My old pal Mingo was a man of hidden depths. Well hidden.
On some days, though, his strange and mysterious talents came shining through, much to the astonishment of all concerned.
One such occasion occurred on a summer evening when a few of the lads and I were hanging out at Kelli’s apartment.
I hesitate to call Kelli Mingo’s girlfriend, because that seems too simple. She was, however, a girl, and had been tolerating Mingo’s company for an extended period.
On this particular occasion, Kelli had introduced us to her friend, Lindsay, who was staying with her for a few days.
It was because of Lindsay’s visit we found ourselves indoors at a time we would ordinarily have been up at the river sampling refreshing adult beverages, or over in Billings Park throwing a Frisbee around.
As it turned out, however, we learned that Lindsay worked in an antique shop in the town where she lived, and she was a huge fan of “Antiques Roadshow” on public television.
As I said, we would rather have been elsewhere, but (I hope I am not revealing a confidential secret here) guys will often do things they don’t want to do, if it means they get to hang out with attractive women while they are doing them.
Thus, we found ourselves in front of Kelli’s TV watching “Antiques Roadshow.”
Mingo is one of those adaptable guys who find a way to make any situation more entertaining.
If we are playing a round of golf, he dreams up all kinds of side bets to make things interesting, and the more outrageous they are, the more fun they are for him.
He applies this sporting nature to almost any mundane situation in which he finds himself. The stakes are never very high. It just gives him something to do while he waits for something better to come along.
Mingo, it should be noted, was not a regular viewer of “Antiques Roadshow.” In fact, he hadn’t seen the show before that day.
When the show began, he concentrated, and quickly figured out how it works.
People bring their old junk (or treasures) to an event, and appraisers ask the owners about their items, and then tell them what they can about each item’s history and its value.
That part piqued Mingo’s interest.
Identifying Lindsay as the local expert, he challenged her to a contest.
Whichever of them guessed closest to the value of the item presented would win the round. The wager was to be 25 cents per item.
Lindsay appeared to have some sporting blood, as well, and quickly agreed to the competition.
The first item appraised was a set of hand-painted plates.
Lindsay guessed first, and Mingo named a price much lower than hers.
When the appraiser on the show announced the likely value of the plates, Mingo’s guess was closest.
The next item was an especially ugly Mexican statue. The figure had a nose ring, bulging eyes, and a disturbing costume.
It was Mingo’s turn to go first. He named a price that seemed extremely high to me.
Lindsay’s guess was quite a bit lower.
Once again, Mingo’s guess was closest to the appraiser’s estimate.
The show went on, and Mingo and Lindsay continued to speculate on the price of each item.
It became a sort of a general competition, with the guys rallying around Mingo, and the ladies supporting Lindsay. Adult beverages were consumed, and a certain amount of taunting went on between the teams.
Mingo, who knew nothing about antiques, seemed to have uncanny luck when it came to guessing their prices.
Based on her expression, this did nothing to enhance Lindsay’s enjoyment of the event.
Mingo won nearly every round, and each announcement by the appraiser was greeted with roars of approval from the fellows, and groans of derision from the ladies.
The event became livelier as the show went on, with Mingo and Lindsay guessing prices of a parade of items from Civil War canes, to paintings, to old furniture and jewelry.
In the end, there was no doubt who had prevailed. Kelli switched off the TV.
When the back slapping and congratulations subsided, Lindsay addressed Mingo.
“How did you do it?” she asked. “It’s obvious you don’t know anything about antiques, but you were incredibly close when guessing the prices. What’s your secret?”
Mingo smiled in that disarming way he had.
“It was easy,” he said. “I noticed right away that the stuff that looked good wasn’t worth anything, and the really ugly stuff was worth a fortune.
“All I had to do was look at each item. If it was attractive, or interesting, I assumed it had little value. On the other hand, if it was repulsive, the kind of thing I would never put in my house, or something that looked like it belonged in the trash bin, I figured it must be worth a lot, so I guessed much higher than what I thought the thing was worth.”
It may not have been scientific, but there was no denying Mingo’s strategy was effective.