Wednesday, September 13, 2006


When I was a kid, gas stations were few and far between. You'd have to travel a little way to get to one. I remember, forty years later, the Sunoco Station in the town I grew up in. We'd always drive past to get to another one. They had the usual signage on the old concrete block building, but it had fallen into disrepair. They used to repair automobiles at service stations too, and this place was no exception. It had two bays, with illuminated letters over the big bay doors that read CUSTOM SERVICE.

But not forever. The wind or snow or ice or just plain gravity had gotten to three letters, and for as long as I can recall we'd drive by and say aloud: CUSTO SE ICE.

I think's it's great to be noteworthy. That place certainly was; I remember it after all these years. But I remember Lee Harvey Oswald too. Remembering ain't the whole thing.

People derive certain impressions from all sorts of things about you. And in business, those cues you give, and some that others give about you, might determine if you eat three squares a day.

I make and sell furniture
. I give out all sorts of emanations about the whole state of affairs. This is one of them, come to think of it. What sort of impression does it give? I don't know.

I don't know because I'm not you. I can ask you, but you might lie. People don't like telling the truth always, if the truth hurts. In a former, much more rough and tumble business I worked at, I've been told terrible things by perfectly happy customers who thought yelling was the way to get a discount, and I've had people tell me everything was fine while they were searching for our replacement. You can't always tell what people are thinking by what people are saying. Ultimately, you have to try your best, listen as hard as you can, and trust in yourself.

I don't give an impression, but you might get one, is the short answer. Let me give you an example.

I've written many times about promenading in Bristol, Rhode Island. It's a lovely, quiet place, full of salubrious and friendly people. On our last trip, we were walking down the street, and we passed Muzzie's Attic on Hope Street. It was in an old building, and had the look of a place that has 11 things in a 10 thing bag. Bursting. And in fact, it had burst right out onto the sidewalk a bit. My wife espied that little putti birdbath, and its attractive price, and said she must have it.

We had our own little putti with us, and taking him into a store filled with small items, including ... shudder... porcelain, was out of the question. So I went in alone to pay.

The place was old and cluttered; but cluttered in an interesting and Victorian way. It was absolutely clean and shipshape. It didn't look ritzy. It looked like someone cared about it. I met that someone.

The lovely lady that took my credit card returned from the terminal with a question, which is never good. Well almost never.

"I'm a Sullivan too," she offered, and we chatted a bit about our fuzzy but similar lineage, and other such topics. I was in a bit of a hurry, but she neither shoved me out the door nor wasted my time. In short, I got what I wanted, and I got a pleasant impression of her, her family, and her lovely little store full of treasures.

I see that dish of water in my garden every day. It reminds me of:
-My little son
-My lovely wife
-A pleasant afternoon
-Bristol, Rhode Island
-A pleasant woman
-A pleasant store

I've forgotten about the money it cost. Go to Muzzie's Attic if you like pleasant people and interesting things. Go elsewhere for:



XWL said...

My Latin is rusty, I can't seem to translate "custo se ice".

SippicanCottage said...

Como se dice custo se ice?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Babelfish suggests it's Spanish for "Custo is hoisted."

So I'm guessing they did work on those famous Custo car engines. From Spain. You know, on hoists.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

You only get one chance in life.

You gotta' go for the custo.

SippicanCottage said...

When I was in high school, we actually called beer "gusto."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

El gusto es mio, Se~nor.