The Room Service Soda

By Lloyd Graff

I know I’m supposed to celebrate milestone events. I have a lot to celebrate—a wonderful wife for over 40 years, the marriage of my son Ari, surviving my quadruple bypass surgery, and 14 years of Today’s Machining World.

I feel enormously grateful for all of these gifts and I count my blessings every day, but celebration is something I have not quite mastered.

In an earlier piece, I recounted a story that my father Leonard told me as a kid, but I’ll retell it now. He was just starting out in the used machinery business and was travelling the Midwest with his partner, Uncle Abe. Abe was a fat, garrulous guy who didn’t know a mill from a lathe, but he gave my dad confidence and kept him smiling. My father was focused on the prize and Abe was focused on how he was going to spend it.

One day they arrived in Kalamazoo, bought rolls of dimes, commandeered the yellow pages and phones at a downtown hotel and starting calling local machine shops. They found a fellow who had a Becker milling machine for sale and immediately drove out to inspect it. They bought it on the spot for $500. This was 1942, World War II was on and machine tools were turning into gold. After buying the Becker, they returned to the hotel and my dad called Adams Machinery in Chicago. He offered the machine to Eli Blumberg for $5000.

Blumberg countered at $4000 and they settled on $4500, subject to inspection. My father and Abe felt like millionaires. This was a deal to paint the town for, but they were stuck in Kalamazoo. Abe had the answer.

“Len, we’re going up to the room to order two ice cream sodas on room service in the middle of the day.” And they did. They must have been wonderful because my dad told me this story many times. I never tired of listening to it.

My brother Jim and I have shared occasional ice cream sodas along the way, but I doubt they tasted quite as splendid as those Kalamazoo black and whites.

I have worked on my celebration piece for decades, but it doesn’t come naturally for me.

In the Yiddish language we have an expression “Kinahora,” which means roughly, “if you think things are good, wait a minute and they’ll turn sour.” I’ve always had a bit of a “Kinahora complex” and I’m bloody tired of it.

To the black and white ice cream soda.

Question: How do you celebrate your business victories?

Today’s Machining World June 2010 Volume 06 Issue 05 
Lloyd Graff is Owner and Chief Space Filler at Today’s Machining World and Graff-Pinkert & Co.


Share this post

4 thoughts on “The Room Service Soda

  1. Victor

    I celebrate my business victories by adding a few extra thousand to our retirement account, and feel satisfied that our retirement would be just a little longer and more comfortable.

    Also, new socks is a great splurge. And to really go all out, a new pair of Thorlo socks from REI !



  2. Doug

    My father started the business part time in 1964, went full time in 1968. Other than 1973, a year he still talks about as his best, we did not become profitable on a regular basis until the mid 80’s. I started working for my father in 1972 at the age of 8, sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. From that period on, the family had a dinner out anytime we booked a 10k + job. Through all that, the most memorable splurge was one that did not start out as one to remember. We had just finished the last day of a trade show in the ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel in ’92 or ’93, and decided to “splurge” at the steakhouse on the hotel grounds (name of which I can’t remember as I tell it this time-I’ll remember it next time) and my mother and my wife had joined us for the week in Anaheim. We had all finished dinner and the server shows up with a cognac cart and asks if we are interested. In those days I was well versed in Beer and my father enjoys a total of 10-15 drinks in any given year. But a little voice in my head remembered my father talking about enjoying a glass of cognac with some artist he knew. So I decide to celebrate and say “sure what have you got”. The server rattles off these names that meant absolutely nothing except you could tell they sounded grander as she went on. So I decided nothing but the best for me… and pointing to the “best” I looked to my father to partake thinking he and I can start a new bonding tradition, and he agrees to join me. The server asked my mother and wife if they were interested and they politely declined. My father and I take our time enjoying the small splash in the bottom of the fancy glass. It was my job during business trips to handle all the expenses so I took the check when it arrived. I open it and see $340.00 in charges so I look it over to find the mistake and realized our food bill was about $170 and each glass of cognac was $85. A chill went through me and it obviously showed on my face that something was wrong. Nothing I could do but confess about the price of the cognac and in a moment we were all laughing. To this day I keep an eye on the price of a bottle of Louis XIII, it was offered at about $2500.00 for a 750ml bottle at Costco at Christmas time. If I had any idea how much enjoyment I would get each time I re-tell the story, I would have realized it was a bargain at the time.

  3. Jim Goerges

    Victories are hollow because of the challenges of keeping a business going today are way different than 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Integrity, values, morals, sustainability, hypocracy, government, regulations, attitudes, changing targets, rising costs, global warming, social changes, and the rights everyone demands that you the business owner must do, we have a new greed and it’s called social greed that feeds on entitlement. I think you’ll find a lot less social celebrations going forward, I think you’ll find drinking will become more of an escape than a celebration going forward for many in the business world, wanna bet? Look at health care, do you trust your information on the government web site, state or federal? Cheers!!


Comments are closed.