Saturday, March 9, 2019

Wasted visit?

Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, I hopped an AMTRAK to New York.  While on the train I booked a hotel and tried to reach my brother.  I checked out a particular show on Broadway I wanted to see and, at that time, there were some half priced tickets available. I figured I would check into the hotel, just a few blocks from Penn Station, meet my brother for a drink, go see the show, and in general be one of those people who crams a good deal into a short period of time, by going and doing.

Well, when you wait until the last minute, things don't always work out well.  My brother, go figure, wasn't available at the 11th hour for an adult beverage. By the time I checked into my hotel the tickets for the show I wanted to see were gone. When I went to the box office considering paying full price the tickets for even ridiculously priced seats were also gone.  When I walked into the hotel I got hijacked by an agent who convinced me to go to listen to a time share at 9am the next morning.  ("What are you going to do at 9am anyway" she said. Not exactly a vote of confidence for my sexual allure.  "And you will get 30,000 points plus a breakfast in an upscale hotel.").   And on Saturday after the presentation, I again tried to get seats to the matinee of the show and was shut out again.

I did, however, visit the Strand bookstore, (one thing I planned that did happen) and saw the many sports books they had on the first floor.  I had gone there a couple of years ago but only had a few moments. This time I was able to check it out.  They have a pretty extensive section of used books that are sports related.

Besides the Strand, though, the visit was not a complete wash.  After my interaction with the box office on 45th street, I walked down to a place on 7th avenue that my brother had taken me to, years before, called Mustang Harry's.  In a manner most consistent with the prior successes, there was not a seat at the bar. So, I kept on walking down 7th avenue and came to another sports bar called The Triple Crown.  There I parked myself for an hour or so.

I was watching James Harden do his magic when a fellow to my right poked me.  I'd noticed him before, and had overheard him converse with the barkeep in what was some variation of a UK accent.  He had a cool baseball cap on with the brim folded up. A white tee shirt. Big black framed glasses. And looked altogether, well, cool. As if someone had picked out the duds for a look of a guy in a bar who looked sort of grungy attractive.

I turned to him when he poked me. He raised his finger toward the screen where James Harden was shooting baskets.

"How many points" he asked "do you get if you put the ball in the basket?"

He had to be kidding me, right?

Dead serious.  This guy did not know the first thing about basketball. I told him how the scoring went.  He could not quite the hang of foul shots, and why--if there was a three point goal--there was not a four point goal if you shot from half court. He also wanted to know about offsides in basketball. As almost all readers of this blog know, but he did not, unlike soccer or hockey there is no offside in basketball. You can pitch a tent on one end of the court and never move and you will be fine.

We got to speak about this and that.  He is originally from South Africa but now lives in Singapore. He is here in the US to meet up with a partner of his. The two make prefab edifices for resorts. Who knew such business existed. As soon as he got off the plane at Kennedy his partner whisked him away to a retreat he has in Ashland New York.  I thought I knew New York but never heard of Ashland.  Had he not been able, of course, to pull up a Google map right there in Triple Crown bar on 7th Avenue and show me precisely where it was, I might have thought the guy had gotten the name wrong. We spoke about Nelson Mandela, the changes in Pretoria and Capetown. His parents' locksmith business which, because of an increasing crime rate, is not a bad business to own in Capetown.

So, was this a wasted visit?

Well, I did not get to see the show, but I got to meet a fellow from Capetown who makes prefab buildings, and learn that the ANC, according to my drinking partner, is not what it was under Mandela.  And that there is a town called Ashland in the Catskills. And you can do worse than own a locksmith enterprise in Capetown.

After, the Triple Crown I started to walk back to the hotel, but--since I was not driving and had remarkably maintained my marbles after two beers in the Triple Crown, stopped in at a Blarney Stone on 8th Avenue. Within minutes I was joined by a woman who was into the music so much so that she sang with it. She, apparently, was a regular and stopped by the bar frequently after work on her way home. She gave me a high five after a song that I had never heard before.  I thought she might be a working gal when she clasped my hand and asked me my name. But then, she began moving around and chatting with some other regulars. Just holding court at her local haunt.

And then today I started recapping the various people I had met on this short journey. The fellow seated next to me on the train down to New York. He from Bentley College was an Actuary and explained, in response to my questions, the various things an Actuary does.  He was sort of taken aback when I initially summarized what he did as "predicting when guys like me will die."  Without taking much offense, he provided a bit of an education which I found quite interesting. He had been interested in math as a kid, as I had I, and being an Actuary he thought was a good way of applying math and probability. And besides learning about what it means to be an Actuary, my training partner had some thoughts about the plight of the Celtics which we enjoyed discussing.

Then when I arrived at the hotel on day 1, as mentioned previously, there was Karen from near Springfield Missouri who works for Wyndham. In no time she had me convinced that I could still see a matinee on Saturday afternoon and listen to a spiel about Wyndham resorts in the morning, plus get 30000 Reward points.  It took her a while to fill out the paperwork that allowed me to earn these points that apparently have value, so we got to chatting. She is a graduate of the prestigious University of Missouri Journalism school and decided to switch from the country to Manhattan. She'd been in the dot coms for a stretch, real estate, and now works for Wyndham.

Then there was Pedro who was the agent who tried to sell me owner points (different from rewards points I, well, discover).  Pedro and I spent as much time speaking about Jimmy Garropolo, the San Francisco 49ers, and Kyrie Irving, than about time shares.  Michelle gave the main spiel while Pedro was assigned to me. There must have been forty potential marks in this room, each with a dedicated salesperson like Pedro, who laughed dutifully at Michelle's humor (actually she was pretty funny).  I got to see the New York units (very hoo hah).  And learn, though not by design, about a type of persuasive communication strategy that I don't recall studying in graduate school. Theirs was a tag team match. You had Pedro, then Michelle, then Pedro's boss who came around twice to try and seal a deal, then a woman who did an exit interview (she the lone sourpus of the lot) and then one final step where they checked me out and gave it just one more swing. What an operation.  Pedro, Pedro, he's our man, if he can't do it, Michelle can, Michelle Michelle, she's our man, if she can't do it the boss can, boss boss he's our man if he can't do it the boss's boss can...and so forth.

A wasted trip? Well, I did not see the show, missed my brother, planned it poorly, but now I am enriched because I know a man from Singapore by way of Capetown, a regular visitor at the Blarney Stone, Pedro, Michelle, Karen from Springfield, what an Actuary does, that the Strand really does have an extensive sports selection and a pretty decent Art selection (though I am hardly a good person to judge), I observed an interesting and complex persuasive strategy and also that you better get there early on a Friday night if you want to sit at the bar at Mustang Harry's. I learned a lot.

Oh, and I also learned that it costs 3.50 for burnt coffee on the AMTRAK.

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