Monday, December 10, 2018

In the chess game of life we are but pawn (ers)

TIED UP WITH A BOW. It was a very good
 deal with strings attached.
That fiddly thing in the picture?

It's a viola da gamba.

The photo was taken at 1:18 last Thursday afternooon, minutes after I--the world's worst bargainer--wheedled and dealed for the instrument with a tough-minded clerk in a pawnshop near my house.

That--believe it or not my first bargained-for purchase--was what I was celebrating in the pub.

And if that isn't a load of hogwash I don't know what is. I was going for a beer with my friend John O'Callaghan anyway;  it just happened that I did the pawnshop deal first. John took this pic.

But still. I did bargain for the instrument. Except not on my own behalf.  The viola da gamba belongs to Teilhard Frost.

Teilhard--one of the most colourful gentlemen on the planet--is a man you couldn't possibly do justice to in one single blog entry. When you're done reading my story, click here to get Teilhard's.

Teilhard is also the Sheesham part of the travelling minstrel show Sheesham and Lotus & Son. I've known him since he was a kid and he's never asked me for anything, ever.

Until Thursday morning.

I was at home goofing off when Teilhard Facebook messaged me to ask if I could visit a pawnshop a few blocks from my place. Teilhard, who lives about four hours from here in a boonies locale called Wolfe Island, had  been in the store recently and had seen this viola da gamba but didn't have time to deal with it so asked if I could, you know, go down and pretend I knew how to dicker and buy the thing.

Free time I had!

So down to the pawnshop I went--taking texted instructions from Teilhard all the way.

I actually asked him what I should do for openers. "What," I asked, "should my viola-da-gamba gambit be?"

"Haha," he texted back.

I asked if he had any tips. When they cooked up Carter DNA, they forgot to put in the bargaining gene. My wife Helena once told me I bargain up.

"Look tough." Teilhard advised. "And disinterested. Lots of shoulder shrugging!"

I entered the cluttered shop and found my way around to where the instrument was hanging. My first bid, from the woman serving me--got laughed at.

I left the store.

I texted that fact to Teilhard.

He said I should go higher. I asked a nearby panhandler if he'd had any experience with this store. He said they'd alway been fair with him.

I made another offer. She wouldn't budge. I stood at the counter and wondered how I was supposed to act. Should I look broke? Or suspicious? I am not wired for this.

I left. Talked to the panhandler some more. He lives near me.

Texted Teilhard. He gave me permission to make another offer.

In I went.
RESIN D'ETRE: When Teilhard plays, he doesn't fiddle around

Out I went.

The panhandler probably hadn't had such a good laugh in ages.

Teilhard gave me his final offer. I walked back in. (I am now very familiar with the inventory of this pawnshop, btw.) 

Our fourth bid won! I was thrilled.

And from among a blizzard of back-and-forth texting, here's one of Teilhard's messages: "I can use it in my educational program. I refer to them [violas da gamba] all the time I will now be able to actually demonstrate!! How exciting. Thanks so much for sweating through that!!! And sorry for all the exclamation marks."

The pleasure, dear Teilhard, was all mine.

Then he asked me if I'd measure it when I got home and I said "whattaya mean home? I'm going busking. If, that is, I can fight off the viola da gamba groupies."

To which he replied "Good luck. They are very good at the art of disguise as people who don't care."

Teilhard will take delivery of this treasure in the new year.

Me, I learned a few lessons.

First, when you get a request from a young person you feel strongly about; you're likely to be a pushover. I love Teilhard like he's my nephew and when I use the word love I don't fart around;

Also, it's easier to bargain and/or ask for money on behalf of someone else. Think about that the next time somebody wants you to help them raise money for some good cause;

And finally, even though I didn't write this blog only because it let me make the viola-da-gamba gambit pun, that's as good a reason as any.

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