Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Keeping My Mouth Shut

March 21, 2016

It won’t come as a surprise to most of you that someone who identifies himself as a chatterbox would find it challenging keeping his mouth shut. Here’s an example of when I probably should have zipped my lip.

           

I was at Michaels Arts & Crafts Store over the weekend thanks to a discount coupon cut from the Sunday paper. According to my coupon, if I purchased a regularly priced item I could get a second item of equal or lesser value for a penny. I purchased a small art canvas for a few bucks and received a second one for a penny. While leaving the store I spotted a young man talking with a salesperson about airbrushes. I’d studied airbrush techniques in preparation for launching my illustration career. In skilled hands, an airbrush is capable of astonishing realism, but I quickly realized I didn’t like the slick effects, preferring a more painterly technique.

           

I approached the young man as he pointed at an airbrush locked in a display case and said to the salesperson, “I’ll take that one!” He pulled out a wad of folded bills, probably money he’d saved for a long time.

           

The salesperson said, “That will be $250.”

 

          

A typical airbrush for illustration use

 

Here’s where I should have kept my mouth shut. Instead of minding my own business I chirped, “If you clip the coupon from today’s newspaper you can purchase a second airbrush for a penny, and if you aren’t yet familiar with airbrushes you’ll soon realize you need more than one or you’ll be cleaning the cup and refilling with different colors every few minutes.”

           

“You sound like you know what you’re talking about,” the kid said to me.

           

“I’m a retired college art instructor,” I answered.

 

“Unfortunately, I don’t have that coupon.”

 

I wish I’d given him my coupon instead of purchasing canvases I didn’t really need. “Not a problem. Walk across the street and buy a Sunday paper. It’ll cost you a buck but it will save you another $250.”

           

Our conversation was interrupted by the salesperson saying, “I’m sorry, but airbrushes aren’t included in that coupon promotion.”

           

The kid looked disappointed.

           

He had the earnest look of many young students I’d taught over the years and my heart went out to him. “It doesn’t say on the coupon that airbrushes are excluded,” I replied.

           

The manager was summoned, and he also claimed airbrushes were not included. This wasn’t my first retail rodeo and I mentioned that this kid would have a good legal case if he was denied a second airbrush for a penny.

           

The manager gave me the stink-eye and agreed to sell the kid a second airbrush for a penny—once he produced the coupon. Happy to have helped a struggling young art student, I headed for the exit and climbed into my car, where I waited to watch the kid leave Michaels and head across the street to purchase a newspaper. Instead, he left with one airbrush in hand, and he walked away in the opposite direction from the grocery store selling the newspapers.

             

I could only imagine what they’d said to the kid after I left, but they’d convinced him not to go for that coupon. I’d have walked out of there with a $250 airbrush for a penny. I figured I’d done all I could for him, but as the saying goes: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I also wondered if he realized he needed an expensive air compressor to make his airbrush function.

 

 

Illustrator using an airbrush

           

 

As I reflect on this situation, I think I should have kept my mouth shut. That young man was excited to save his money until he could afford an airbrush, and all I did was ruin his purchasing experience.

           

Will I ever learn?

 

 

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Comments

28 Comments
I think you did the right thing, other than walk with him across to get the paper what else could you do? Good for you!
By: John on March 21, 2016
I've used an airbrush and it is a pain to clean. The kid lost out.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 21, 2016
You definitely did the right thing; I encourage you to continue. You're still a teacher and a good one at that.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 21, 2016
I'm just like you! If I see someone obviously in need of help, info, or advice, I really try to be helpful. Although people say "thank you," I'm sure they rarely take the advice and probably don't appreciate a stranger butting in. Nonetheless, I can't help stop myself from doing it! lol
By: Lexa Cain on March 21, 2016
I think you did the right thing speaking up. the store's bottom line would not have been affected in the least. too bad he didn't have the courage to follow through.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 21, 2016
I agree with the others...you did the right thing, whether the young man followed through or not is on him. I bet he is kicking himself by not taking your advice. OH..one more thought..if you are ever in Michaels again and need the coupon..they post all their coupons on their Michaels app. I don't ever actually clip them out of the Sunday paper, I have the cashier swipe my phone.
By: Cheryl P. on March 21, 2016
I respectfully disagree with you. I don't think you ruined it for the kid. You were being helpful and having been an art instructor you had "portfolio" (as they say in diplomacy). Maybe the next time he'll recall your advice and perhaps the store will be more precise in their advertising.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 21, 2016
You done good, Stephen!!
By: fishducky on March 21, 2016
You did the right thing, it is just a shame he was probably intimidated after you left. Bet their ad was quickly changed.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 21, 2016
Your intentions were good, don't change.
By: cranky on March 21, 2016
trying to do a good deed...
By: TexWisGirl on March 21, 2016
I think you taught a very good lesson. this kid may not have been able to take advantage of it this time but there's always a next time. Quit beating yourself up.
By: red Kline on March 21, 2016
You really made a positive impression on this young man, Stephen and you have a big heart. We need to read more examples of people acting on principle as you did! Bravo!!
By: MICHAEL MANNING on March 21, 2016
You may want to go to a different store the next time you need supplies! :^)
By: Catalyst on March 21, 2016
You tried to do a nice thing, there's nothing wrong with that.
By: messymimi on March 21, 2016
I hope you don't wake up to unflattering graffiti painted on the front of your home.
By: Val on March 21, 2016
Nothing wrong with trying to help someone. Good job!
By: sc on March 21, 2016
I think I would have done the same thing. It's a shame it didn't turn out as it should have. The manager missed an opportunity to delight two customers. Instead he disappointed two. That will most likely cost him much more than they had in the airbrush. R
By: Rick Watson on March 21, 2016
No, you did the right thing, and it would have been better of you to not leave the kid in a difficult position. On the other hand, are you sure there wasn't something about there being a limit to the offer?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on March 21, 2016
your heart was in the right place Stephen
By: Fran on March 22, 2016
Sometimes the problem with doing right is that it doesn't work, but it shouldn't keep us from trying. Go easy on yourself, Shephen.
By: Sage on March 22, 2016
Agree you did the right thing. I'm just astonished that an airbrush costs $250. Can't you get them cheaper on the Internet?
By: Tom Sightings on March 22, 2016
NO WAY should you have kept your mouth shut! You did your best to help that kid. I admire you for that. As an aside...I had trouble keeping my mouth shut as a kid. This lead to more than a few times with me hanging from stop signs by my underpants. You may be surprised. Perhaps not.
By: Al Penwasser on March 22, 2016
You are just an all-around nice guy!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 22, 2016
NO WAY should you have kept your mouth shut! I see those coupons all the time, and telling him wasn't a state secret, for goodness sakes! Sheesh. But, I hope he knows what he's getting into, cleaning those things can be a pain in the patooki! Cat
By: Cat on March 22, 2016
You were only trying to help. I hope they don't have a picture of you on the door of Michael's, though, saying "This man is forever banned from the store." Cuz it is a good store, but the kid could have had a good legal case against them.
By: Robyn Engel on March 22, 2016
I doubt that I would have spoken up, but you did do the right thing. If it was me making the purchase, I would have gotten the discount. I've been known to cause a scene if I'm being wronged.
By: Brett Minor (Transformed Nonconformist) on March 23, 2016
You didn't ruin a thing. The kid should have taken you up and gone and bought the paper to get the coupon. The manager may have scared the kid saying you can o lay do it right now, you can't come back and try again. I think what you did was admirable and you taught the kid a lesson he will keep in mind for the future.
By: Birgit on March 23, 2016

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