There are some men on this earth who think they know everything. Then they fall in love and get married, and discover how little they do know. Larry was one of those. He wanted to buy a gift for his wife for a special occasion. We wandered around in a department store, hoping that inspiration would strike. A man who was usually so confident was suddenly at a loss.
In the housewares department there were frying pans, pressure cookers, irons, utensils, woks, popcorn poppers, blenders, juicers, and toasters. Inspiration wasn't igniting any fires yet.
Larry looked at carpet sweepers, mops, feather dusters, and vacuum cleaners. I had an impulse to advise him on gift- giving from this area. There are many gifts a man can give a woman, but if a husband wants to remain in good graces, he does not give his wife cleaning equipment. If he does, she will get the impression that he thinks the house is dirty. She will glare back with narrow eyes that say, "Why aren't these chores being shared?" The type of gift one gives sends a message, and for the sake of harmony, it had better be the right message. Larry's message was we move on to a different department.
We stopped at a jewelry counter. Here there were gift possibilities. On the bottom shelf was a gold-colored rope necklace. Larry asked the saleswoman what the going rate was on golden rope. She told him confidentially, and a look of dismay came over his face. Golden rope apparently had a golden price. Larry let out a heavy sigh and suggested we keep on looking.
Down the street a few blocks was a pet store. In the window was the most beautiful Persian-Angora cat. Larry began to smile. What a perfect gift. But it cost $800.
So Larry was no longer smiling. And neither one of us had any reliable data on cat commerce. We had not the slightest idea of what a cat should and should not cost. Larry had grown up on a farm, where there were cats everywhere, but he could not sell one for $800 and get away with it.
So Larry tried haggling, attempting to get the price of the cat down. But the talent that worked so well in auto dealerships was not working with cats. The salesman wouldn't budge.
Larry asked if there were any cats in the store that were reduced. The word reduced caused a flicker of annoyance across the salesman's face. That question didn't work, so Larry spoke more plainly. Could he get a cat for $10? This question only made the salesman more annoyed.
The salesman was a cat connoisseur, and Larry was sounding like a clod in his negotiations. I had all I could do to keep a straight face. It was an impasse, and highly unbusinesslike. Larry was seeking a bargain-basement cat and was getting nowhere fast.
Still, Larry was determined to buy that cat. The trouble was, he had just paid the rent, the utilities, the insurance, and gotten major repairs on the car. The salesman was now wearing his most perplexed face to date. I could read it: Just what was Larry planning to do? Larry said he had enough to put down, and he would make a cat payment once a week. The salesman said no. The cat could not be purchased on the installment plan. Larry let out a sigh; he had run out of options. He had been defeated fair and square.
Nothing would be more spectacular than that cat, but he felt quietly foolish, having negotiated for a member of the feline elite. So he found a charm bracelet that seemed more practical.
But Larry didn't end up completely catless. His neighbors were going away on vacation, and had asked his wife to look after their cats while they were gone. The neighbors' cats had their own names, but Larry named them for their color or characteristic: black kitty, brown kitty, beige kitty, orange kitty, and skinny kitty.
Skinny kitty was Larry's favorite. He looked as though he could walk through a keyhole. He turned his nose up at expensive cat food, and went for pasta and ravioli in a big way. That was a sight to behold on the kitchen floor, a thoroughly undisturbed cat who was red-faced from tomato sauce, having a huge battle with strands of mozzarella cheese.