Sunday, October 12, 2008

Embarrassing Moments Part II - in my twenties

When our children were young, FH (First Husband) and I lived on a very tight budget. FH took a second job as the cashier, one night a week, at a large, local auction. This auction house specialized in costly antiques, primarily shipped from England. FH would tell me, week after week, of all the interesting and beautiful pieces that passed through the doors and the high prices people were willing to pay for quality items. He encouraged me to come by some evening and see what it was like.

So one night, I arranged with a friend to watch the little ones and I headed to the auction. I was thrilled at the prospect of being around other adults for a bit and, even though I knew I would not buy anything, it was going to be fun to watch.

When I arrived, FH was seated at the cashier's station in the foyer. There was already a line of people paying for the items they had just purchased so I just waved and went into the main auction area. I sat close to the back and observed for a few minutes. I longingly eyed the large pieces of furniture that lined the walls.

About three items after my arrival, the auctioneer began to describe a lovely leaded-glass window composed of 9 panes and a weathered frame. I thought of how it might look decorating my country-styled home. $3... $3.50 .... $4 ... The auctioneer was talking so fast, describing the worth. I perked up. $5 .... now that was an item I could afford!! The bidding slowed down at $6.50.... my hand shot up - $7

SOLD! It was mine!

"What's your number?" asked the auctioneer.

Number? I didn't have a number -

"Your paddle number."
"Go to the back of the room and register. They will give you a number to claim your purchase."
What was that other thing he just said to me? Something about 7 and 9 panes ... I headed to the registration table. Funny I had not seen it in my haste when I arrived.
The gentleman carrying the window followed me and so did the owner of the auction. The big man himself. The guy the auction was named after ... my husband's boss. He and I had never met and as he approached me, I did not feel this was the appropriate time for introductions.
"What's going on here?" he asked. (It seemed more like a bellow to me.)
"She's not registered, Sir. It is not a problem. We are getting her registered right now."
Okay. I had my number and was then directed to the table where I could claim my recent purchase. The Big Boss followed me.
"Alright. That will be $7 times nine panes ... $63.00." GULP!
I felt my stomach doing somersaults. The clerk might as well have said, $63,000. I could not afford an old window for $63 no matter what cute decorating ideas had filled my head. My husband was sitting out there working a second job! I had gone out on a limb with even the $7 purchase. I mumbled something to the effect that I thought the total purchase price was $7. I could not afford it. I did not have $63. By now I was whispering and could feel my face turning scarlet.
Big Boss exploded. "Then why were you bidding? ... People come in here and don't know what they are doing ... now we will have to put it back up again!"
All I could do was apologize over and over. As he escorted me toward the foyer, he made himself clear.
"I want you to leave!"
Yes, Sir.
"I do not want you to come back here. You've got no business being here."
No, Sir ... I won't. I promise.
We were now in the lobby and FH looked up to see me, red-faced, being guided toward the door.
He started to get up but I motioned to him in a short-hand as if to say, "Don't. You don't know me." He froze. I'm pretty sure I also saw a look of relief.
I apologized again and headed to the parking lot. About a minute later FH joined me, standing next to the car. I explained what had happened. Big Boss did not know who I was.
"Please don't tell him I'm your wife."
"Don't worry. I won't."
FH then assured me that his boss had a reputation for his outbursts. He consoled me as the floodgates opened and the tears came.

I lived through that night but for over 10 years, my hands would sweat and my heart would race if I even saw an auction on television. When I finally did attend another auction, as a fund raiser for a civic event, I literally sat on my hands. Who knew what I might buy otherwise??


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Lesson Learned. If you do not know what you are doing, follow the 5 minute rule and watch :o)

a corgi said...

I think I would have done the same thing you did Donna; so glad they were able to put it back out to auction though