In the midst of the regular Saturday billiards tournament, who should come bopping into the Watering Hole that I would least expect? The Middlest One, my second child, Maggie.
Now I say least expected because she:
A. Thinks that the Watering Hole is inhabited by grouchy old men who watch entirely too much CNN and M*A*S*H re-runs, occasionally fart, have impassioned arguments about the relative frothiness of bottled libations and listen to music which speaks of quality tires for pickup trucks.
B. Is too young to drink, although the owner insists that this is a family bar. Which we enjoy reminding him, whenever he uses the F word in a slurred and increasingly vocal diatribe, usually after dropping a brand new bottle of Jim Beam on the floor. And it's always Jim Beam, I never have figured that one out.
Still, there she was, and clutching in her hand was the very thing that causes a parent horror.
A Fund Raiser Envelope.
Oh dear god no.
I've seen them all. School fundraisers involving scratch and sniff greeting cards, boxed chocolate turtles (I actually had a hard time with that one, they're so good with coffee in the morning), magazine subscriptions and make your own pizza kits. Equation wise, Fundraising and I go back to the first grade x three children x Outfoxed wallet contents = more financial smoke pouring steadily from said wallet.
But she had a gleam in her eye this time. And I took stock of her latest attempt at salesmanship. She approached her first victim, one of the regular codgers at the bar rail. I was close enough to listen in on her sales pitch.
Middlest: "Hi, I was wondering if you'd have any interest in helping out our school football team by purchasing one of these discount passes for all our local restaurants?"
Codger: "Aren't you my waitress? I need another beer over here."
M: "Uh . . no sir. I'm Maggie. I'm just trying to help out my football team."
C: "Oh. How about getting another beer over here anyway?"
She shook her head, her pretty face falling as she got the turn down, and turned to leave. I took it upon myself to turn the tide. In the Outfoxed way.
I put my arm around her shoulders and gave her a hug. "Never mind him honey. He's old and bitter, and there's a better way to sell these things in here. Let me see those discount passes."
She took out a stack of twenty-five plastic coupons about the size of a dollar bill. On the back were printed a listing of several local places which were favorite munchie hangouts, places I knew most of the regulars to haunt after or before a long session at the Hole.
"Dad, I really would like to sell a few of these but I just can't walk up to people and ask for ten dollars for one of these things. I just can't, it seems so rude. And the football coach says we all have to sell at least ten of them."
(I should insert here that Maggie is a manager with the football team, and not a player. Not even as a place kicker. She weighs about 90 pounds soaking wet, and although she can run like a deer, I doubt very much that someone who attracts boys like flies with but a single look from crystal blue eyes would do very well as a running back. Although you never know.)
"Maggie, welcome to my world. Let's go sell something."
She brightened, that million-watt smiling coming on as I took her under my wing. Back we went to the old Codger at the bar. "Listen, you old buzzard", I said with my usual charm. "You're gonna spend twenty bucks in here in the next hour. Give my little girl ten of it and I'll buy you a beer. And she'll give you a nice momento for your trouble."
The Codger deliberated with bleary eyes, hearing the words "buy you a beer" and probably very little else. He immediately produced a ten-spot and handed it to Maggie, who nearly dropped it in her surprise. She snapped off one of the plastic passes and handed it to him, her first sale.
"Okay, moving on", I said to her. I pointed at three other lads who were lined up like ducks on a pond at the end of the bar. "You, you and you. Pony up, ten bucks for the kid. Let's have it fellas, I haven't got all day you know." In doing so I gave the secret signal to the barmaid, the three fingers up and the single point to the cluster of guys who were dragging out wallets. She, in turn, put an empty beer stein in front of each of them, the free beer token common to the Watering Hole.
The sale was on. Maggie moved through the crowd like a film star, wowing them with her smile and snapping off plastic passes quickly, as I circled in the rear, keeping the barmaid busy with empty beer steins and interpreting my wildly pointing fingers.
She approached Chief Mo, ensconced in his usual chair, a pool stick dangling from his great chunky hands (by the way, for those who remember, yes he has returned from the Middle East safely, thank you). She started the sales pitch, "Mr. Mo, would you like to buy . . . ". He cut her off with a wave of his free hand and grabbed her for one of his famous Mo-hugs, the kind that could snap a man in two or pick up a small child gently. "Here you go sweetheart", tossing her a twenty. "Now get over there to Uncle Stu and tell him Mo says to buy something from you or I'll be looking for him afterwards."
In short order, an entire entourage began following Maggie around the bar, large and grim looking men with a beer in one hand and a plastic coupon in the other. They gently pushed her up to perfect strangers and growled, "You do want to buy one of these from this little girl, don't you? And you do realize she's Outfoxeds' daughter, right?" It became a game with them, another diversion in a long line of Watering Hole seize-the-moment diversions. I sat back down on my stool, content to let the growing army of body guards escort her on her way.
Twenty minutes later, flushed and beaming with her success, she reported back to me. "So, how are coupon sales going, honey?"
She was laughing and bounced up and down a bit, waving a fat envelope stuff with cash. "Dad, I've sold all but two! I get a special prize from the coach if I sell them all! Can you believe it?"
I smiled and started to tell her "That's great!" until I looked behind her to see a glowering Mo, Stu, Big Jim and assorted other regulars looking at me expectantly. Rather intimidatingly, even. Not unlike the defensive line of a pro football team just before the snap. Rather fitting, considering this was all about football anyway.
I pulled out a twenty and handed it over. "Oh thank you Daddy", she squealed. "I sold them all! I can't wait to tell Heather and Melissa!"
Her escorts nodded, satisfied, and slowly drifted back to their beer and pool shooting. Ally came over, kissed her daughter and shooed her out the door to where her friends waited, probably with envelopes and coupons of their own. Ally looked nearly as excited as Maggie had. "Wow, she says she sold all of them in thirty minutes! What a good idea to come up here, she really did a sales job on these guys, huh? And we didn't have to do hardly anything. Sure beats buying up all that stuff like we usually have to do for a fund raiser."
Uh huh. I held up my two coupons with the defeated look of the abused parent and Ally laughed.
She laughed at me, by golly.
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