Archive for September, 2011

Last Thursday night I really had trouble going to sleep. Every time I would get even close to a light doze our hooligan cats would start running around, jumping off of furniture hissing and snarling at each other. It was one of those rare occasions where I could not wait for morning to arrive.

Finally it was time to get up, my wife got up to take her shower after a moment I heard some sort of muted scream, seconds later she crawled back into bed. She looked at me and said, “I can’t deal with it, you have too.” With great trepidation and sinking heart I headed into the bathroom and found nothing out of the ordinary. I pulled back the shower curtain, evidently at some point during the night a full blown slaughter had taken place. The first thing I noticed was the mouse butt and back feet, the front of the mouse was missing. Over in the corner I found part of the head, under the shower seat there was another chunk, amongst the cat puke I noticed some other mouse parts.

I did manage to clean up the mess without puking, but I came awfully close, I did spend the next 2 hours in deep focused concentration reciting the mantra in my head, ‘do not throw up, do not throw up,’ For the next day and a half every time thought about the mouse parts I had to concentrate on not throwing up. Even now three days later I still feel a little nauseous in this retelling of the tale.

This is our prime suspect.

Saturday night we decided to pick up some pizza. We took the dog and as usual she jumped into the back of our SUV I leaned in the side door and secured her into the back. We do this so she does not become a projectile should we get into some sort of accident. Everything looking good I jumped behind the wheel and backed out of the garage. CRRUUNNCH! My wife and I look at each other, WTF?

Neither my wife nor I closed the back of the car. When the back hatch is up it won’t clear the lip of the garage door. While the hatch was bent out of shape, we could open and close it but the door simply would not stay shut. It took us half an hour to figure out how to secure the bloody door so we could still drive the car. The inside of the door is smooth as is the outside, no holes, no latches nothing to secure a rope too. Eventually we were able to pry the back panel up just enough to spot a hole on either side of the door, I fit a bungee cord into each hole and I hooked the other end onto the mounts for the child safety seat. Worked like a charm. Now of course we have the bother of sorting things out with the insurance company and having the door either replaced or fixed. Not sure if they can fix it, and they are no longer making Saturn’s so it should be interesting.

This evening we had some errands that we had to run. Once again I made sure the back of the car wouldn’t spring open and off we went. Upon arrival back home I unlocked the front door, and as I was pulling my key out of the lock the key somehow slipped off the key ring and fell through the less than the quarter inch gap in the boards of our deck.

My key is down there.

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I’m not much of a practical joker. Truth is I really don’t like them at all but every now and again when the mood is just right I just can’t seem to help myself as is evident in a previous blog about a co-worker and a fish.

The local magic shop, when there was one, was located directly behind the bank where I used to work. Can you believe it? I’ve spent most of my life in the magic business. I left the West Coast, changed countries and in the process stepped out of the world of magic, (for the most part) and I end up working directly across the street from a magic shop. Talk about fate.

Beside the magic shop was a little boutique that sold handmade soap. The soap boutique had an automatic soap bubble maker/blower mounted on the wall between the two stores. On nice days the bubbles would blow onto the sidewalk.

I was sitting in the banks lunchroom, the large windows faced the magic shop. John, the owner of the magic shop was sitting on the stoop directly outside his door. I was eating my lunch watching the world, watching John, watching the old lady slowly meandering down the street, watching the pretty bubbles. Suddenly the old lady stops and turns toward John and starts pointing at him. I couldn’t hear anything and the windows didn’t open. One thing was clear the Lady was not happy. John kept pointing at the bubble maker and the soap boutique. I watched in fascination, clearly the lady was upset and yelling. A few people crossed the street to keep out of the situation. John kept shrugging and pointing at the store next to his, but the old woman was having none of John’s explanations. The only thing that made sense to me was that a bubble landed on the old woman and she thought it was John’s bubble maker and was telling him what she thought. After about five minutes or so the lady stormed off leaving John standing in front of his store scratching his head.

I finished my lunch and went back to work. But I could not shake the scene from my head. While serving a customer a plan began to form. I didn’t think it would work but I had to try. I spent the next few hours cementing the plan in my head. Finally my afternoon break came and I bolted for the lunch room and grabbed the phone and called the magic shop. I did not disguise my voice, either it would work or it wouldn’t.

The phone rings

John: “Hello, Abracadabra Magic”

Me: “Hello, may I please speak to the owner?”

John: “I am the owner, how may I help you?”

Me: “Mr. Oglivy?” (not John’s real last name)

John: “Yes?”

“My name is Officer Dale from the State College borough police, we have received a complaint about the bubble machine you have outside your store.”

“Officer you want the store next to mine, I tried to explain to the lady who yelled at me for 10 minutes that it is not my machine. It belongs to the people who own the store next to mine.”

“Mr. Oglivy I did go ahead and check the regulations about any such devices. I found that they have to be at least 15 feet back from the sidewalk or a permit is required. I checked the maps and on your street there is simply not enough clearance from the front of the building to the sidewalk to operate such a machine without a proper permit.”

John sounding frustrated: “Officer, as I explained to the lady, it is not my bubble…”

“You do have a permit to operate that bubble machine, don’t you Mr. Oglivy?”

“Officer I already expl…”

“Mr. Oglivy does your landlord know about the bubble…”

“Officer I…”

Me starting to sound agitated: “Mr. Oglivy please do not interrupt me again. I am going to come down with a city inspector to inspect the bubble machine and take some measurements and check your permits.”

“Officer, I tried explaining to the lady, and I’m trying to tell you, it is not my bubble machine it belongs to the store next door, clearly there has been a mistake.”

“Mr. Oglivy let me explain it this way. You are the owner of Abracadabra Magic and a complaint has been made against you and I have to follow up on this complaint. I explained the city ordinance and I will be out there later today to complete my report. If you don’t meet the requirements to operate such a device you will be given a citation at which point you can explain it all to a judge.”

“Officer, the bubble machine is not…Brian is that you?”


“You son of a bitch, are you at the bank?”

“Yup, saw the whole thing but could not hear a word”

“Bastard you really had me going. That lady was so mad and I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t mine but she just kept on yelling.”

Me laughing: “So I really had you going?”

“She was so mad, her calling the police wouldn’t surprise me, and you had all the details so yes you bastard you had me going the whole time.”

It is odd that the only two practical jokes I remember being involved in happened while I was at the bank. I guess that place just brought out the worst in me.

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Sometimes it just takes a little magic.

The bank I worked at had something called a call night.  These happened twice every quarter.   What is a call night?  Glad you asked.  Employee’s who are customer facing were required to profile customers.  We would look into an account and see if a customer had a lot of money sitting in a checking account that they are not using.  Or they may be paying on a loan with too high an interest rate. We would call these people and see if we could get them into the bank to talk with an advisor.  Despite the scary word ‘profiling’ this is an excellent program and greatly helps customers.  Most people don’t realize how many products banks offer. Believe it or not, to stay in business banks need you to succeed.  One would think convincing people to talk to an advisor to further their own needs would be easy. But it is not.   Peoples fear and distrust makes making these calls very daunting.

My first week at the bank there was a call night from which I was excused seeing as I had not been there long enough to profile anyone, nor did I have a clue as to what I was talking about.  Being the trooper that I am I opted to stay and join the fun.  The manager handed me a list of papers and told me to call everyone on the list.

I looked at the first name on the list checked their account and they had something like 25 grand sitting in a no interest checking account.  I looked at the history and they had that much sitting there for at least a year.  Clearly, at the very least this could go into an interest bearing savings account.  The call went something like this.

Me:  “Hi my name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank.  I’ve noticed you have a lot of money sitting in a checking account.  Did you know we can put you in another type of account and you could be making money on that money?

Them:  “Not interested”

Me—Stunned silence.

Me: “Really? Do you have that money earmarked for something, perhaps a home, or a car or sending a child to school? If you are we have many products designed just for those types of purposes that will be much more beneficial than a checking account.”

Them:  “No thanks,” CLICK!

Me:  Looking stupidly at my phone. 

At this point one of the other Tellers noticed me looking stupid and quietly told me that she just calls home and speaks to her answering machine.  That way it looks like she is making calls.  While I understood the concept, I thought that was a bigger waste.  With great trepidation I looked at the second person on my list.  His name was Bob (not really, but we will call him Bob) the first thing I noticed was that Bob had multiple accounts all with stupidly high balances.

 Me:  “Hi Mr. Bob, My name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank, I’d like to talk about all that money you have just sitting there doing nothing, in fact I’d like to transfer it into my account.  Okay I didn’t say that, what I really said was something to the effect of you really need to come in and talk to one of our people about making this money work for you.

Bob: “I don’t like big banks, they are very impersonal and you never know who you are talking too”

Me: “Well I can help you with that, I’m Brian I am calling from your branch in State College and I can be your banker”

Bob: “Well that is nice of you but I remember when it was a small town bank and I knew everyone who worked there, now I don’t know anybody and I’m not happy about it.”

Me: “I understand, progress isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, but I can help you out with your current accounts”

Bob: “Does Pat still work there?”

Me: “Pat?  Yes, she is my branch manager.”

Bob: “I remember her when she was a Teller and I’d show her magic tricks.  I’d show all the girls magic tricks and they always greeted me with smiles and were happy to see me, now there is no personal service.”

At this point I just leaned back in my chair, smiled inwardly and took a breath.  Here I was a week in the bank, my first call night I knew nothing about banking but I booked my first call night appointment.  I had a secret.  Bob was a magician, not only that, he was older which meant he was an old school magician, which meant he would have my back.

Me: “Really you are a magician?”

Bob: “Oh yes, I am a member of the magic circle in England, I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, (IBM) and the Society of American Magicians, (SAM).  I’m not much of a performer on any formal level but I do show the occasional trick, and they used to love them at the bank.”

Me: “I was the regional Vice President of the SAM in Vancouver Canada”

Bob:  Silence

Bob: “Really?”

Me: “Yes really, my father opened a magic shop in Montreal in 1974 which is still going strong.  I just moved here from Vancouver where I operated the Vancouver branch for the last 10 years.”

Bob and I talked magic for about 15 minutes and then he said:

Bob:  “So if I make an appointment, what do you get out of it?”

Me:  “Not much except the fact that this is my first week at the job and I’ll have made my first appointment during a call night.”

Bob: “And what exactly is expected of me?”

Me:  “You just have to listen, you don’t have to commit to anything or do anything.  Just listen to your options and you never know something might just be right for you.”

Bob:  “Okay, for a fellow magician, okay, set up a date.”

After pinning down a time with Bob I went to my manager and told her that I made an appointment for her for the following day with Bob.  Pat looked at me with huge eyes and told me they have been trying to get Bob into the bank for years and he has always turned us down flat.  She asked me what I said that got him to agree.  I told her I just have a magical way about me.

Out of six tellers, three desk people the manager and two investment people making supposedly 10 calls apiece I was the only one to book an appointment that day. 

Sometimes all it takes is a little magic.

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