By Robert Provitera
A client had paid in full months ago and was not picking up the project or responding to mailing instruction requests. I knew where his father-in-law lived, so, on a clear sunny day, I decided to hop in the convertible and leisurely head down a beautiful country road for special delivery.
The farmhouse was on a quiet little lake with a covered bridge across the narrow street from a storybook picket fence that did more to invite than it did to separate the two properties. The screen door was all that held back my inquiry for Scott or anyone home to receive me. No answer brought me around the back, where the only response I got was from an overzealous old dog with empty threats.
When I headed out to the front, a voice from the field across the street approaching the fence said, “Hey, are you looking for Scott?” We had a brief introduction, and when he discovered that I was not in a hurry, we carried on in conversation as we looked out over the field. There was a neatly piled monument of rocks in the middle of the grass that reached toward the sky, which caught my attention. He asked me if I lived around here, if I mowed my lawn, and if I was any good at it. Pointing at the rock pile, he zeroed in on a circle of taller grass around the stones that he did not mow. Then, he confidently said, “Hey, can you get on that lawn mower down at the other end of the field, drive it over and mow that tall section in the middle of the field for me.” I floated the thought of what my father from the streets of New Jersey would have said. (insert New Jersey attitude with New Jersey accent and New Jersey response).
I looked him in the eye and said, sure. He watched me ride in circles and waited for me to walk over to the barn by the picket fence where he was standing. “How did it go?” he said. When I told him it was a breeze, he pointed to a white metal building at the other end of the field and asked if I could see the strip of tall grass around the perimeter. Well, you can imagine what happened next. Yes. I got back on the mower and started a lap around the white building. Halfway through, that old machine sputtered and came to an untimely halt--no more gas in the tank. Unbelievable is what I muttered until he met me less than halfway to let me know he didn’t care if I finished or not.
He said, “Leave the mower there; I’ll get it later. Hey, would you like to take a ride somewhere with me?”Throwing all caution to the wind, you know what my answer was. We walked back to the barn near the fence, and I waited while he opened a massive garage door. I was hoping his car would prove more reliable than his lawn mower. What he pulled out from behind that door was something more than a car. With both hands above his head, he pulled out a shiny black and orange dream machine. The most spectacular double-decker winged beauty I could ever imagine. One large immaculate propeller stared down the middle at me with more confidence than her proud owner, and two layers of wings stretched out as wide as the building they squeezed out from.
He gave me a quick crash course, although that is not what he called it. He suited me up, plugged in my headphones, and belted me in front of that stunning airplane. I searched the wooden cockpit for the gas gauge and double-checked with the pilot to ensure his “F” stood for full. This was no lawn mower.
What a graceful takeoff it was. Grass and sky were beneath us in no time. There was hardly a cloud as we flew North over rt. 33. He piped into my headphones through the sound of the propeller and whistling breeze to ask where my house was. I pointed in the direction, and he headed straight for it. “Call your wife, and tell her to look up.” Minutes later, she was outside on the front steps as we circled and tipped a wing in an obvious (look at me up here) wave.
That is a day and a glorious ride that I will never forget. I thank God That I have learned to keep my wisecrack NJ responses in check over the years. I am sure that one of those well nurtured and often encouraged brazen replies would have never pulled me out of the weeds and up into those friendly skies on a one-of-a-kind dream flight.
My wife still loves to tell the story as if it could only happen to her husband, but I know my father’s son would have blown the deal before it ever got off the ground.