I suppose that most corporations make all of their important decisions in wood paneled board rooms. My wife, Roxanne and I make them during happy hour drinking draft beer. The bartender brought us another round as Roxanne shifted a bit on her bar stool and after a heavy sigh said, “We made her a promise.”
Our daughter Logan agreed to this 2 year sailing adventure if we promised that we would take her back to Louisiana for her junior year of high school.
Our two years had just about expired and her junior year would begin in five months, we needed to make some decisions.
I took a sip and asked Roxanne, “So what’s our plan?”
We had sold everything a couple of years ago before we left on our sailing adventure to include the house and just about everything it contained. Now we found ourselves living on our sailboat in south Florida and we needed to make our way back to Louisiana.
Roxanne must have already thought about it and replied, “We refurbished one boat. Maybe we should do it again but with something much larger.”
I replied, “Our plan is to sell our boat, buy a much bigger boat, make the boat seaworthy and then sail it back to Louisiana all within five months!”
Roxanne replied, “I’m not ready to move back into a house and when Logan graduates we can take off on another sailing adventure.”
We continued to discuss our next boating adventure and we envisioned buying a 50 foot yacht that was in just bad enough shape that we could afford, but not so bad that we couldn’t fix it ourselves.
I remarked, “This guy John has been following our blog and he sent me an email a couple of months ago inquiring about buying our boat. I guess we could start there.”
We started a dialogue with John via email and he soon decided to send down a couple of guys to look over our boat.
John’s inspection team consisted of two guys in their late twenties and their lively sidekick, a Yorkshire Terrier named Bamboo. Royce took the lead on the inspection efforts while his dog decided to make himself comfortable and curled up like a ball in Roxanne’s lap.
After a long eight hour inspection Royce made a call to John with his findings and after a brief round of negotiations, we struck a deal. They handed over a check for $12,000 with an agreement that John would deliver an additional $30,000 upon the title transfer in 30 days.
With 30 days to kill. We passed the time cleaning the boat and removing our personal gear. Roxanne and Logan drove back to Louisiana in a rental car to take care of personal items leaving me and our black lab Skeeter to complete the boat sale.
When the fateful day finally arrived, I had nothing to do except wait for John to show up with a check for the balance due on the boat. I pulled my phone from my pocket and with a single press of a button it lit up and read 8:10 in the morning. Boat sales are extremely unpredictable and it bothered me that John was late.
I grabbed my sole remaining bag of personal items and made my way down the pier. Skeeter followed close behind.
With the unmistakable sound of tires sliding on gravel, a car came to a stop in the parking lot. A middle aged man stuck his head out of the driver’s side window and with a big smile and a disarmingly friendly nature he spoke to me like we had known each other our whole lives, “You must be Conrad.”
I couldn’t help but grin with delight at John’s nature. On the surface he seemed normal enough. Like all family men, he talked about his wife and young kids. He was neither tall nor short and for a person in his 40’s he managed to keep the weight off. But watching him operate amused me.
With John in my passenger seat I drove us to the bank while we made the usual kind of small talk that strangers engage in. The bank’s security guard didn’t exactly stare at us when we walked past him but he kept his eyes pointed in our direction.
Who could blame him? Spending the last few days cleaning our sailboat in preparation to sell it to John left me with an ensemble of a sweatshirt, dirty jeans and a three day beard and I was the better dressed of the two of us. John’s combat boots, camouflage pants, wool cap, longshoreman’s jacket and black backpack made for an interesting choice of attire for a bank outing.
Without knocking or invitation, John walked through the open doors of a bank executive’s office and took a seat on the opposite side of his desk. I followed with trepidation.
The name plate on his desk read Carl, and as he lifted his head from his paperwork, he flashed a nervous smile. I quickly got to the point and asked if he could notarize some documents for a boat sale and make a deposit for us.
Carl gave an uncomfortable nod of agreement. John placed his black backpack on Carl’s desk, opened the top and proceeded to remove a smaller pink bag. I expected paperwork, not pink bags.
John then unzipped the pink bag and removed a brick sized object wrapped in shinny aluminum foil. When the foil was peeled away, it exposed a four inch stack of $100 bills that made an impressive thud when placed on Carl’s desk.
Without a word Carl lifted his phone and pressed a single button. The conversation ended quickly and before Carl could replace the phone’s hand piece on to its cradle, three other bank employees had entered his office.
One of the employees scooped up the cash and took it behind locked doors. Carl stiffened his back and sat tall in his chair and returned his attention to us. His expression had changed from nervous to irritated and with an authoritative voice said, “Gentleman, I’m going to need to see some identification from both of you.” It appeared that Carl wasn’t amused with having two guys, with a just released from prison appearance, trying to make a $30,000 cash deposit.
The questions from Carl continued non-stop as bank account numbers and different forms of paperwork exchanged hands.
Despite the lengthy process at the bank, Carl finally executed the transaction with an un-dramatic click of a notary stamp on the bill of sale.
I showed John around his new boat which was now empty of everything that would give any indication that we ever lived there. I already felt like a visitor and had a strong desire to be on my way.
We said our goodbyes and Skeeter and I drove off.
I never did summon the courage to ask John why he brought cash to the boat sale. With too much TV viewing as a kid, I envisioned drug deals, mob connections and money laundering schemes that I really didn’t want to know about.
Roxanne would fly into Tampa in a few days and stay with me at my parent’s house. Logan elected to stay in Louisiana with Grandma until we made a new boat purchase.
I really hoped the boat purchase wouldn’t take forever but we didn’t have a whole lot of money for the kind of boat we wanted to buy, and where would we find this boat? It’s a long journey from California, or even Georgia, back to Louisiana via coastal waterways.
It was only March but I already felt the pressure of the ticking clock.