By Antonio Graceffo
It was the summer of 1982 when the first guys in my crowd began getting their driver’s licenses. Alan had a Camaro. Red had a Trans Am. And Spanky had a fully restored 1940’s coup. It was the first summer of independence and mobility. In the mornings, we trained on swim team, evenings were spent at the martial arts academy. In between, we would spend our days hanging out on the docks at the lake with the stereo blasting: Olivia Newton john “Physical”, Survivor “Eye Of The Tiger”, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts “I Love Rock N’ Roll”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder “Ebony And Ivory”, and J. Geils Band “Centerfold.” It was the best summer for music. My friends and I would clown around and we never had any trouble attracting a crowd of girls.
Almost every day, however, our dating bliss would be ended when some rich guy’s son would cruise by the dock on a party boat, all tricked out with a bar, a killer stereo system, and a barbecue grill, and steal our girls away. That summer, my friends and I decided the key to “love” was boat ownership.
Driving back from the lake, empty handed again, we heard an advert on the radio that said if you came in to hear a timeshare seminar, you could get a free boat. The catch, however, was that you had to be over 21 and have a credit card to attend. Not knowing anyone else who fit that description, I asked my Pop to take me.
“It’s a trick.” Pop told me, instantly. Pop thought everything was a trick. He wouldn’t even use coupons because he believed the store was somehow exploiting him. “If they really want to give me a discount, they should do it without me cutting up a newspaper. They work for me. I don’t work for them.”
More than once, I had seen him in McDonalds demanding the special that was advertised on TV without the coupon. Other times, if there was an offer like buy two, get one free, he would buy one and demand a 33% discount. “It’s the same math.” He’d be telling the manager.
At that time, my family was living in a small town in Tennessee, where everyone knew each other. Kids at school would tell me, “I saw your dad makin’ trouble over to the Walmart last night.” Pop was there, trying to return a product that was six months past the warranty on the grounds that during the 18 months since he’d bought it, he hadn’t used it one-year’s worth.
In Pop’s defense, he usually got what he wanted. That in itself was a lesson. But I wouldn’t understand that till I was much older.
Interestingly, though, for a guy who always got away with ballsy murder, he still remained convinced that any free product was a trap. Sometimes, he wouldn’t even let me accept a free collector’s glass or movie toy with my kid’s meal, because “That’s how it starts. Then they own you for life.” But this boat thing was different. I insisted. The advert was clear, you get a free boat, no strings attached. So, to teach me a lesson, my dad took me to the timeshare place.
The time share seminar was held in a double-wide house trailer, on a gravel lot, just outside the city limits. We walked in and the receptionist, said. “My name’s Tiffany. How can I help y’all today?”
“You could give us a free boat.” Pop answered. “Oh, and could have the guy hook it up to my car? It’s parked right in front of the door.”
Before she could control herself, a slight wave of annoyance swept over Tiffany’s face. When she regained composure, she said, “The terms of the free boat offer are that you have to hear about our great timeshare opportunities.” She began pushing buttons on her phone. “Let me see if I can get one of our vacation consultants in here to help you begin enjoying your new timeshare.”
My Pop glanced at his watch and said, “How long is this going to take?”
“The presentation lasts twenty minutes. But you can stay and ask questions as long as you want.” Answered Tiffany.
“I better go shut off the car.” Said Pop. He went outside and moved the car to a legal parking spot and returned.
A huge, good looking guy, who seemed like a preppy jock, wearing a Duke University ring from the class of 1980 came out, smiling a huge, toothy smile. “There they are!” He shouted, enthusiastically, sticking out his hand to shake. When I took his hand, he grimaced. “Wow, that’s some grip you got there.”
My Pop looked behind him. “There who are?” He asked.
“That’s the spirit.” The salesman replied. He pointed at his name tag, which said Chad. And to build even greater familiarity, he told us we could call him Chad.
I was so afraid my Pop was about to ask, “What the hell else would I call you with that name tag?” But instead, he took Chad’s hand, casually and asked, “You got my boat?”
“I like that.” Said Chad, with an even bigger smile. “Right to the point.” Then he switched back to the script, “Y’all er gonna forget all about that boat, once you see your time share at Myrtle Beach.”
“Yeah, I know.” Said Pop. “That’s what you’re counting on.” Then he turned directly to me, so I wouldn’t miss the lesson. “You hear that? He’s going to take us in there, show us pictures of a nice condo on the beach that we get to use one weekend a year, and he hopes we’ll forget about the free boat.”
Chad tried to laugh, but it seemed a bit forced. “Let’s head on back to my office.” He said, cheerily.
“Is that where you keep the boats?” Asked Pop.
Once in the office, Chad had us watch a short video on the benefits of timeshare ownership. He also had a flip book of these beautiful chunks of temporary happiness, that could be ours for a mere $20,000. For me, at least, Chad’s presentation was very convincing. The condos were incredible, with hot tubs and Jacuzzis. The complexes had swimming pools, and the locations were the best the south had to offer, ski resorts in Pigeon Forge, with easy access to Dollywood, Gatlinburg, and other theme parks, and of course, the biggie, Myrtle Beach. If my friends and I could each get one girl with a boat, we were sure to get a whole bevy of them with a condo on the beach. Through the whole presentation process, Pop, however, seemed unmoved.
When he saw that his words had no effect on my Pop, Cad began focusing on me. “Well, Sir, you may not enjoy going to Myrtle Beach for a long party weekend with all your friends, but I bet this young man, right here does.”
I sure did! It was like Chad had read my mind. What boat?
Chad had the contract all filled out and laying on his desk. He was holding a pen out to my dad, as he went for the close. But I think he said something he had never said before. “I don’t guess you’re going to buy….”
“No.” Said Pop, flatly.
“And you want your boat.” Chad said, dejectedly.
Pop’s answer surprised both Cad and me. “I know the boat’s a scam, but it was a Saturday, and I didn’t have any work to do, so I decided to teach my son a lesson. So, show him the great boat he gets.”
Chad pressed a button on his desk and Tiffany entered, holding a box, about one meter high and half a meter wide. “Here you go, one inflatable boat.”
When I saw that the inflatable boat wasn’t big enough for me, my friends and the bikini girls we dreamed of, my ego deflated.
Normally, my Pop was an I-told-you-so kind of guy. But this time, he said nothing. We drove home in relative silence, with me seeing my only chance of love slipping away and my Pop chuckling quietly to himself.
Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
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