This blog is a century old. Okay, not in years, but in the number of posts. Tonight is number one hundred in the series and I’m still trying to decide whether it’s time for a retrospective look back. I guess that would be a little silly, considering that we just started this little journey last fall, to say nothing of being more than a little presumptuous. Maybe I should just start issuing a few reruns. If this were a television series, it would have happened long ago. Many TV shows go into reruns after as few as twelve consecutive new episodes. Think of it, a couple weeks of new articles, then six weeks of recapitulations of those posts. Come to think of it, we might just be better off to keep moving forward. There’s probably still enough material left in the mental files for at least another hundred, so we’ll proceed onward and upward. Well, onward anyway. If nothing else, I have learned to persevere.
I’m remembering a lesson about perseverance and judgment I learned early in my retail experience. I hadn’t yet been working for a year in my father-in-law’s music store, but I already thought I knew everything there was to know about running a successful business. I understood profit margins and overhead, inventory management, and even a good bit about customer relations, but I needed to get a little experience in understanding people. Danny was the right person to teach me a memorable lesson in people skills.
Maybe a little background would be helpful. The old store was in the downtown area of our little city. In the Seventies, downtown was a bustling area. The Post Office was right across the street and since email hadn’t yet been heard of, everyone eventually had to make their way down to Broadway Street for the mail. Additionally, there were two jewelry stores, various clothing stores, a five & dime store, even a drug store, and a hardware store. It was a wonderful location to do business, so we had no lack of folks who passed through our doors. Top Forty hits in the form of 45 records (yes, records!) drew in the young kids, and the guitars and pianos brought in the teenagers and adults. Many days, all we had to do was to ring up sales at the cash register, so selling wasn’t much of a chore.
Danny now…there was a hard nut to crack. The first few times he made his way into the store during his lunch hour, I tried to help him. He would go immediately to the guitar section, so I attempted to show him various instruments. Each time, he simply asked to see one of the twelve-string guitars, then proceeded to sit for half an hour and play it. At the end of his lunch break, he replaced the guitar on the rack and walked out the door, thanking me for my help. It didn’t take too many of these visits for me to understand that it didn’t make any sense to ask if I could help him with anything. Invariably, he headed for the same twelve-string guitar, carrying it to the nearest stool, adjusting the tuning and then strumming and finger picking as many popular tunes as he could squeeze in within the half hour he was there. With a “See you next time”, he would breeze out the door, to my great frustration. After a few weeks of this, I had had enough! After he left one afternoon, I turned to my father-in-law and blurted out, “We should tell him to go someplace else for his entertainment! He’s just wearing out that new guitar. We’ll never be able to get our price out of it after he get through with it!” Dad Whitmore just smiled and said, “Give it time. You never know…”
I have to admit, I actually started ignoring Danny when he arrived, as he was wont to do at lunchtime a couple of days a week. With barely a nod to acknowledge his presence, I’d return to my task of sorting records, or checking in merchandise and would repeat the action as he left. Thus it was that I was a little bewildered when one afternoon, he came back around the corner from the guitar department carrying that same twelve-string guitar in his hands. I assumed that he had broken something or was going to point out some problem, but his words were simple and to the point. “I’ll take it!” He paid his money and walked out of the store grinning like that proverbial cat who had successfully consumed the caged songbird. I was left standing at the cash register, holding his money, I’m confident with my mouth agape at the shock of this turn of events.
The long and short of the story is that some people need to be given time to make up their own minds. They want to be sure of their decision and won’t be rushed. Danny wasn’t sponging off of us for dinner time entertainment, as I assumed. He was shopping. Playing that guitar was his research. When he was finally convinced that it was a good fit and that he could be happy with it for the long term, he made his purchase. It was an eye-opener for the young inexperienced sales clerk I was back then. I think I had always expected that all thinking people would act just like I did. Impulsive and quick to make decisions, I would never have taken the time and put in the effort to make the right choice that Danny did. But, the lesson has been brought to mind again and again. And, not only in retail sales.
Danny isn’t alive anymore, killed in a car wreck within a year of purchasing that guitar. But thirty years later, I still think of him often. The illumination I gained from his example that people approach problems in different ways encourages me to be patient with those less impetuous than I. Patience is a virtue I have not completely mastered, but it has paid off over and over as I have matured. In many ways, I have learned to make sure that people in my life know that I am interested in helping when they are ready to be helped. Less and less do I have to worry at the problem, but am finally grasping the concept of letting things happen in their proper time. Oh, it’s not always as easy as that. Like the kid who keeps picking at the sore because it itches, I want to make things happen on my timetable. Occasionally, I’m even tempted to give up on people, but the picture of Danny, sitting on that stool day after day reminds me to hang in there and give them time to come around.
I’m not trying to convince anyone to take any actions with my posts, but I’m thinking that perseverance is a virtue here also. One hundred writing sessions have passed quickly for me and I’m content to keep plodding along for a few more. I hope you keep coming in to sit on the stool, trying out the products I’m hawking. Anything you see that you can use, you’re welcome to.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
(Leo Tolstoy~Russian novelist)
“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.“
(Arnold Glasow~American humorist)