A Guaranteed Cure for Smoking
How to Buy Jewellery and Quit Smoking
When the Einsteins of this world are scheduled to compete against the De Greeks in intelligence contests early the following morning, they are not worried.
They don’t mind staying up late drinking and partying and when they do eventually doze off in the early hours, they sleep with a peaceful and confident smile on their lips.
They know that they are not in any danger of being embarrassed, because for centuries the De Greeks have not been known for winning prizes in anything that has to do with brain activity. You will understand why the Einsteins approach the matter with some confidence, from the following story.
The scene is set in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the lobby of the New World Hotel. I had checked out at the required noon checkout time and was enjoying an after lunch cigar with my coffee in the restaurant situated in the lobby of the hotel, with an employee who was to drive me to the airport for my flight home.
There is an oddity about this restaurant, in that it is situated in the centre of the oval shaped lobby, open on all sides, with shops strategically placed all around in order to better remind the visiting businessmen that their loved ones at home might welcome them better if they are carrying a good quality souvenir from South Africa.
I had no intention of buying anything and being a seasoned traveler, I always carried a special bag which the airlines allowed on board as carry-on-luggage, in order to avoid wasting time in both check in and arrivals, so I had no means of carrying possible purchases in any case.
However, a group of the local native fauna arrived and sat at the next table. They had guns strapped to their waists, blond beards swimming in large mugs of beer, merrily chirping in Afrikaans and looking as if they would not mind a bit of a punch up to brighten their uneventful day. So I left my employee to look after my bag and went for window shopping at the shops surrounding the restaurant.
I stopped at the very first shop window with my mouth opening and closing in my usual fish like impression when I am moved. There was only one item in the window and nothing else. It was placed on a mannequin and it was the first time I had even seen a full length mink coat which flared at the hem. Flared, mind you! It was an unusual thing of captivating beauty. Something inexplicable kept me rooted to the spot and despite the fact that we De Greeks are normally men of steel and can resist anything, my legs appeared to have a mind of their own and of their own volition they eventually carried me into the store.
The owner of the store was a very sweet Jewish old man and when he saw my interest in his prized possession, he took the mink coat off the mannequin and placed it on the pretty young sales girl he had working for him who walked and swirled around to show it off to the best possible advantage. I imagine that it was an accident that she was tall and slim and the coat suited her to perfection.
I was hooked. I asked the price and the nice Jewish man told me in a somewhat embarrassed manner, obviously waiting for me to make a counter offer.
Regrettably, the De Greeks cannot do two things at the same time and as I was trying to convert the local currency into something comprehensible, I missed my chance.
My mental calculations worked out the price to be the equivalent of US$5,600. I thought of the expression on my wife’s face when she received the unexpected present and I consented. I handed over my Visa card and the coat was placed in a silk cover and handed to me. It was heavy and it was big so it was obvious I needed to buy a new bag especially for it.
The shopkeeper pointed me to his cousin next door who sold genuine leather bags. Very fortuitous. I walked into the bag shop next door and looked carefully around for something suitable and cheap.
The only thing I really liked had pimples all over it on the outside and I did not like them, but the bag itself was otherwise perfection. I asked the price and it was steep. I remember thinking that $560 is exactly 10% of the cost of the mink coat itself and did I want to spend so much money on a bag?
I asked them to bring the mink coat from next door and to put it in the bag to see if it fit. They reverentially opened the bag and put the coat inside. They then zipped the leather bag closed, folded it and strapped it. Perfect fit. I hefted it in my hand. Felt just right. What the hell? In for a penny, in for a pound!
My South African employee came in as they handed me the Visa payment slip to sign, which I was still going to bargain for. He had gotten fed up waiting for me at the restaurant and came to see what was keeping me.
“Nice ostrich leather” he said.
“Is that what it is? Do they all have those pimples”? I asked.
“Oh yes, it’s what distinguishes ostrich leather from the common or garden leather the Americans carry”.
What's this? Why did the Americans not carry ostrich? Are ostrich known for their communist affiliations?
I don’t know why I asked for a calculator at that point, but I did. I punched in the numbers on the Visa payment slip I was expected to sign and the earth swooned all around me, as I realised why the Americans did not carry ostrich.
I had made an error in my mental arithmetic and had left out a zero. The bag was not worth $560 but was worth $5,600, exactly the same as the mink coat.
We De Greeks may not be Einsteins, but we have our pride and we can bluff with the best of them. I asked for a similar skinned tiny lady’s evening handbag to be included which I was later to find out cost $1,400, signed the Visa payment slip and walked unsteadily out with my intense migraine as if nothing had happened.
Needless to say, my ex-wife was delighted with the present and in fact thought fit to entertain the judge in the divorce court with the anecdote, to justify her high claim for monthly alimony during our divorce proceedings.
However, I subsequently made a tactical error by telling the story to my current wife. Though a woman with an excellent sense of humour, for some odd reason she was not amused in this instance, despite the humorous and entertaining way I playfully told the story.
She immediately made arrangements with the bank to get me new credit and debit Visa cards with specific limits which would embarrass a Buddhist monk carrying his rice bowl on his daily rounds to the believers.
Even worse, she told me that she does not like surprises from someone who is obviously mentally challenged and who has no apparent concept of the value of money and if I want to get her a present to first discuss it with her, so she could know and approve the cost in advance. We De Greeks may be men of steel and we may generally rule the roost with an iron hand in the velvet glove, but we also know what's good for us, so I agreed.
And that is how I ended up quitting smoking.
I was in Saudi Arabia for business and one evening I went to the gold souk with my old friend Tony Chakieh, who is a permanent resident there. I suddenly saw in the window of a jeweler's shop the most amazing Italian made necklace with matching bracelet and earrings.
If you can believe such a thing possible, the gold was woven into a fabric form. It looked like fabric and it almost felt like fabric when you touched it. It looks like a slim, imaginative, silk, delicate kerchief which is casually tied around the neck as if an afterthought and it is a shock when you get close and realise that the whole thing is made of 18ct gold. Now I ask you, could you possibly resist that?
My friend Tony happily paid for the gold with his own credit card on my promise to send him the money when I got back home.
My wife naturally appreciated the gesture, but since her word is law and I had given my word to obtain agreement from HQ for any such purchases, she decided that the only way I could possibly pay for her present, was to stop smoking and use the funds saved towards the purchase of her gold. I now patiently look forward to my next Cuban cigar on July 9, 2027.