I don’t know exactly when Steve called. I think it was about 30 years ago. Jane and I were living on DeLiesseline Drive in Vienna, raising triplets. It was before caller ID. Sales calls always came right at suppertime.
Most of the calls were for George, using my first name. I would know that our friendship didn’t go way back. But Steve started off on the right track.
He said, “Neil, this is Steve! How have you been doing buddy?”
“Been doing pretty well, Steve. How about yourself?”
“I’m doing great!” he said. “Thanks for asking. Neil, we talked a while back and you said to let you know when we put our tools on sale. The sale is now running and we have some terrific prices!”
I apologized and told Steve that I didn’t remember talking to him about any tools, but that I sure was glad he had me on the list.
Steve enthusiastically shared the details. It included all the household basics. There was a ratchet set, open-end wrenches, adjustable wrench, pliers, hammer, and several screwdrivers. All of that was just $59.95, plus shipping and handling of $8.89.
I told Steve that sounded like a bargain and that nothing would make me happier than owning a set of quality tools. I explained to him, however, that $59.95 was out of my price range.
Steve said, “Neil, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m not supposed to, but since we’ve been trying to get you some tools for a while now, I’m going to knock off the delivery charges.”
“Steve,” I said, “I wouldn’t feel right about y’all having to absorb those costs. That might put a hardship on the company or even cause some problems with your job.” Steve said he was good friends with his boss. He assured me that he could easily get this discount handled.
I said, “Steve, we have several close neighbors on this street. I could go see them and maybe two or three would split the cost with me. If I could get two of them to go in on this deal, that would be $20 each. I could swing that.”
Steve said that was a great idea! He suggested we go ahead with the order, and that I work out the tool sharing agreement later.
When he mentioned “agreement” that brought to mind we should probably have something in writing. I asked Steve if they had a legal department that could help draft such a document. He said they didn’t, but he was confident that would be easy to resolve with our neighbors.
I said, “Steve, what if I have an urgent need for that ratchet set the same time one of my tool sharing neighbors does? How would we handle that?” Steve didn’t know.
“How do we decide who keeps the tools, Steve? Seems like it would make sense for one of the parties named in the agreement to have primary responsibility. But you could also make a case for dividing the tools into groups or perhaps rotating the whole set.”
Steve said he didn’t have any expertise in that. He said that he really couldn’t advise me on the details, but that he felt certain that wouldn’t be an issue with the neighbors.
I said, “Steve, it looks to me like we have a lot of things to work out on this agreement before I can buy that set of tools. What if you split them up? I could buy $20 worth now, and buy the rest of them in a few months?” Steve said they couldn’t do that.
I asked him if there was any way he could send me a medium sized Phillip’s head screwdriver. I explained that we had a swing set in the back yard with a loose screw, a situation that was interfering with our children’s playtime. Steve seemed to understand the urgency of the matter.
We must have had a bad connection. It sounded like Steve was talking to someone else in the office. He was saying something about a loose screw. Then the phone went dead. I wished I had gotten his number. I would have called him back, right at suppertime.