Stay Sharp!

He got out of his car and walked behind it, opening his trunk.  I never know if this is a good sign or not.  If he’s bringing in a guitar for repair, I’m not excited.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy rescuing disabled instruments, but more that I don’t really have the time to keep up with repairs these days.  Come to think of it, I guess if I enjoyed it more, I’d take the time, but that’s a discussion for another day.   He closes the trunk and comes toward the front door of the music store and I’m encouraged.  I recognize the case as one that should carry a nice instrument.  If he wants to sell that one, I’m definitely interested.  Not like the majority of the musical instruments which come through my doors on any given day.  Mostly, they’re sad economy models which should never have been manufactured, much less bought and sold.  But then, you’ve heard that complaint from me before, so, like the discussion of time management, that will wait for another day to be aired again.

I’ve never seen the man before, but he does want to sell the instrument.  New in town, he, like most of the others hawking guitars, has a hard-luck story.  Also like many others, the story involves a vehicle and the need to get it from one place to another.  I look over the instrument and start to offer him a price, when he reminds me that the guitar is American-made.  “They’re going on Ebay for a couple of thousand,” comes the claim.  I flip the guitar over and sure enough, there is the “US” in the serial number.  I see no sign of the dreaded “Made in Korea” lettering I had expected, so I’m ready to revise my offer.  He makes sure that I know he’s not going to demand book price for the instrument, since he just needs enough to get his truck out of the impound lot.  After hearing his price, I decide it’s an equitable amount to pay for a professional grade instrument and the transaction is completed.  He walks out counting his hundred dollars bills and I put the guitar on my workbench to clean it up for resale as I get a few free moments later.

After awhile, I find time to start on the clean-up and flip the guitar over on its face, much like I did when I examined the serial number earlier.  This time, I notice a sticker in an odd place and decide to remove it.  Much to my chagrin, when the paper finally comes off, I see some lettering that looks suspiciously like the end of the name “Korea”.  The rest of the lettering is obliterated by a substance that looks much like a glob of lacquer, no doubt placed there to eradicate the evidence that this guitar is, indeed not American-made, but the much cheaper oriental-built model.   My expectation of a reasonable profit margin for the guitar has flown out the window faster than the shyster had carried the instrument in earlier this afternoon.

It would be an understatement to say that I was angry.  But, it might surprise you to learn that the ire was aimed exclusively at one person…myself.   I tried to work myself up to blame the former owner, but realized that it was a lost cause.  I’m the one that should know better.  I’ve bought thousands of guitars by now and I know; people lie.  For whatever reason, they lie.  It may be to generate enough pity to convince me to pay more than I normally would, possibly to cover up that fact that they’re selling stolen or borrowed instruments (it’s happened a number of times), or as in this case, to misrepresent the model and extract more cash from me.  Whatever the rationale, I know that a fair percentage of the folks I buy from will lie to me during the process.  “Fool me once; shame on you.  Fool me twice…”  Yep, there’s no fool like an old…  But, here I go speaking in adages again and beating around the bush (another one?).  I want to trust folks, but I know better!  That’s why I keep books.  That’s why I have the internet to research the instruments I purchase.  There is no one to blame but myself. 

By now, you know that I readily admit to not being the sharpest blade around.  I’m starting to think that I make these mistakes habitually just to prove that I have nothing about which to brag.  My intellect falls short time after time, leaving me to make up the difference by hard work and God’s provision, the latter being far more dependable than the former.  On this day, as I was contemplating my ignorance and berating myself, a certain customer came to mind.  This young man is especially fond of the style of guitar I had just purchased, regardless of whether it happened to be made in the United States.  While he won’t pay more than such an instrument is worth, he can usually be counted on to be interested in those that I purchase.  As I mused about whether to call him or wait for him to come in eventually, a car pulled up in front of the music store.  I laughed in spite of my agitated state of mind.  It was that young man, arriving mere moments after I thought about calling him.  Of course, he was interested!  After trying the guitar out for a short period of time, he assured me that he absolutely wanted to buy it! Quite reasonably, I won’t be able to sell the guitar for what I once thought it worth, but I won’t have to “take a bath” on it either.

Did he arrive at that moment by chance?  You can make that call, but I know what I believe.  The old cliche “Our disappointments are God’s appointments” comes to mind.  I’ve reminded you before of my Dad’s favorite quote, “Man proposes, God disposes,” which he often used to soften the blow of ill-fated plans.  For some reason, I tend to think that just as often (maybe more often), the application can be made to the unearned successes which we encounter in our bumbling around.  And I’m grateful.

I’m obviously still having to work at keeping my wits about me on a daily basis, a task I don’t seem to take to naturally.  And, now that you know how gullible I really am, I hope there won’t be a rush to take advantage of that, too.

I can trust you, can’t I?

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.”
(Frank Crane~American minister and columnist~1861-1928)

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.'”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

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