| By Mike Rogers
Edson Goodmark has had a rewarding but rough day. The inviting plush hotel bar seems to be a perfect place to relax, unwind, and recap the many events of the week. It’s been a busy week, a hectic week, a damn tough week, and a week in Hell for Edson. It was one of the largest conventions of the year for his industry, and all of his major customers were in attendance. He is tired, worn out, and much in need of some down time. Late dinners with customers every evening, long hours on the trade show floor, meetings every day, dirty cabs, rude hotel clerks, and canceled reservations, all take their toll. Ed is not unique. All the other account managers for DigitalXYZTech have equally been through the mill. However, the situation is not grim. Though it’s been a week in Hell the end results offer a year in Paradise, for Ed has closed several major accounts. Deals he’s been working on for months have jelled and he’s looking at an increased income as well as a healthy promotion. So the idea of spending some mellow time in the quiet hotel lounge offers a chance to reflect and plan. Every business traveler has been through it.
Happy hour has just ended; the day troupers have had their four cocktails, and have jumped into the rush hour traffic hoping to navigate the freeways without a ticket or an accident. Edson has been in the hotel for a week and will catch an early flight in the morning for the four-hour trip across country. He’s alone and likes it that way.
Gregg, the bartender, is busy rebuilding the Happy Hour damage behind the bar, and getting set for the dinner crowd. Business will be slow, as there has been a mass exodus as the convention attendees make the creep to the airport. Edson is enjoying a Corona while admiring Gregg’s artistic ability at whipping a bar into shape. A man sitting three stools away from Ed is toying with a small pocketknife, obviously entertaining himself with whatever he’s doing with it. Ed doesn’t recognize the stranger, but by his manner and dress he appears to be another convention attendee who’s hanging on for a few additional hours.
The stranger notices Ed watching him with the pocketknife and starts some bar small talk. “I’ve been at the Techno-Expo all week. What a show! How about you?”
Ed replies, “Same here, and I’m whipped, but what a great week. I’m Edson Goodmark.”
“Tell me about it, my feet are so tired my hands hurt. I’m Jim Shave from Buffalo.” Jim extends his hand for a warm greeting between two convention warriors. All the while Jim continues to open and close the knife for no apparent reason other than to amuse himself.
The two men swap a few anecdotes about the happenings of the week and the quality of the Techno-Expo. Jim continues to mess with the pocketknife until Edson’s curiosity takes control. He asks, “What is it with the nifty little pocket knife?” Ed has no idea if the knife is actually nifty, but he’s being polite. With that Jim shifts down a couple barstools moving right next to Ed.
“It’s a great thing Edward, one of the exhibitors wassh giving them away.” Jim had a difficult time forming some of his words.
Edson, a bit irritated at being called Edward, realized that perhaps Jim probably started his evening in the bar long before Happy Hour.
Jim showed Edson that the pocketknife would open and close just as it should. Then he invited Ed to give it a try. Much to Ed’s surprise the knife would not open. There was no little groove to insert the thumbnail for opening, and trying to put a tight grip on the blade offered no help. “Hey, that’s pretty neat Jim, how’d you do it?”
“Look Eduardo, it’s a simple as thissh.” He again opened and closed the knife with ease. “Here, Eddie, try and close it.” Jim was in the bag more than it appeared when the conversation began.
Ed tried to close the knife several times, and no matter what he did the damn thing wouldn’t stay closed. He was becoming a bit tired of being called Edward, Eduardo, and Eddie, but the knife held his interest and he didn’t break from the conversation.
“Hey Gregg, barkeep, resupply our gas tanks, what the Hell, why you shink we are here?” Jim was showing the effects of too much booze, yet as obnoxious as he was becoming he continued to open and close the knife with ease.
“OK fast Eddy, your turn,” as he again offered the gadget to Edson. “I’ll bet you ten bucks you can’t do it, Ed old pal, old pal, Hell, I’ll make it twenty bucks.” With that Jim plopped twenty bucks on the bar, saying, “Pack that in your piccolo if you can Addy, I mean Eddy.”
Edson decided he had had enough of both Jim Shave and his clever knife, and said, “No thanks, Jim, I’m not good at that sort of thing. Why not try someone else.” With that Ed started a conversation with the bartender, Gregg, about exotic drinks and their strange names. He wanted to politely ignore Jim.
Jim placed a napkin over his drink and shouted, “Hey Gregg, my man, don’t let anyone take my drink. I’m going to visit the sandbox. Man this beer runs right through me.” He headed for the restroom leaving the knife and his twenty bucks on the bar.
Edson had decided it might be a good time to close out his tab and find another quiet bar, maybe the hotel lobby bar. Before he could make the move he was approached by still another stranger having the appearance of a streetwise businessman.
“Hi, sorry to butt in, but I’ve been watching that jerk from across the room. I spent several years in Asia and have seen several knives like that. Here’s how it works.” The stranger picked up the knife and showed Edson the secret of pushing in on the blade. “Give it a try, it’s quite simple when you know how.”
Ed took the knife from the stranger, gave it a try, and said, “Well I’ll be damned. That is clever. ” He did it a couple more times, feeling pretty good about it.
The stranger said, “The obnoxious jerk wants to bet you twenty bucks, why not take him up on it?”
Ed replied, “No thanks, it’s not my way, but thanks for showing me the secret.”
The stranger said, “Hell don’t be shy, the jerk deserves a lesson in manners. Shoot, I’ll even join in on the game. Here’s twenty bucks from me. Use my money if you want. I’ll collect the winnings after you snooker him at his own game.” With that he dropped a twenty on the bar. “Oops, here he comes. Let me get back to my own seat before he sees us talking.” Leaving his twenty bucks on the bar the stranger quickly returned to his own barstool some distance away.
Upon Jim’s return he loudly announced, “Thomas Edison, there’s nothing like a good trip to the pissatoriummakes you feel like a new man.” He took a swig from his glass and noticed the extra twenty bucks on the bar. “Good to see it Eggson, so you are going to call my bet?” Ed was starting to wonder how many more variations of his name he’d endure before shedding himself of Jim Shave, the drunk.
Edson gave the wager some thought. What did he have to lose? It wasn’t his money, and Jim Shave, the jerk, did deserve a lesson. He figured he’d open the knife, pick up the forty bucks go hand it to the stranger, and they would both have a good laugh at the expense of Jim-the jerk-Shave.
Before Ed could do anything Jim plopped another twenty on the bar, saying, “What the fug man, let’s double the bet, go for forty, no better yet, lesh make it sixty.” He then threw another twenty on the bar.
At this point Edson was ticked off, tired of having his name slaughtered, tired of Jim Shave, and in the mood to put him in the creek once and for all. It was time to end it, and time to become a winner.
Sadly, Edson Goodmark matched the bet. I say “sadly” for when he picked up the knife, following the stranger’s instructions, and trying to duplicate his own success of just moments ago, THE KNIFE WOULD NOT OPEN. He tried again and again with no luck. Jim Shave picked up the money and the knife and thanked Edson for his company. He quickly departed.
Needing reassurance, a stunned Ed turned towards the stranger at the other end of the bar. The stranger was gone!
EPILOGUE: This story relates a real scam. I have been told that two men running this swindle years ago earned enough to buy a carnival. The Open/No Open pocketknife is a common beginner’s trick in magicdom. Of course the stranger is in cahoots with the drunk. He switches the knife for one that will not open just as the drunk emerges from the restroom. Timing is everything as he must make the switch, and the drunk must return before the mark has a chance to again play with the knife.
Have fun, and don’t destroy too many pocketknives trying to weld the blade shut.