I don't brush with fame very often, and when I do I try not to make a big deal of it. The moment is fleeting, and I always feel empty inside like there was something bigger supposed to happen after I get paid. I received an inquiry two weeks ago that sounded something like this:
RUSH ORDER 2 Day Delivery Request: custom purple mountain bike, must be 10 speed, no logos or markings, size medium, a large cushy black saddle.
There was never a mention of who the bike was for, just "a show." I thought maybe for a TV show. When I asked for whom, the company replied, "an artist." I had only a little interest in who the artist may have been, but I was more interested in completing the project to their satisfaction since there was a significant fee to apply for our guarantee to have the project completed by the specified date.
I started researching the company requesting the bike, and I saw they put on concerts for pretty big names, Prince being the biggest one, and all the tickets for that show listed as sold out. I didn't look at the dates very closely, but just if there was something I wanted to see. There wasn't. I figured as part of a negotiation with an entertainment company I should get a pair of tickets to something exclusive in addition to my normal fee , since they were asking so much of my company to deliver a custom painted bike in just 2 days time, and tickets are their business. So I asked for two pairs of tickets to the sold out Prince concert. I am not a big Prince fan, but there are a few songs I like in addition to when he does the squeaky voice. More than that, I knew the tickets were highly valuable and thought that I could either sell them or go, depending on how I felt or what I could get for them.
I did not even realize the Prince show was coming in two days (I thought it was a month away), or I would have negotiated for backstage passes plus a mandatory delivery to my potential client! Upon coming to an agreement with the entertainment company in regards to our fees, the agent commended my puzzle solving abilities in selecting the impossible to get Prince tickets as part of our deal, but truly it was just selfish coincidence. I delivered the bike to the Fox Theatre, but I was informed that Prince would not be there until the evening, and I assumed as much beforehand. I went to work with his assistants setting the seat height according to the person who has sized multiple bikes for him before. We ended up hacking the seatpost of his new GT Zaskar and another unlabeled bike in the basement rigging room with a Sawzall so they would go low enough. I showed the agent and staff the final product ready for its rider, received my payment, and was told where I could pick up my tickets. That was it. No personal presentation, no handshake with a happy rider, no real thrill for a new customer. Just a production company receiving one of their artists very specific requests, satisfied. Granted, the help was very pleased and impressed with the bike, but it was not for them.
I am grateful to all of my customers for the work they provide my staff and the money that comes with it, but the most gratifying part of the job does not generally come at the point of payment. Rather, it is when you can present your customer with the special project that you made just for them that the job is truly complete. I hate to say that with a big superstar like Prince, we were resigned to work with his helper and someone who has fit multiple bicycles for him as he tours, but I feel with projects like this, we too can be the superstars for our customers when they have special demands. I did have a personal question about music I wanted to ask him, and I regret that I could not meet such an inspirational person to so many others. Moreso, however, I regret that we did not meet so I could tell him how much his business means to my staff, and how happy we were to be able to put together a custom project for him. Kent did an excellent job on the powder and spent a ton of extra time in the shop preparing this bike while Haegan, David, and Lawrence made sure that everything else in the shop was running smoothly and according to schedule.
Despite not getting to meet Prince about his new bicycle, Jane and I did enjoy our excellent seats at the show watching him perform, and we both left as fans. Many of the songs he played on piano were far better than their studio counterparts, in my opinion, and I even found a few new ones I hadn't heard that I like. It's funny how you don't have to meet someone for them to make a difference in your life and in your perspective. Thanks for the work, and the tickets, Prince. Rest in peace.