A couple of days ago, one of the salesmen who stops by regularly invited me to go golfing with him this weekend. I begged off graciously. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time outdoors and I surely could use the exercise. The problem is the game. I simply don’t have any skill at it. The only time that I golf is when someone has a serious and abiding need for comedic relief. I’m the world’s worst golfer.
That’s not hyperbole. I am the world’s worst golfer; close friends have told me that on many occasions. The best game I ever had I scored a seventy-six…in the first three holes. After the third hole, the guys I was playing with took a vote and let me throw the ball until I got to the green.
Many years ago I worked for a company that had an annual golf tournament for customers and staff and, despite my protests, I was required to participate. The conversation went something like this:
“Don’t forget, the annual golf tournament is next Saturday,” said my boss, Paul, as he saw me walking through the office.
“I don’t do golf,” I replied in my best ‘don’t bother me with trivia’ voice.
“This is THE annual tournament. You do this.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do.”
“Where in my job description does it mention that I have to hit a dimpled ball into a hole using a stick with a knob on it?”
“You’re a regional sales engineer, so that falls under the section labeled – Other Duties as Directed.”
“I can’t golf. I will do nothing but slow everyone down.”
“None of us have any skills. You’ll blend in perfectly.”
“There’s a difference between having no skills and sucking on a level never before seen.”
We went back and forth for twenty minutes until, in exasperation, Paul said, “Alright! You don’t have to play golf, but you do have to show up. If you’re not playing, then you’re driving one of the beverage carts. Negotiations are over.”
“Done!” I answered as I turned and walked away.
I showed up on Saturday, bright and early as planned. We had three beverage carts set up to keep all the golfers hydrated and fed while they were busy beating the crap out of little white balls. I was in the lead cart and waited until the third foursome had teed off before heading into the course with a cooler full of drinks and a box full of snacks. I shared duties on my cart with Denise, a young engineer who worked in our technical center. Somehow she had talked her way onto a beverage cart too.
The lead foursome was made up of the president of the company, one of our largest customers, Bruce who was the VP of sales, and Bob who was the company controller. The only one I’d ever met face to face was Bruce, who had hired me nearly a year before. We caught up to them just as they were preparing to tee off on the fourth hole. As the cart slowed to a stop, Bob walked over and said, “You’re just in time. I’m hungry and thirsty. Give me a Pepsi and a bag of Fritos.”
I reached into the cooler, pulled out a can of Pepsi and gave it to him. Then I reached into the large box on the rear seat and retrieved a bag of corn chips. Just as I was about to ask the next person what they wanted, Bob, asked, “How much do I owe you?”
My memory is that I hesitated for quite a while before speaking. Denise told me later that it was only a couple of seconds. “That’s a dollar fifty for the drink and a dollar twenty-five for the chips, so that’s a total of two seventy-five,” I answered as I held out my hand.
“Here you go; keep the change,” he said as he handed me three dollars.
Bruce was next in line and I expected him to bust me for the charade, but he slipped me a quick wink, ordered a drink and a snack and dropped three dollars in my hand. The other two guys in the foursome did the same, so I ended the stop twelve bucks up.
As we drove away, Denise looked at me and said, “You can’t do that. These drinks and snacks are supposed to be free. The company already paid for them!”
“That’s a minor technicality,” I replied. “Take that pad and pencil and keep track of how much we get today and who we…uh…serve.”
She gave me a worried look, but complied.
The only guys we ‘sold’ product to were the ones in that first foursome and we hit them five times during the round. Each time, I cranked up my sales pitch a bit and raked in sales higher than the stop before. Bruce was trying so hard not to laugh that, by the last visit, I thought he was going to pull a groin muscle from the strain.
At last call, Bob walked up, ordered a Snickers bar and a Pepsi and gave me a twenty dollar bill. I reached into my pocket to get change for him and he said, “Nope, you did a great job today. You keep the rest of it for a tip. Be sure to share it with your partner there.” Then he smiled and went back to the tee. Bruce and the other two guys saw what he did and they followed suit, each of them giving us a seventeen dollar tip.
That night, the company was having a dinner for everyone who attended the tournament. I walked in dressed in a suit, which was in stark contrast to the shorts and polo shirt that I’d been wearing on the cart. As I made my way through the tables, I passed the one where Bruce, Bob and the other two players were sitting. Bob looked up as I walked by and caught my stare. He looked at me quizzically for a moment before saying, “Aren’t you the guy who drove the beverage cart?”
“I sure am,” I answered.
“What are you doing here?”
“Well, in my day job, I handle engineering for the Carolinas, so I kind of had to stop by. My name’s Jerry,” I said as I extended my hand.
“So you drive a beverage cart on the side?”
“No, I just did that to help out today. The company supplied the snacks and drinks.”
“But I…we…paid you for those.”
“I know, but you offered and as a good sales engineer, I couldn’t resist.” With that, I reached into my coat and pulled out a separate envelope for each of the four guys. Inside the envelopes was the money that they’d paid for the refreshments.
Bob opened his and, after counting the money, said, “This is seventeen dollars short.”
“I know. It wouldn’t be right to charge you for the cost of the snacks and drinks since they were already paid for, but the last seventeen dollars was a tip. I’m keeping that.”
Apparently, Bruce was done trying not to laugh. When I said that I was keeping the tip, he fell into a laughing fit that ended with tears steaming down his face and his forehead resting on the table. The laugh was infectious and the other two gentlemen at the table joined in. Bob was the only one who sat stone faced, waiting for me to give him the last seventeen dollars.
He waited for an eternity because, as the laughter started to die down, I smiled, nodded my head at the four players and found my way to my seat. Somehow, Bruce talked Bob out of firing me.
The next year came and another golf tournament came with it. Again Paul and I had an animated discussion and again I drove the beverage cart. Bruce, Bob and the other two were in the lead foursome once more and, as I pulled in the cart for the first stop, Bob was the first one to the cart.
“I’ll have a Pepsi and a bag of barbecue chips,” he said in a slightly curt voice.
I smiled, reached into the cooler and gave him the can. As I followed that with the bag of chips, I flipped my hand over, extended it palm up and waited.
“Not this time!” he said as his eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared just a little.
As he turned to walk away, I smiled and said, “Hey, you can’t blame me for trying.”
Denise tapped me on the arm and said, “You play way too close to the edge for me. Next year, I’m asking for a different partner.”
Sometimes I miss playing golf.