My one and only goal for the night is to find a unique and appropriate gift for a good friend of mine, an experimental percussionist. I haven't had any success thus far and my last trip of the night, a rowdy bunch of bar employees, doesn't seem to be full of leads.

They're loud and drunk, and one of them's questioning me about whether or not I know any of the skateboarders who drive cab. I'm not that bothered—bartenders know how to tip, and it's always good to hear stories about my co-workers.

The loud one gets sidetracked by his friend, so the cute girl sitting shotgun and I make idle chit-chat. We talk about cabdrivers, which leads to a discussion about a band I'm in, which leads to her mentioning that she has a marimba that she never learned to play, which leads to a discussion about hippies, which—

Wait, about that marimba....

"Yeah," she says, "it's this awesome one that this guy made by hand. It's really fantastic, but it just gathers dust in the corner of my apartment."

I start working the angles. Yes, it turns out, she would be happy to see it go to a good home. The price she names is beyond reasonable—it's a huge bargain.

I get her number, and the instrument ends up being even better than she'd described it. I buy it, my friend loves it, and the subsequent CD-R gets a lot of compliments from fares.