One Fateful Day

Terzameron Day 14
April 3, 2020

Tim Martin

Veering away from stories of the hunt, the sales, and the characters with whom we deal, my colleagues and I are going to start interspersing tributes, salutes, paeans to particular objects. In my case, I am going to start at the very beginning—answering today the question most often asked of me: “How did you get into this business?” My next post will boil down to: “what made you stay in this business?” and then, as the answer to that question is “I fell in love with antique silver”, I’ll pay tribute to some objects I love. But, fear not, we have more of the funny old stories to come.


When I was a senior in college my mother took me to lunch and asked me “what are you going to do for a living?” Shocked by the question, and more by its cold and unmaternal implications, I answered, from the safety of my mind, “What, mother, would you have me do for this “living” to which you refer? Shall I strangle the burgeoning life of my soul? Grunt and sweat under a weary life? Be bleared with trade, and smeared with toil? Get, spend, and lay waste my powers?” What I said was more like “um, I don’t know, I was going to do some travelling, I guess.” But my mom was in it to win it: “Not on my money you’re not,” she said, ” I paid for your school. I paid for your college. You’ve traveled plenty, and I have done my part. You need to work. Consider yourself independent, as of graduation.” I took the bus back to school, cursing my fate.


The next day my phone rang. “Hi Timmy! It’s Eric!” came that diminutive cockney’s ever-cheerful voice, “Come have lunch!” Always up for a fine midtown luncheon, I got back on the bus, convinced by his sunny tone that I could count on getting what I really needed: a glass of champagne, good food, and some idle chat in a no-judgement zone. But I was wrong, and almost before I sat down, Eric crowed about how it was “hard luck being cut-off like that,” and offered me a job. He pressed two considerations: one, my mother was not backing down; and two, if I didn’t like it I could quit in a year.


I decided to take my troubles to my adviser—the kind they appoint for you in college to help you figure out what classes to take. My adviser was (and is) impossibly elegant, and learned, and cultured. He had (and has) a nice apartment and a beautiful wife. I don’t mind saying I wanted to be just like him. He asked me about my options. I told him I’d always figured I would be a professor or a journalist—a professor because his life looked so rosy, or a journalist because that was what my dad and grandfather had been. He told me, gently, that “knowing me as he did” I probably wouldn’t get the hot jobs in academics, and that, as for journalism, the times they were a-changin’… Didn’t I have any other options? And so, with some reluctance because it sounded so…trivial…I told him my stepfather had an antique shop and wanted me to work there.


In a tentative tone, he said, “Well, that could be interesting, where is it?”
And I said “It’s in midtown, on 57th Street.”
And he said, “Huh.” and then, “What’s it called?”
And I said “Shrubsole.”


In a cinematic way that made me wonder, later on, if he and my stepfather had been in cahoots, he leaned forward, shot his cuff, and said: “Oh. I love Shrubsole. I bought these cufflinks at Shrubsole.” And as I sat in stunned silence he spoke the words that have rung in my mind ever since. “Look, Shrubsole could be a really interesting business, and, to be clear: if you told me your stepfather had a Jennifer Convertibles store, I’d tell you to get your Ph.D.”


As Dickens put it: “Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”

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