Choosing Just One
Listen to/Watch entire show:
Most of what the Urban Man knows about life, I learned from the man who sold me my wife's engagement ring, 20 years ago this month.
Now, like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with salesmen. I scoff at their simple slogans, but I long to hear them say, "Here's a real bargain," or "You'll be a lot happier with the 320i." I know that otherwise, I'd never choose among the confusion of modern things. I'd never pick just one.
Anyway, at the time, I was young and foolish and wandering among the crowded jewelry booths along Hill Street in Downtown L.A. Mostly, I was afraid of getting ripped off. It seemed certain I'd end up, you know, paying a couple of G's for something worth a couple of C's. Meanwhile, of course, I was terrified of that much greater possible mistake... I mean marriage itself.
As I shopped, eager people from many countries tried to educate me about carats and white gold--but as the day wore on, I seemed to know less and less about more and more.
At last, near closing time, I found myself in a dark corner of a huge marketplace. Here an old man with a Greek accent stood with a single bright spotlight above a folding display case. He was thin with sunken cheeks, but he had a certain attractive calm. I began to mumble about clarity and cut, but this Greek simply opened his case, reached down among many sparkling rings, and picked out just one.
"This one is perfect for you," he said, laying it on a piece of black velvet. "This is just what you're looking for."
Okay, even though I was young and stupid, I did sense the absurdity in his comment. I mean, all around us, in dozens of booths, lived many thousands of rings. In his own case, he had hundreds. Still, his words struck me hard--for I saw that this man understood far more about the world than I had learned in any philosophy class:
I mean, ultimately, I could not purchase all rings; I could only purchase one ring. And lo, in the space of four seconds, I did the following analysis: "Not all cities, but this city. Not all women, but this woman. Not all homes, but our home. Not all lives, but this life. This ring must be the perfect choice because it is a choice--and here in the land of infinite choices, the great thing must be to choose."
Now, maybe you disagree with that last statement. I mean, I have plenty of friends here who have been lawyers for 15 years, but who have not yet decided what they want to be when they grow up. Every day, I meet dentists retraining to be chiropractors and chiropractors retraining to be personal coaches, religious leaders... or, of course, real estate agents. Meanwhile, I have to admit that countless acquaintances, married and unmarried, wake up every day deciding whether connubial bliss remains a viable option now that we change not just whole lives, but whole philosophies of life like we change our clothing.
And surely, nothing's wrong with that.
Still... What if my Greek salesman was right, and the finest choice really is to choose?
Like I said, this year marks my twentieth wedding anniversary. Don't tell my wife, but in his foolish youth, the Urban Man paid $1200 for a diamond ring from an old guy with a portable display case, a little lamp, and a piece of black velvet. That was a lot of money for me in those days, but he assured me the ring was worth three times that much.
Me, I never intend to have it appraised.
Copyright © 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
Note: L.A.'s Jewelry District holds an abiding fascination for the Urban Man. Dedicated listeners may recall another visit, on behalf of my friend Asher (October 4, 2004), in which quite a different lesson was learned...
Click the Full Details link to view the complete transcript. Tapes are not available.
Engage & Discuss
BROUGHT TO YOU BY