My next call was Alliance Floors, a large retail shop whose retailer was my long-time friend Alfred Johnson. Originally from England, he had a lovely Manchester accent. I had worked with him many years ago in a Melbourne floor covering shop where I got to know him very well. He was what people called ‘an eager beaver’, that is, hard-working, with a cheerful disposition and with his dry English observations, I always looked forward to seeing him again!
Entering his large shop, I found it empty, except for a pretty lady who was adjusting a stack of rugs – clearly a good housewife.
‘Hello! Would Alfred be around?’
She looked up at me and smiled: ‘No, sorry, he had to rush out on an urgent case and will be away for a while. I am Elizabeth, his wife!’
‘Nice to meet you Elizabeth! How are things, is business going well?’ I handed her my business card.
‘Oh, you are Peter – Al has told me a lot about you! Only good things, of course,’ she added with a giggle. ‘I have a photo at home with you and Al from your Melbourne days.
‘That’s nice, Elizabeth…..well, how is your business? I repeated my question.
‘Yes, thank you! We cannot complain.’
‘Al is a very hard worker, I know. And it is very nice of you to help him in the shop.’
She laughed: ‘Oh, I am just an unpaid worker, you know!’
‘You are a great help to him, I am sure. And should get some reward for all your good work!‘ I tried to flatter her.
And without any change in her conversational tone, I heard her say: ‘Oh, I get it every Sunday morning!’
I froze on the spot! This was one of those moments when I had the feeling of not having heard right.
‘She cannot possibly mean what I think she means’ were my thoughts. Or, perhaps, did somebody else say that in this shop? Red-faced and looking helplessly around I became aware of her pealing laughter, loud and with ‘joie de vivre’ as the French say. And her state of merriment increased in direct proportion to my embarrassment.
Finally, shaking myself out of it, I gave her some new sample swatches of PVC vinyl floorings, together with pricelist and technical data sheets. I was surprised to discover that she was very conversant in this field and offered to pass-on to Al all my imparted knowledge. Finally, grateful for her expertise, I took my leave and sat in my car for a while to ponder the situations I sometimes get into.