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Even Bunions Can't Keep a Good Negotiator Down!

Jennifer knew her mother to be a top-notch negotiator. She had sold real estate for years, owned her own business, a property maintenance company, and loved to make a deal. As a woman in a man’s industry, she had the Ginger Rogers philosophy. Be better, even if you have to dance backwards and do it in heels.


So, when Jennifer left for a three-week vacation she had no doubt her mother, along with her dad, an astute businessman, could manage the contractor doing their bathroom remodel. Pascal had redone Jennifer’s house from the studs up. It had taken a year; it was exquisite, and he felt the results made him part of the family.


Problem being, he wasn’t. At least in Jennifer’s eyes. He was just a contractor with a French accent, who charged a lot of money. Probably ten percent above the going rate at least. But he was trustworthy, impeccable, and forthright. Sometimes too forthright, but she assigned his candor to French ancestry.

What Jennifer forgot was that her parents had aged. She still saw them as they once were. Tough, relentless negotiators, energetic, always astute and determined, successful, winners.


Pascal wore them down with the first trip to Tile Man. He walked them through seemingly endless rows of marble, porcelain, travertine, and on and on. Mom decided to sit down in one of the model bathrooms after fifteen minutes. “Couldn’t we just do this? My feet bunions hurt and I’m tired.” In response, her husband simply glared at the pink marble and kept walking. Within thirty minutes, Dad sat down in the black and white retro-tile bathroom and said, “I think this is it!” They both kept hoofing along. No resolution. Everyone was hot and frustrated, especially Pascal.


The next day, Pascal brought three samples for the parents to review and steered them toward sample A. They agreed because it looked okay, and they were tired of the whole scenario. They just wanted a raised toilet to flush and a tiled shower with a pulsing head.


“Sure,” they said. “If you think the design, the tile and the marble will look good, go for it. It just needs to be done before our daughter gets home from vacation. You know how she can be.” And he did.


Two days before Jennifer’s return, Pascal called Mom into the shower and said, “What do you think? Do you love it? It’s so French!”


Mom paled and stated, “I have to sit down.” The ceiling was finished with a gray and white leaf patterned tile, matching the floor of the shower. The walls were gray, white, and gold marble. It looked like a tiled coffin, or a rummage sale gone wrong.


“What, you don’t like it,” Pascal inquired dismayed.


“It’s not I don’t like it,” Mom responded. “It’s just, well, it’s horrible,” and she began to cry.


Pascal really liked the family and especially the mom, but he didn’t understand. It was the latest in French design. He’d expected applause not condemnation.


Dad and Mom stated, “Take the tile off the ceiling. Who tiles a shower ceiling anyway? See if that helps.”


It did, a little, but not quite enough to appease Jennifer when she arrived home eager to review Pascal’s masterpiece.


“Oh my …..obscenity after obscenity,” followed. “What the…. obscenity after obscenity….. I can’t even talk to you now, Pascal. After all the money I paid you, you rushed this job and ruined my parents’ bathroom. They’ll never be able to sell the house with the bathroom looking like this. "What the…".obscenity repeated again.


The next day, Jennifer refused to let the Frenchman in the house and spoke, or rather yelled at him in the driveway. When he came back to address the parents, his eyes were filled with tears. He had loved this family, taken an interest in Jennifer’s career, her children’s sports, the grandparents, everything. For a year he had dedicated himself to improving their home. This is how he was thanked!


Mom was distraught. She knew her daughter to be tough. “What happened? What did she say?”


“She wants a five-thousand-dollar discount, meaning this job will actually cost me money. I don’t understand. It’s the latest in French design. I lost another job to complete this for you, Madame.”


Mom knew he loved the line, “Latest in French design.” She also knew better than to ever let a contractor leave one’s premises feeling disrespected and unhappy, let alone cheated.


“Mon Ami, un moment, je propose un compromise,” she stated in her respectable but rusty French.


She pulled out her checkbook and wrote him a check for twenty-five hundred dollars. “Will this be an acceptable peace offering?”


“I cannot take it, Madame. So kind of you, but your daughter, she would not like it.”


“My daughter doesn’t have to know, and this is between you and me, Monsieur. I don’t need her approval. I insist.”


“Well, could you make the check out to my daughter, Emily, please? She wants to go to a trade school to train dogs. This would be her tuition.”


“Mais bien sur, Monsieur Pascal. Avec Plaisir.”


Even bunions can’t keep a good negotiator down.

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