I know a guy, he works there, junior employee. Another guy, a ‘man of the cloth,’ I also know. The second guy has a son. I have stuff, mildly esoteric, that I’m trying to rid myself of.
A world of connections, of electronically enabled, near instant communication should allow me to unload my stuff. Word of mouth. Craigslist. Unusually I’m not only active, but pro-active in the effort to rid myself of this interesting (that’s polite for odd-ball) grouping of supplies and equipment.
Did I mention that I drink coffee?
Calabria, located on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive gets some of my business when I’m in need of some social contact, usually as an excuse to sit and do little other than think.
So, or so the story goes, it goes like this.
For months I’ve been trying to divest myself of this esoteric, expensive, stuff. But I want to get rid of it as a single lot. If I allow people to pick at it piecemeal I’ll be left with a collection of unusable, unrecognizable, pointless bits and pieces.
Off to the ‘Drive for a coffee at Calabria. And Calabria is where I’m sitting when a guy (the junior employee) walks in with an older guy. I don’t recognize the older guy, I don’t know him, so I let them get settled with their coffees. Remove wet coats, sit, warm up, and then I wander over and introduce myself.
‘Hi, Max, how are you doing?’ and Max answers, and introduces his father. I don’t really want to intrude, so I’m fairly blunt, asking Max, more or less, if he might know anyone who might want all (or at least a huge version of ‘most’) of this stuff?
A couple moments of serious consideration and Max says, again, more or less, reasonably close but not quite verbatim, well I know this high school teacher who comes in and buys stuff, sometimes with his own money, for his high school classes.
His name, the high school teacher not Max is TG, following just mostly old guy. And he works at this particular high school. Now remember I’m being pro-active here and out of respect for Max’s suggestion I’m even more pro-active. So I track down the teacher. Some old guy who’s name will will remain old guy.
When we’ve actually established one another’s reality I say look, more or less, I’ve got thousands of dollars worth of stuff, electronic test gear, components, parts, pieces, odds and ends, cabinets, cases, transistors, transformers and on and on and on.
Well this guy operates under a set of bureaucratic guidelines, as well as (I suppose) a set of finely honed personal values, anything outside those values and guidelines isn’t going anywhere.
More or less he asks what I want for this wonderful pile of treasure? I suggest (as I recall) that I’d be happy with a receipt for the depreciated value of the equipment based on the original receipts for about three bits of equipment. Maybe, approximately, close to, I suppose, 1/3 of the total value.
He promises to do what he can, and we load his car full of stuff, full. And off he goes.
And I’m so happy. The stuff is gone. The tax receipt is at this point only a possibility but the stuff is gone. And I’m so happy.
The old guy works, and works, and works on valuating the true worth of this trove of goodies. After much too-ing and fro-ing with his bureaucratic structures I get a tax receipt whose value is probably closer to 75 or 80% (shipping and handling not included – and on electronic test gear that is a heavy burden) of the value.
Zowie! It will take me three years to realize the tax benefits – I don’t make much – and the receipt means that for three years I stand to get virtually every penny of taxes paid returned to me.
I’m stricken by the amount of personal time and effort the old guy has invested, the benefits I’ve received because of his hard work.
But, back to the man of the cloth.
Who has a son.
The man of the cloth and I have breakfast and I mention the old guy and his efforts on my behalf, though at this point they really have yet to bear fruit. My breakfast companion asks if the old guy teaches at such and such a school in Vancouver’s Oakridge area. Yes.
The son has had this teacher for (I believe) mathematics or physics, and thinks he is the very best teacher out there; informative, demanding, instructive, fair.
So now I have input from two different people on the character of the old guy – remember the son of the man of the cloth, and, earlier, the young guy who is the junior employee – as well as my experience dealing with him.
Only a few days ago, and this is months and months and months after our first encounter, the old guy stops by to pick up the last dregs of stuff that I’m passing in his direction.
This is a gift. I don’t want anything and I make that clear. No calculating. No figuring. No bureaucratic tax forms. What I want is nothing.
Later that day, only a few days ago, I’m standing in the bank so I can get a bit of paper for the office mandarins (who I REALLY like, they are so incredibly helpful) where I live – because they will re-calculate my rent based on my yet-again-reduced income. I need that paper.
Riiiiing, riiiing, my phone goes off and I actually answer it. It’s the old guy and he wants to talk to me. I beg off, say I’m in the line, and I will call back in a couple minutes.
Hi, old guy, what’s up?
I’d like to buy that piece of equipment (one particular item in one of the two boxes) he says
I think he is doing the honourable thing because he want the item to use at home. And I said it is a gift, it is free, it is yours.
And he said I WANT TO BUY IT, nicely.
I said BUT IT’S FREE, IT’S YOURS.
No, he said, old guy always has an answer, it still has a price tag on it. I want to offer you the price on the price tag.
I said but it’s yours
No, I want to pay.
Now, I don’t like bargaining, I don’t like haggling, I don’t negotiate well, so well how about 2/3 of the price tag.
No, it will be 3/3 of the tag. And I will bring a cheque to where you work.
Honestly I don’t know how to respond to that kind of commitment to values, other than to respect them, to try and emulate that behaviour as graciously as I can, and to tell people the truth. The truth is that this kind of honour is out there. People like the old guy actually exist, and I’m honoured to have met him.
TG, thank you so very much
Fr M you know of whom I speak, and to your son, E
Max @ Main thank you for the lead
This is written in one pass, no real attempt to keep each and every action/reaction in the exact chronological order, what is/was important is to recognize, to value, to honour the individual and their actions.
February 11, 2016
The man of the cloth and I have breakfast