I’ve known Mr. Bob almost my entire life. My family moved to Hattiesburg when I was 4 or 5 years old. Mr. Bob was the music minister at our church. He’d already been there for like 25 years when we got there. My dad was the new youth minister at the time.
Mr. Bob is old school. He’s down with the big pipe organ and choir robes and the “high church music.” But hey, our church was mostly the older generation so it was all good. He smiles easily and is always glad to see you.
Here’s one of the best things I learned from Mr. Bob: How To Travel. The man loved to travel. When we went on youth choir trips, we had fun the whole way there and back. See, when you went on trips with the youth minister (not my dad at this point) or someone else, the mission was TO GET THERE AS FAST AS YOU CAN. “Making good time” referred to how fast you got there. Actually, typical man traveling style I guess. During the 15 hour trip there might be one stop for 2 and half minutes for everyone to use the facilities and grab a bite to eat. But we had to get back on the road so we could get there. And fast.
Not so with Mr. Bob. Man, if one person thought they might have to pee, he would pull over at the nearest rest stop. If we were traveling on the weekend and a flea market was open, you’d better believe we were stopping. That man knew every flea market east of the Great Mississippi.
But we still made good time. Mainly because Mr. Bob would do at least 80mph in the big ol’ church van with the U-Haul trailer hitched to it.
One particular thing he liked to do was mission trips. This meant we went somewhere to minister to folks in song. Usually at flea markets.
One time we went to New York. But mostly we went to the Smokey Mountains to spread the Good News at campgrounds and flea markets. So when we were done meeting the bargain shoppers and RVers spiritual needs, we could go find some bargains for ourselves.
I mentioned that Mr. Bob is known as Bargain Bob sometimes. See, he takes his yearly vacations to drive up the east coast and hit flea markets. Then he sells the stuff in his booth at a local antique mall. So you know he has some serious haggling skills.
After one particular set where we sang and even dressed up like clowns for the kids, me and my buddy C. set off in search for some vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia. During this time in high school we were serious about collecting the original Star Wars toys. This is before the new SW movies came out. I have been decidedly un-Star Wars since they came out.
We eventually found a lady that had a Chewbacca figure, an original LP of the Star Wars Music and a land speeder vehicle. Now we had zero experience haggling with the flea market proprietors so we set off to find Mr. Bob to do the dirty work for us. He was more than willing to put on his Bargain Bob hat.
The lady wanted something like $25 for the 3 items. Definitely reasonable, but hey, this is a flea market, aren’t you supposed to haggle just a little? So Bargain Bob starts in on her and it goes something like this:
Bargain Bob: Alright, how much do you want for these old toys?
Flea Market Lady: Well, they’re $25.
BB: mmhmm mmhmm, sure sure. Now what kinda deal can you make me since I want all three?
FML: Well, they add up to $25.
BB: Yeah, but don’t you think since I’m buying multiple items, we can make a deal?
FML: [getting slightly agitated] They’re $25.
BB: Ok, I’m thinking about $18, what do you say?
FML: [definitely agitated] I said $25!
BB: [maintaining cool] Right right, $18 seems more than reasonable to me.
FML: [almost hysterical] There will be no deal!
BB: Alright alright. How about $20? Surely $20 is a fair price for these old dusty things?
FML: [absolutely hysterical] No! No! No deals!
And then she snatches the items in question and clutches them to her person as if we might grab them and run. At this point I’m really worried the lady is going to call security.
Heh, flea market security. I’m not even sure there is such a thing but can you imagine? Billy Ray leaning up against a post eating pork rinds and wiping his greasy fingers on his black t-shirt that he bought at vendor booth #18 that says ‘Security’ on the front. On the back is an advert for Browning gun cabinets. Woohoo, anyway.
So I say to Bargain Bob “$25 is OK, we can do that.” I just wanted the Chewbacca and record, man. The land speeder was for C. Bargain Bob shoots me this look like “What are you doing boy?! Let me work. I’ve almost broken her!”
Well, we paid the $25 and got out of there. I didn’t want Billy Ray after me.
After the trip, I was excited to hear an original Star Wars soundtrack LP on our record player. I took the record out of the sleeve, put it on the turntable and ever-so-gently dropped the needle. The sounds that met my ears caused my face to melt off. And it never really recovered. Seriously, if you look really close you can see tale-tell (tell-tale?) signs of Madam Pomfrey’s use of Boogin’s Face Wax and the Waxious Facetious Reparo spell.
After my face recovered somewhat, I took a closer look at the record sleeve. Yes, it was the Star Wars music and from 1977. Good. But, oh, wait. It was performed by the Electric Moog Orchestra. See this dude named Moog invented the first electronic synthesizer. So imagine the Star Wars theme in a 70’s disco style played by early keyboard synthesizers. Uh huh. Yeah, you can’t imagine that.
So Mr. Bob is great. I love traveling and I don’t mind stopping and enjoying the trip, not just the destination. I really have him to thank for it.
There was that time on the Six Flags trip (that we took every summer) when we saw him without his toupee, but I’ll save that for another day.
Oh, and no, you can’t have my attic full of sweet, sweet, vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia.
Thanks to J. for reminding me that Mr. Bob is a cool cat.