“…but seriously, who goes out of their way to specifically request coleslaw?”
Richard’s fingers immediately halted their assault on Candy Crush 2. Their owner placed his iPhone down gently and resumed their progress on his ham-and-swiss melt on sourdough. “People with taste, my philistinic friend,” he boomed good-naturedly. “Chefs! Renowned figures throughout history! Me, if I may say so.”
Joseph stared at his coworker’s desk, where a small plastic tub of the offending condiment rested. “It’s doggy-paddling in mayo, Richard. How am I supposed to trust a mayo-based foodstuff?”
“Joseph, my brother: first of all, it’s a sandwich,” Richard snorted, shaking the sandwich in his hand briefly to emphasize his point. “Secondly, this coleslaw is made with vinaigrette!”
Whatever quip Richard might have levied in reply was drowned out by one of his favorite sounds: the phone’s impatient-yet-melodious wail. The ringtone was part of the phone system’s premium package, and the two partners had sparred for weeks over whether or not pleasant ringtones actually constituted a legitimate business expense. In the end, Richard proved triumphant; he could compromise on most issues in a pinch, but some things were simply too important. “Call on Line 1! You’re up.”
A slight grin slid across Joseph’s face as he deposited himself into his desk chair. “I am indeed.” He tapped the blinking blue light and closed his eyes. “Thanks for calling Sell & Yell. This is Joseph,” he crooned in a voice considerably more professional-sounding than his own. “What can we solve for you today?” He nodded as the caller spoke, scribbling notes in shorthand that only he knew how to decipher. “Mmmmhm. And could I have your name, please? I see. And Mr. Reed, which instrument will our team be chastising for you? Or instruments, plural, if you’re interested in our group discount, of course.” He listened for a beat or two. “Fantastic. May I place you on a brief hold? Thank you so much.” A quick pat on the HOLD button, and their potential client was listening to the soulful sounds of Savage Garden.
“He claims it’s a ‘recalcitrant saxophone.’ When was the last time you hollered at one of those?”
“Hammprrufg.” Richard rubbed his chin, the sleeve of his red flannel shirt flapping softly from the movement. “Either…July 2003 for that Berlin politician’s kid, or…never. That Berlin thing might’ve been an oboe.”
“Definitely an oboe.” Joseph often displayed a surprisingly-accurate recall in these matters. “A surprisingly cantankerous Loree d’Amore, if I recall.”
“Oboe, saxophone…it’s probably a similar process.” Richard always claimed—no matter what the instrument or the circumstances—that every case Sell & Yell accepted was similar to a previous one. It was rarely true, but both partners recognized the importance of company morale. “I could fit him in at 2:30.”
“Are you sure? Because—” Joseph’s mouse zoomed towards his computer’s taskbar, and clicked the icon to open his browser. One hundred and thirty-two open tabs shouted their greeting in union. “I’ve got to switch over to a physical calendar instead of relying on apps.”
“You’ve been saying that since the 90s,” Richard muttered.
“Listen, we can’t all be natural polymaths.”
“What? My dude, we’re talking about using a calendar.”
“You’ve got Mrs. Grundy’s bagpipes at 2:30. I knew that slot sounded occupied.” Joseph’s finger traced through the current week of Sell & Yell’s existence, one half-hour at a time. “You wanna tell him tomorrow at 10 AM?”
“How much coffee do we have left in the breakroom?”
“Considering only one of us drinks coffee, Richard, this isn’t an area of my expertise. Why do you ask?”
“Look, when YOU handle Reproachments, you can start whatever rituals YOU require. And I’d prefer coffee prior to yelling at my first saxophone, please. Offer him 10:30.”
A few seconds to recalibrate; selling mode reactivated. “Thanks for holding, Mr. Reed,” Joseph said in a velvety, sincere tone. “I’ve consulted with our top Yeller, and he’ll be available tomorrow at 10:30 AM. Will that work for you and your saxophone? It will? Excellent. Now, is this the best number to reach you?”
Richard scooted his chair closer to the one-sided conversation. “Tell him about our Wouldn’t-Winds package,” he whispered.
Joseph frowned and waved his co-worker off, trying to retain his focus. “We don’t HAVE a Wouldn’t-Winds package!”, he hissed. “Oh, my apologies, Mr. Reed. One of my associates left the television in the Scream Room on.”
“The guy’s name is Mr. REED, and he’s hiring me to holler at a saxophone,” the coleslaw-enthusiast explained slowly, disappointed that such an ideal opportunity required Cliff Notes. “It would be irresponsible to not even recommend the Wouldn’t-Winds package!”
“I made stickers!”
“I apologize, Mr. Reed. May I place you on hold again for one moment? Thank you.” Joseph inhaled deeply, processing this information. He hadn’t realized. “Are…are they..puffy stickers?”
“In—” The thought jammed in his mind; he couldn’t clear the intersection. “In a—”
“In a variety pack, yes. C’mon, bud, what do you take me for? All these years out here in the trenches, fightin’ the good fight against a bunch of hoity-toity instruments that refuse to stay in tune? It’s a holy mission, you know? Puffy stickers promoting it have been on your bucket list for years. You don’t pull the trigger on something like that unless you’re committed to doing it right.”
Joseph bobbed his head sagely. “Amen,” he said quietly, giving Richard a fistbump. “So, uh…the stickers are the Sell & Yell, logo, right? How does that fit into a woodwinds package?”
“Some are in the shape of a guitar, with our logo splashed across the pickguard. I figure I can borrow one of your Sharpies and transform the guitar into a saxophone.”
“I’m not an expert, but I’m reasonably positive that’s not a thing,” Joseph replied. But Richard, Yeller Extraordinaire, was already rooting through his desk with zeal, enticed by the thrill of the hunt.
Sell & Yell’s top scheduler turned his attention back to the call. “Sir, I appreciate your holding. You’re all set for 10:30 AM tomorrow morning. However, I would like to mention a brand-new premium package we very recently launched—”
“There’s also a T-shirt!” Richard’s disembodied voice floated out an open desk drawer. “But it’s my test print, so they’re only available in Medium. I suppose that technically, it’s limited edition. Tell him that if becomes a Wouldn’t-Winds Member today and books a follow-up appointment now, he’ll receive a flash drive that includes every episode of my Screamin’ At Scales podcast.”
“WHEN DID YOU—”
“Well, I haven’t actually recorded any episodes yet,” the Yeller admitted. “That’s what tonight is for!”
Joseph held his head in his hands—but his partner knew that at least half the exasperation was feigned, and by the morning, it would dissolve completely. Their days often lacked the perfect harmony, but it hardly mattered: Their labor was, as Richard argued, a holy mission, and no other volume-themed occupation could match the satisfaction that came with doing the Lord’s work.
Back in September, I had a day where I just couldn’t keep my guitars in tune. I posted about that on Facebook, which led to this discussion:
Want to see everything I’ve created in the same place? Because you can do that!