Early Preparation – Were You Thinking? (Issue 735)

In which we are reminded that winging it can reduce our credibility with clients.

“What could work?”

I stood in the middle of the white walled, hardwood floored, brightly lit, floral scented gift store and turned a few degrees to my right, hungry eyes looking for…something. Beautiful photographs of brightly colored tropical birds in a bin? No. Two elaborately colored ceramic horses on a shelf? No, neither of them. Dark 24” x 24” barn wood-framed landscape paintings hanging on the wall? Nope, none of those.

I turned a few more degrees to the right. A table on which displayed… what ARE those?…. pottery dishes of some sort, glistening white with edges upturned resembling tissue paper crinkled as if just released from a too-small box. Nope, not those. Propped up on the nearby floor, a watercolor painting of an old, red, New England barn, door ajar. Definitely not.

A few more degrees right. Glass display cases of handmade jewelry – rings, pendants, necklaces made from shells or beads or who knows what. Definitely not.

Fifteen minutes left, I noticed, glancing at my phone. Not even that. Twelve minutes. I had to leave for my good friend’s birthday dinner in twelve minutes. A spiraling stab of adrenaline curved up and across my belly.

“May I help you find something?” the store owner sweetly inquired. “Or, are you alright?”

Oh, yes, I’m alright, thanks, just hitting stride. Twelve minutes to find an appropriate birthday gift for a good friend celebrating a sixty-ish birthday… and a card…and gift wrapping…. in this store, right now, I’ve no time and no place else to go.

Apparently, this is what I live for, life on the edge – that sweet pop of C9H13NO3 and creativity …. “Oh, I could put this with that, and add one of those, and… oh, yes, I like the card on the top of that rack, I could … Oh, YES, I could position them this way in the birthday message in the card, and WOW, that would be GREAT, she would LOVE that. Me at my creative deadline-approaching best.

Six minutes remaining. No ideas. I smoothed silently across the polished hardwood floor, back through the store, glancing at the displayed objects d’art, trying them on, playing with them – what story could I tell about this one… or that one…. or the one over there?

Routine pulses of adrenaline were now R I P P I N G across my belly. I took two deep breaths and exhaled, slowly. Glancing at the back wall of the store, I had an idea. A wonderful, magical, lovely idea.

From a top shelf just left of center at the back, I lifted a smooth hand-shaped mahogany and ebony jewelry or knick-knack box carved in the shape of a short-trunked, mature, widely branched leafy tree. From the rack next to the customer service desk, I snagged a card on the front of which was a picture of a young sapling in spring bloom and wrote artsy deathless prose about living life as a sapling while enjoying the benefits of a mature bushy canopy. Something like that.

Quick hands with payment and gift wrapping and I was out the door only a minute late. I would be on time for the dinner with a gift package my friend was NOT likely to receive from her other dinner guests.

VICTORY!!!!!! I had done it again.

“Except,” I thought as I drove away, “… stupid. Why risk, for a dear friend, showing up empty-handed or with a gift that prompts her to think, ‘Were you thinking about me when you bought this….?” It’s not like this birthday or her celebration dinner had dropped out of nowhere… one could see them coming.

I’ve had the same thought, from time to time, on the way to client meetings or sales calls, insufficiently prepared for whatever reason, feeling tightness of time, grasping for ideas in the last few butterfly-bellied minutes beforehand, hoping that some creative, relevant thought would  flow from my lips in the course of discussion so that the client wouldn’t think, “Were you thinking about me before you came here?”



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