‘journeymen’.

You see, while ‘diamonds are forever’ (who wears out a diamond?), paint jobs are actually meant to be replaced. Colors fade or fall out of fashion. The painter gets the opportunity to ‘regive’ the paint job, a ‘do over’, if you will.

Paint 2

“Hey, honey, I repainted the bathroom. How’s it look?  And, Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Looks great, dinner is ready”, she shouts from afar. “You slug…”, is the unspoken word you don’t hear because she has resigned herself to the age-old mantra, ‘it’s the thought that counts’. But we all know this about marriage, ‘what you do or don’t do now will be used against you later’. As I was reminded recently, disagreements, arguments and shortcomings are all part of the bonding process in marriage, no matter how long the union, 47 years in our case.

But, I digress. There are more gift giving opportunities on the horizon. The bedroom sounds appropriate for our wedding anniversary. And the hallways for her birthday. Oh, I just know she’ll love it. Everyday will seem like a birthday as she walks through the house, admiring the colors, reminding her of just how old she is. Hmm, I should rethink that one. Then there’s Christmas, maybe a brightening up of the guest room would be a hit.

Yes, diamonds are pretty; pretty impressive and pretty expensive. So, gentlemen, heed my advice. When the time comes, give the gift that is bold and beautiful, that tells her how much you love her. Give the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ and is cheap, the gift of color…PAINT SOMETHING!

Paint 3

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Where Is Spring?

Where Is Spring

An indomitable groundhog scurries across my lawn, signaling the start of Spring. A hairy woodpecker drills at sunrise from the dead branches of a tall locust tree and garners my attention, signaling the start of Spring. Pyramidal piles of pea like deer droppings accumulate by my patio, signaling the start of Spring.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

The calendar confirmed it days ago. The incessant honking of returning geese announced it from the heavens, and well tanned ‘snowbirds’, returning home from sea, sand and sun, expressed their disappointment and dismay at finding lingering snow showers. Even weather reporters  proclaimed it, albeit reluctantly.

But, ‘where is Spring’? 

Baseball players pass hours oiling their gloves and tarring their bats, hoping against hope that fields will be green and  plush for Opening Day.  Pot holes turn roads into obstacle courses, challenging drivers at every turn. Even the earliest flower, the crocus, is nowhere to be seen.  The supply of hand warmers is depleted. The flannel sheets are worn thin. The damp air, low clouds, and dire forecast surely is winter’s last ditch effort to overstay its worn out welcome.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

Mother Nature was kind to western New Yorkers this winter, giving us hope that Spring would be early. However, the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ seems to be out, dashing our spirit.  Easter Sunday is but days away. Newspapers are announcing the opening dates of local golf courses. School kids are starting their ‘Spring Break’.  And while my weather app just flashed this warning, ‘ snow flurries starting soon’, I am compelled to ask…

‘Where the Hell is Spring?’

srbottch.com

“Ice Fishing” in The Meadowbrook…A Tale of Sorts

It’s been a lean winter for ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’…

…unlike last season, when the ‘giants’ were so plentiful, I could practically ‘fish’ from my window.  Hopes were raised with a recent storm that put an abundant snow cover on my roof. But Mother Nature’s tepid temps have dashed any chance of ‘landing’ a big one, now.

As I sit in the mid winter comfort of my sun porch, I’m disappointed by the rapid snow melt, rivulets of water cascading off my roof and streaming down my gutters like a Spring trout stream, ruining any opportunity for a good ‘catch’.  Yet, at the same time, I feel a sense of relief and contentment.

After all, ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’ is fraught with challenges and danger.  ‘Casting about’ a lengthy aluminum roof rake with frozen feeling fingers, and numb toes precariously gripping the icy rungs of a metal ladder, is not a sport for the timid.

Clearing these ‘monsters’ from roof and gutters requires strength, dexterity and the fortitude to take an ‘avalanche’ of snow smack in the face.  If not careful or quick enough to dodge it, the glacial barrage will catch your collar and trespass down your neck, soaking the  long-johns you struggled to pull on earlier to avoid this very thing, a cold damp body.

This was my challenge last winter.  Miserably chilled, I continued my quest for a trophy ‘keeper’, because that’s what a fisherman does: goes after the prize.

After working the roof and watching ‘throwaways’ slide by on their way to the ground, the elusive ‘monster’ finally appeared from behind the last snow barrier. It was the ‘big one’, the one that nearly ripped off my gutter, where it spawned and grew like an ancient stalactite.

Clearing a path with a cautious drag of the rake across snow covered shingles,  the ‘catch of the season’ suddenly lurched forward and hurtled toward me like a bobsled. The extended ladder absorbed the hit and saved it from ‘getting away’. As wet, cold and slippery as it was, I wrapped my arm around it and made a triumphant but careful retreat to the ground.

A 10 pounder, maybe 20. I smiled through lips so cold and cracked, they bled. Fishing for trophies isn’t easy, ‘ice fishing in the Meadowbrook’ neighborhood is as challenging as it gets. But the bragging rights you earn are worth every frost bitten digit you can’t feel.

Now?  Now, it’s trophy time!

Ice Fishing

Every season can’t be as fruitful as the winter of ’14/’15, thankfully!

srbottch

dedicated to all who try to keep ice out of their gutters and survive to tell about it, we’re a hearty group

Today, I Built a Snow Fort

Winter Street

Living in western New York requires a hearty soul when it comes to weathering the weather. Every winter, Mother Nature throws her best punch at us. After lying mostly dormant this winter, she reminded us of her mood swings with a pummeling of snow that stopped drivers, closed roads and shut down businesses.  And some of us thought Spring was on the way.  Ha!

How do people along the Niagara Frontier handle Mother Nature with her long, dark winter nights, and mornings crisp enough to snap the nose off your face if you wiggled it?  Only one way, we take what She’s blown at us and make it our playground.

We tug on long johns, wrap ourselves in downy coats, then race out-of-door to play, just as we did when some of us still could race.

Against cheek numbing winds, we schuss down snow-packed mountains on narrow flat boards. We clamp on snowshoes and break new trails in deep silent stands of nearby woods.

Snowshoes

Dull skates and old sleds are rescued from dusty web covered garage lofts or backyard sheds. Blades and runners are honed and waxed to make perfect for gliding over new ice or flying down slick hills on our bellies.

The brilliant sunshine on a wintry day makes a frigid five degrees feel like a tepid ten. We are survivors!

Me, I call on a time when kids were always outside, playing games that strengthened our bodies and stretched our imaginations. Today, I built a fort in my backyard blanket of cold, cotton-like snow, a dugout snow fort.

My fort today was not unlike one I built back then, simple but strong. A mini fortress, big enough for a cadre of ruffians and a cache of snowballs, just in case real ruffians showed up, as they often did. And amid the screams and yells, and maybe a curse, was the splatting thud of snowballs finding arms and legs and an occasional noggin’.

Those snow castles gave us a place to escape, a place so cold that only the energy of our youthful exhuberance kept us warm, as a pint size ‘band of brothers’ huddled together, making plans for our next adventure.

And what better place to have that adventure than on a corner snow ‘mountain’, the high, hard packed hill of shoveled or plowed snow, perfect for a game of ‘King of the Hill’.

Winter is a great time to test our endurance, to demonstrate our vim, vigor and vitality. Come Spring, we will scratch a notch in our snowpant suspenders as a symbol of success against the elements. We shall prevail!

Today, I built a snow fort. And tonight, under the cold, star lit sky, I’ll climb a corner snow ‘mountain’ and declare myself, King of the Hill!

srbottch.com

Dedicated to the kid in every adult, builders of snow forts, and those who challenge themselves in the great outdoors.