Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pizza in D Minor

        I don't know if what I did is the proper thing to say at a moment when it appeared to me, the intention was to try and intimidate me. It was years ago when Sheri and I had been invited over to a potential clients home for dinner and maybe a drink along the way. I think some people want to meet you to see who they will be doing business with and I suppose, to see if I look like Bigfoot or Charles Manson and can they trust me to paint in their house while they are off to work. That's fair. This was going to be something of a test and I was ready. It wasn't a dress up evening but we dressed casual/nice. Pass or fail?  The couple had ordered pizza to be delivered and possibly were testing me. Should I have sprung to pay for the pizza when it arrived? Remember, they invited us. I didn't buy. Pass or fail? I had a glass of white wine with them before dinner and Sheri did not. Pass or fail? I let the hostess serve up the pizza and sat down to be waited on. Pass or fail? We waited until they dug in with both hands to start eating with our hands.  Pass or fail? Suddenly she jumped up out of her chair and said, "I forgot to put some music on." I knew now, that this had to be a test! Watching someone squirm at your choice of music can be insightful. Intimidation can produce interesting results. She re-entered the dining area and I heard the first few bars and said, "Oh, that's Beethoven's Pastoral 6th Symphony in D minor." while wiping cheese from my face. They stared at me in disbelief. There was silence and a very awkward moment waiting to be pounced on. I quickly had to cover the silence by asking them a question. I blurted out, "Did you buy your copy at Safeway for 99¢?" That's all it took and we all broke out in laughter and the moment was saved. What I hadn't volunteered was, I owned one Classical Music album at the time that I bought at Safeway for 99¢. It was Beethoven's Pastoral 6th Symphony in D minor. The "let's see if we can intimidate him" routine didn't work so they opted for Plan B.  Plan B was,  let's see if they can carry a conversation and have a nice evening. That worked and I got the job.
    It's funny how some people have to test you. I have been on jobs where there were literally stacks of $50 bills sitting on their bureau. Others where they are so paranoid that we might steal their underwear that they keep a very close eye on you the whole time. Other times I make sure I mention a Bachelors Degree ( for what it's worth!) in there or sometimes Catholic School relaxes them and for others it's making them laugh that eases them. They test us too. Offering us beer on the job is a way to find out how disciplined I can be. They will offer us coffee in the morning or even sodas and cookies, sandwiches and snack mix. What's wrong with that? There's always a price to pay...almost always. Some people are just good souls and wish to share. Others have ulterior motives. It's hard to say no to someone while munching on their cookies and sipping their soda when they ask if I wouldn't mind painting their patio furniture since I have the sprayer all set up and ready to go. I have gotten better at reading them though. What might look like an easy task can be exasperating if it doesn't turn out to their approval. How much is this costing me? Much more than a soda and a couple of stale cookies. What I have learned to say is that I can give you 15 minutes of free labor but after that I have to charge you. Suddenly their request gets withdrawn and I'm out of the hot seat.
    I still listen to that album from time to time although it's on a CD now but I always laugh at myself for saying that back then. I think it made us equal for a moment and put us on level ground. The fact that pizza was being served was a perfect choice too. Pizza doesn't intimidate or offend but just makes the moment that much better.

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