It was one of those days I stopped by our local post office - sort of notorious there I guess. Not because my picture was on a poster there, but because I kid around with the workers a lot. I wasn't kidding them when I complimented them on their new uniforms. They had just at that point premiered a redesigned uniform, and I actually noticed. One of the women there seemed pleasantly surprised. I said, "Can you believe it? An observant male!" She smiled and said, "I thought that was an oxymoron." Oh boy! Unfortunately, it would be all too many times.
It's a good thing that out of our three children we had only one daughter. I could only afford one wedding! Now my wife did all kinds of resourceful things to keep the costs way down. It was so nice of those guests to bring a sack lunch, I'll tell you. You know? The only time they'd been to a reception like it. No, no, I'm only kidding. It was modest, but it was beautiful. But it certainly wasn't free! We like watching the video of the wedding once in a while, but we won't have to do the wedding again! No, can you imagine if her husband kept saying every few months, "I think we need to have another wedding. I want to make sure we're married." They haven't needed to do that! Neither have her mother and I because we know we got married that day.
You know something's up when a friend offers you a piece of candy and then stands there to watch you eat it. Yeah, it happened in our office when my administrative assistant then offered me a piece of sour apple candy with the interesting name "Warheads." I didn't know what that was then. That should have been my second clue, besides her standing and watching me eat it. The third clue should have been the drawing on the wrapper. It's this cartoon guy with his head sort of blowing up. Well, being the good sport that I am, I went for it. The first minute was awful. Bitter doesn't begin to describe the taste. It was just bad bitter! I mean, my mouth puckered. It even made my eyes water! And then, as suddenly as that sharp bitter taste had invaded my mouth, the taste changed to a really enjoyable sweet fruit taste. Which, I am happy to report, lasted considerably longer than the bad taste.
It started on a family vacation in Southern California. The kids were asking about earthquakes which were not a part of our regular growing up years in New Jersey. We started this whimsical little exercise where I would yell, "Earthquake drill!" Now, invariably our older son would run over to his older sister and he would hug her. I would ask innocently, "What are you doing?" to which he would reply, "Dad, you told us to hang on to something heavy!" Oooh, she wasn't, but I'll tell you, that boy was lucky he lived to have a sixth birthday! Actually, when things are shaking, it's really a pretty good idea to hang on to something heavy!
I really hate to be viewed as a typical tourist. But when I went to South Africa a few years ago, I was Tommy Tourist. Yeah, I had my camera clicking everywhere. My friend, Ted, was kind enough to take me between the conferences where I was speaking to Kruger National Park; probably the finest natural game park in all the world. Of course, I was seeing things I'd never seen before. I'd see a giraffe, or a rhinoceros out in the wild or in my dream. I just wanted to see wild elephants, and I did. And I'd yell at Ted like Tommy Tourist, "Stop! Pull over the car!" I'd promptly jump out and start shooting pictures. And he patiently said to me, "Ron, move quickly, and I'll watch your back." I said, "Why?" I didn't think my back was that much fun to watch. He said, "Ron, you have to understand that in this tall grass, there may be lions." Well, he went on to tell me about the tourist that had been mauled while taking pictures in Kruger National Park recently. It's amazing how fast I could get back in the car, and what great pictures you can take out the window. I learned to take a lot of pictures from the car. You know it's great to know that there's someone watching your back when there might be a lion ready to pounce on you.
Graduation day was a suspenseful day for our younger son. He wasn't totally sure what was going to be inside that diploma that the college President handed him. See, he had been informed several days before graduation that no one would know for sure that they were actually going to receive their diploma until they returned to their seat and looked inside the cover. The seniors didn't know their final grades, and if there were any unpaid fees they weren't going to know that either, until they opened their diploma cover and found a bill instead of a diploma.
Our friends, Dan and Ellen, were living in this beautiful farmhouse that became a little less beautiful one day. They'd been doing some heavy outdoor work and they were using a big old dump truck. Ellen was a city girl. She lived on a farm for so many years that there isn't much that she couldn't do though - including driving a dump truck! She'd learned to be a good farm girl. This particular night they had just started it up when she had to run in the house for something, maybe a phone call. (You getting ahead of me now?) She left it running for just a minute. I guess it was more minutes inside than she had anticipated. You know how phone calls can be. Something happened as the air pressure built up in the truck's air brakes and they somehow released! Yeah, that big old dump truck started rolling until something stopped it...Dan and Ellen's dining room and kitchen stopped it! That truck ploughed right through their dining room wall. The brakes on their vehicle failed and the result? Major damage to their home!
Remember the old days? Yeah, with hotels, you know, and the keys? Yeah, the keys; not the little card they give you that opens the door. In those days I had a little problem. I don't remember when a guy asked me when I checked out of a hotel one day, "Ron did you turn in your key?" I thought somewhere along the way he talked to my wife, because see was the one who got to mail all those keys back. It's true, I have been known to own a hotel key collection. I mean, everybody needs a hobby, right? Some people collect stamps, coins, you get the idea! Well, actually it's never my intention to walk off with hotel keys, but sometimes I end up taking what I never meant to take. When I didn't even know I was taking it.
Just a few years ago they had the battle of Little Big Horn again, and Custer lost again. Actually it was part of a movie on the life of the great Oglala Lakota, Chief Crazy Horse. My Lakota friend, Jerry, was asked to be one of Crazy Horse's warriors in the movie. Now, one challenge was riding bareback. They had to do that full speed in the battle scenes, and of course, the big scene was the portrayal of Custer's last stand. Interestingly enough, Jerry can't even find himself in those scenes because the warriors were going by so fast in a cloud of dust. Someone asked him how many warriors they needed to reenact a battle that involved so many Native Americans. He said, "Oh, about 80." Hollywood of course is all about illusion, so they just had these 80 guys keep charging up to the soldiers, turn their horses sharply and circle around again and again and again. There weren't nearly as many warriors on the other side as it looked like in the movie. Custer might have wished that the real odds might have been that even.
I was supposed to be speaking for an event at the Rosemont Horizon. It's this massive arena near Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and it's surrounded by a "spaghetti bowl" of expressway ramps. My driver was unfamiliar with the roads around the arena, so we spent an exciting few minutes circling the Horizon on one ramp after another. We just couldn't seem to find the ramp or the exit that went to the destination we wanted. It wasn't that we couldn't see the auditorium the whole time. Oh, I saw it plenty of times. It was just because we didn't know how to get into it!