30 May 2015

If I Had The Tools

One of my all-time favorite memories of my father and our jewelry store (my first life; the memories are not all good) was when an out-of-towner, visiting our charming and affluent New England shoreline village, would come into the store, place some precious personal item that needed attention on the counter, look down his or her faux-patrician nose at the olive-skinned, head loupe-wearing peasant and announce, in a derisive tone, "It's such a minor repair. If I had the tools, I'd do this myself." In other words, this is so simple you should drop everything you may be doing and tend to my needs so I can be on my important way, and there shouldn't be a charge. Treat me right, and I might just buy one of those emerald rings I'm pretending to be interested in.

My father would go into the shop, collect whatever tools were necessary to complete the task (including an acetylene tank and torch, if need be), walk back out to the front, place everything down on the counter and say, "Here. Now you have the tools."

There is great schadenfreude in watching people squirm after their bluff is called.

Another favorite was the visiting matron/yuppie who needed some "small repair or adjustment" to their priceless piece that they would "normally give to their own jeweler," "hate to let anyone else touch," are "worried about getting the same stone back," etc. The old man would take the piece, disappear into the shop, pick up a hammer, wail on a steel mandril or other handy noisemaker for a few seconds, then come out with a handful of random pieces collected from his bench. And she would be ignorant and self-centered enough to be blind to the fact that it was a joke.

And, lest I (or he, posthumously) be labeled sexist, the same game worked on visiting men, though their small repair or adjustment was typically on their precious Rolex or Patek. For them, my father would make somewhat softer noises, and grab a handful of watch parts to walk back out with.

Not all of the time I spent in retail was spent in misery, but few people were less suited for it than my old man and me.

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