Things take a strange turn after a prospective client comes to Bill Prince with a design idea, but can only talk after dark.
I was going to be busy all day. I had to drop off an engine at Jimmy’s to match some exhaust silencers he had gotten. I had to pick up my brother-in-law at the hospital and drive him back to the house for dinner that night.
After staying up too late the night before watching Goodfellas for the 35th time, I stopped at the office to catch up on things first. The rest of the crew wasn’t in at this hour, so I could work uninterrupted until I had to go.
See, I was cooking dinner that night. And I had to start braising the beef, pork butt and veal shanks for the tomato sauce.
I made a note to call my brother-in-law and have him stir the sauce in the kitchen later. And then the phone rang.
When the phone rings in a yacht design office, it could be anything. Sure, we get our fair share of spam calls, some imploring us to “please, don’t hang up” as we promptly do. But we get more than our share of interesting and strange calls, too.
“This is Bill,” I said.
“Bill, this is Spike. I’d like to talk to you about a new yacht.” We’ll call him Spike, anyway.
It turns out Spike was out west, two times zones behind me. Hearing his gravelly voice, I imagined Snoopy’s brother with the stockman hat and mustache standing next to a lonely cactus in the dark. It was 4:55 a.m. when he decided to pick up the phone and talk about a custom yacht from his whereabouts in the desert. I did most of the listening for 45 minutes or so, as I typically do on cold calls like this.
Spike wanted what a lot of people want in a multi-million-dollar yacht. I took notes, and as Spike trailed off, I suggested we schedule a more in-depth conversation later in the week to go into more detail.
Spike was pretty eager for that next conversation. He wanted to video conference with screen sharing, the whole deal. In fact, he wanted to do it tonight. Late tonight for me, given the time difference. Several hours after dinner, actually. I gently inquired as to the need for such specific timing, as normally I’d be in bed at the hour he proposed. Pregnant pause.
“Well, I need to have these conversations while my wife is asleep,” Spike grumbled.
The practice of qualifying a new prospective client is normally pretty straightforward. Sometimes there are twists in the plot, and even red flags once in a while. I thought I’d heard it all. The guy has to call his yacht designer while his wife is asleep? That was a new one.
As I left the office, a Coast Guard chopper flew overhead slowly, searching for a capsized vessel offshore. I called my brother-in-law, who had a better view from the kitchen. Heading back to Jimmy’s to look at the silencers, I thought about the reasons Spike might have for wanting to talk after his wife’s Ambien kicked in.
I told my brother-in-law to keep an eye on the stove. All day long the poor guy had been watching helicopters and sauce.
As soon as I got home, I started cooking. I mentioned to my wife that I had to go into the office late tonight for a long phone call. She started asking questions for which I apparently didn’t supply sufficient answers. I mumbled something about a guy named Spike. “Do you see that helicopter?” I asked.
Now I’m in the ironic position of wanting to ensure my wife knows I’m at the office on a business call at the same moment Spike is certain his wife is asleep and has no idea we’re talking boats.
And then the phone rang. And the screen lit up.
I kept looking out the window. The helicopter was gone.