J. Bear Savo

BEHIND THE BLOCK: ‘Oh, fudge!’ – how to shut down an auctioneer

BEHIND THE BLOCK: ‘Oh, fudge!’ – how to shut down an auctioneer
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Rarely am I rendered speechless. More than most of the time, I have a well-timed, well-spoken, intelligent, smartass retort to any comment or question sarcastically offered me. Yes, rarely am I rendered speechless. There are moments, however, when my tongue clings to my palate, my brain freezes, and I just gape or scowl or laugh.

Once upon a summer auction, I was atop the podium calling bids while trying to be casual and funny for a morose crowd made so from oppressive heat. Several lots into the sale, my neighbor, Melissa, walked into the gallery. Melissa was not only my neighbor, but she also worked with my wife at a local chain restaurant, and she was stopping by the gallery just after her shift. As a result, Melissa was in her uniform: black pants and a hideous shirt.

Yes. The shirt was hideous. Melissa wore it. My wife wore it…

Just how hideous was this shirt? Well, imagine that you could eat every color ever conceived by the Fiesta dinnerware line. Imagine that and then imagine vomiting all those colors onto a polyester button-down.

So, there I was atop the podium in front of a crowd of 75 or so, and even though I was calling, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to annoy Melissa.

“Oh, God!” I exclaimed. “Look who’s here.”

“Hi, Savo,” Melissa waved and smiled.

“How are you doing?” I asked, continuing my conversation with her over the open microphone.

“Oh, I’m OK,” Melissa replied. “At least I’m not covered in paint.” She had been painting her apartment for several days prior.

“No,” I said, “but you’re covered in that hideous shirt.”

And just as smoothly and easily as someone might say “hello” or “nice weather,” Melissa said to me in front of the entire auction crowd, “Oh, Savo, go fudge yourself.”

To borrow some lines from “A Christmas Story:” Only she didn’t say “fudge.” She said theee word. The big one. The queen mother of all dirty words. The “F dash dash dash” word.

Oh, Savo, go fudge yourself.

Some in the audience gasped. Some laughed. Some sang out, “Wooooaaahhh!” Others shook their heads and looked at the floor. I felt myself grinning stupidly, not knowing what to say.

Embarrassed by her errant swearing, Melissa dashed out the door. I cleared my throat and announced the next lot.

Melissa did impress a pair of my clients. Two gentlemen who knew my personality rather well agreed: Anyone who can tell me to go fudge myself in front of a crowd of people was all right in their books.

There’s far more to being a professional auctioneer than merely marketing merchandise. Each Wednesday, Behind the Block explores the precise methods, the elemental madness, and the intrinsic humanity of the auction industry.