“Your friend Dick is a storyteller,” said Agnes, “because he loves the subject of his stories, and his desire to share their stories is how he shows his gratitude. More important, though, is that in learning their stories, he can adjust his approach and create the environment that will be the most productive for his team. That’s the raw material for stoking your business.”
“That guy didn’t use a WUP, though, did he, Farber?” Cam allowed a small smile to cross his face.
“Never heard of it, I’m sure, Cam,” I said. “But he’d have been all over it if he had.” I was taking my own mental inventory of how much I really knew about my customers and colleagues, and I was coming up painfully short. I knew the basics, sure. After all, I had just told a story about Dick, but my knowledge of others didn’t really run very deep at all. If Mary Ellen was able to do it on a glorified order pad, then I was sure I could, too.
“Well, then,” Agnes said as she pushed herself up from the table. “That’s a pretty good start for today, don’t you think?”
“Start?” exclaimed Cam.
“Put it this way, sugar,” she said as she looked around the diner. “Your fascination with others gives you the raw material to focus on and wrap your business around your customers and employees. Your gratitude keeps them engaged and coming back, but if that’s all you do in your time on this earth, it will have been wasted time, to be sure. There are two more elements of the Radical Edge, remember?”
“Amp your life and change the world,” I proclaimed, ever the alert student. Actually, I had written it in my WUP on one of the “Eavesdrop” pages, but given the situation, I didn’t consider that cheating.
“Gotta have all three, boys. Gotta have all three.” She turned to walk away and then paused and looked back at us. “By the way,” she said as if she’d just remembered, “Your check has been taken care of by a friend of yours.”
“Really? Who? Smitty?” I guessed.
“It doesn’t really matter, does it, Steve? But be sure to show your gratitude to Mary Ellen with a nice, fat tip.” She winked at Cam and as she shuffled toward the front door she looked back over her shoulder one more time.
“See you tonight,” she called. “And don’t you dare be late.” Tonight?
This kind of thing shouldn’t scare me anymore, but when I opened the door to my apartment and Smitty jumped out from the kitchen shouting an enthused Hey there, buddy! I nearly spat my heart right out of my mouth. Definitely time to change the security code, I thought as my eyes settled back in my head. He was drinking a glass of orange juice, which scared me, too, because I really couldn’t remember buying it.
“Hope you brought that with you, Smitty, because if it came from my fridge, I can’t vouch for its safety.”
“Aged to perfection,” he said, patting his stomach. “And guts of titanium.”
“And to what do I owe this wonderful surprise? You get lost on your way to Nordstrom?” He was wearing a tie-dyed
tank I figured had around the same purchase date as that
“Just being the messenger, once again, my wry pal-o-meeno.” He handed me a piece of paper with driving directions scrawled on it in thick pencil.
When Cam and I were leaving the diner, Mary Ellen had intercepted us and said she’d be calling me with directions to Agnes’s house in Del Mar.
“Dinner is at 6:30,” she said. “But Agnes usually turns in early, so don’t plan on staying very long. And she drinks red, so you may want to bring a bottle of cab.”
I don’t know if Cam had mastered the look of incredulity before today, but he sure had it down now.
“I never said I was available for dinner,” he’d said. “I’ve got plans tonight, so I’ll have to pass.”
Mary Ellen looked at me as if to say, take care of it, please, and hurried off to tend to a customer. So, I did. After cajoling Cam all the way back to the car, I’d finally gotten him to commit to one hour at Agnes’s place. I’d closed the deal by offering to bring the wine, and we drove in blessed silence back to Mission Beach where he’d left his car last year—I mean earlier that morning.
“This is how Mary Ellen calls?” I said to Smitty. This guy was like a walking telegram. “Is this your new job, Western Union man?”
“I yam what I yam and I do what I do; if’n you don’t like it then shame on you.” He howled with laughter, having charmed the stuffing out of himself with his little rhyme. “So…” he wiggled his eyebrows above his tinted glasses, “… how’d it go with little Cammie and Agnes the Magnificent?”
I wanted to say that I was hoping Cam would get stuck on the railroad tracks and run over by the Amtrak Coaster, but I was too nice to say that out loud. I didn’t really mean it either, that would be way too troublesome for all those innocent passengers.
“We’ll see about Cam,” I told him. “Just when I think something is sinking into that concrete cranium of his he says or does something to really tweak my gizzards.” I stopped for a moment, fished my WUP out of my shirt pocket, and wrote tweak my gizzards. I don’t know why, just a spontaneous impulse, I guess. And I was trying to get myself in the habit of WUPing.
“But Agnes,” I went on, “really is magnificent. I’ve never met anyone like her. I can’t wait to spend more time just soaking up her perspective on things.”
“Well, I sure wish I could be there with you for dinner at her house tonight,” said Smitty. “I was invited, ya know,” he insisted, catching my expression, “but I convinced her that it’d be better if I wasn’t present and accounted for this evening.”
“Just a feeling, that’s all.”
“What kind of feeling?” I asked with a subtle, growing sense of foreboding.
“Well, I think there’s a storm comin’ in, so I wanna be home where it’s nice and cozy.”
A storm in San Diego is newsworthy, but I hadn’t heard anything about it and said so to Smitty.
“Not that kind of storm, you ninny.”
“What do you mean? What other kind is there?” He shot me a roguish grin. “A shit storm.”
[Note: I’m excited to share my second book, The Radical Edge, in serial fashion here on SteveFarber.com! We’ll post one installment a week until the very end of the book. You can go back and read from the beginning here. If you ever get impatient and want to scarf the whole thing down at once, you can always just pop over to Amazon and satiate yourself.]