You Were a Good Girl, Rosie!

I should have known better, wouldn’t you think? I was already outnumbered. Why would I willfully and intentionally let my opponents (my wife and two daughters) run up the score when daughter Abbey asked to get a puppy?

Beginning in August 1992, Susan had me outnumbered 1-1. Then Abbey made it 2-1 in February 1997. And Allie trebled the damage in November 1999. (Note: We do have Chief, and he is a male. But he’s a cat, with a mind of his own. He doesn’t count in this equation.) Surely, I knew better than to add one more against me.

That’s it. I would put my foot down: No puppy (or at least can it be a male?)!

 

A Golden Retriever

So in July 2007 we were driving all over the Greater Kansas City area looking at female Golden Retriever puppies. Abbey had always wanted a dog, so when she turned ten Susan and I gave her a list of tasks and told her if she accomplished them, she could have a dog. Up to that point in her life she had never completed those chores (and I don’t think she has since) but she wanted a dog, so she buckled down and succeeded.

Abbey read all that she could about breeds. She studied how to train them. And she and I together researched area breeders. Abbey set her sights on getting a Golden Retriever, and we found a few places in Missouri and Kansas to visit.

Rosie was born in June 2007. We met her shortly thereafter, on one of our scouting trips. Jennifer, a trainer who was a patient of Susan’s, gave us some great tips in helping select the right puppy from the litter. At the wonderful breeder’s home in Peculiar, MO, the pup with light cream collar passed all the tests. Peaches, on the other hand, did not, and liked to bark. Abbey liked Cream, but she also liked Peaches (because, of course, Peaches barked). For some reason, I won out on this, and Cream was the choice. We had a few more weeks before we could bring her home, but our search was over.

 

Rosebud Cream

Rosie officially made it 4-1 in our household on August 15, 2007 (the 15th wedding anniversary for Susan and me). And she had me wrapped around her little tail immediately. Theoretically she was Abbey’s dog. Abbey had wanted her. She had done all of her chores for her. She had researched her. She had proven she was responsible enough for a puppy. But I’ll be darned if Rosie wasn’t a little daddy’s girl.

Nonetheless, Abbey continued on with the façade that Rosie was her dog. The two of them spent hours and hours and hours together, learning to sit and high five, to obey commands, to not run off, etc. Uncle Max built some agility course devises, and Rosie weaved through poles, and jumped through hoops, and went up and down the seesaw, and through the tunnel. The goal was to eventually become the Kansas City area agility course champion, and to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. Alas, that portion of the tests that would require Rosie’s full attention to the task at hand would lead her astray, but she and Abbey had a blast working toward the goal.

 

Life of the Party

Rosie loved family get-togethers. She loved her aunts, and her uncles, and her cousins, and her grandparents. Though usually well mannered, she would kind of stray during such events, especially around the dinner table. She loved to steal food when big dinners were held, though truth-be-told, I don’t think she had to work too hard to “steal” from the grandmas.

Rosie loved the water. Swimming pools were fun, but the lake was the best. She loved to chase Abbey down the Lakewood docks, jumping in after a ball or toy or Abbey or a friend. She’d paddle back to land, climb up the bank, then roll around in the grass and dirt. Then she’d do it all again until she was worn out.

Rosie disliked the heat. In the summer, she’d find shade to protect her big, furry body from the sun. She especially liked the tall grasses and landscaping off the backyard patio. In the winter, when the furnace would cycle on, she’d head for the doggy-door off the kitchen onto the deck. I often reminded our neighbors that the sight of Rosie laying in the snow on our deck was not the sign of cruelty. It was the sign of love, as she had a door she could re-enter at any time. She simply preferred the cold.

Rosie loved our neighborhood walks. And the neighborhood walkers, who she was sure were all walking by to come visit her. We put in an expensive underground fence, put up all the little flags to mark its existence, and went through all the training to teach her the boundaries. The true test came when a neighbor couple walked up the street with their dog. Rosie saw them approach, cycled the training through her mind about how close to get to the barrier … then sprinted to the other side of the street to greet the neighbors. Rosie 1, Fence 0. And that was the end of that expensive investment.

Rosie loved chasing rabbits and squirrels and ducks and geese. Later in life, all of that activity earned her a Canine Cruciate Ligament Surgery on her left knee. The cone of shame … the rehab … the cost … she loved it all so much, she was on her way to needing another one on her right knee. But for the most part, she could still get around well. She still loved to swim. She rode paddleboards this summer with Abbey. She loved to play with her new neighbor dog friend Lance. And she still ran to the door when the bell rang, seeing who the lucky one to pet her was going to be this time.

 

She Saw a Lot of Changes

As Rosie grew, so did the life experiences of our family. That first ride home to our house came on our 15th wedding anniversary in an SUV that would be mine, then Abbey’s, then Allie’s, and now mine again. I think I reverted to the 270,000-mile hand-me-down in no small part so I could drive Rosie and her fur around without having to worry about messing up a newer car.

Rosie saw Abbey grow from a 10-year-old first-time dog-owner to a teenager with a boyfriend to a car driver to a high school graduate to a college student body president. But the love between dog and girl never wavered. This winter break, they picked right back up where they left off at Thanksgiving. They played in the snow. Rosie sneaked up to Abbey’s room at night, sore knee and all. They visited family and friends and Starbucks drive-thrus. They were a great team as always.

 

The Daily Routine

Rosie and Susan and I had our routine. When folks asked us about being empty nesters — with Abbey and Allie both off to college, and Chief off in his own cat land – weren’t we having trouble adjusting? And the answer was an emphatic, “No!” We visited the girls in Fort Worth and Columbia often. But most of all, we always add someone at home to talk to, and that was Rosie.

I spend most nights in my home office, where I am now. Rosie would spend time drifting from her bed in here to her bed in the kitchen to the outside deck to the living room with Susan. Sometimes she’d come to my chair for an ear scratch or to let me know it was time to go out, but usually I knew when it was time. For bedtime, I used to close the door to my office so Rosie could sleep in here without waking me up in the night. But during one of my business trips, Rosie convinced Susan that she shouldn’t have to sleep in the office, so that ended that.

I’d get up each morning at 5 am to let Rosie outside. She’d come back quickly for breakfast. At the food container in the laundry room, Rosie would get two kibbles as an appetizer, then I’d place two “Easter eggs” on the floor for her to find later. We’d then run some water over the food, microwave it for 8 seconds, and breakfast was served. I’d head back to bed to watch the news and dose off, then get back up at 6:30 am for work after our morning walk. Sometimes on weekends, Susan would do the 6:30 walk, after which Rosie would run in to greet me in bed, then steal my socks laying by the bed and run off to my faux, “Bring back my socks” exclamation.

On Saturdays, we’d drive the old SUV to the “biscuit banks.” We’d make a deposit or two from our businesses in one bank, then head to our personal bank for a deposit or maybe a little cash. At each stop, we’d also withdraw a biscuit – though, come to think of it, Rosie never, ever made a deposit … only withdrawals. Some of the tellers knew Rosie well, so we’d do an overdraft that day and get a couple biscuits. Rosie wasn’t worried about her credit, though, or her girlish figure, so the overdrafts didn’t bother her.

For years, Susan and my days were divided in increments. If Aunt Kathy or the Grandmas or Abbey or Allie weren’t letting Rosie out at lunch, Susan or I would come home to do so. In the evenings, we were either home with Rosie and/or planning with Abbey and Allie to let her out, or making sure we were home in time to take care of Rose. And when we were home, we were always talking to Rosie like the family member she was … or petting her or scratching her ear or rubbing her belly. Though quiet, her presence filled our home, and nobody was ever alone here.

 

Her Terms

Rosie came into our lives on her terms. She announced her presence and stole her way into our hearts. She was a great companion for Abbey for over half of Abbey’s life. They were a great team. For Allie, Rosie learned to defer to the cat, Chief. Early on, he let Rosie know who was boss, and Rosie obeyed, and that pleased Allie. Rosie loved Susan, and Susan loved her. Susan couldn’t make a meal without sharing a strawberry or apple or some other healthy item with Rosie. Many hours were spent with Susan preparing food at the counter, and Rosie close by, respectfully offering to clean up any crumbs.

And for me, Rosie was a steady companion, a good listener, a good ‘acceptor’ of ear scratches and belly rubs, a good stealer of socks, my walking partner and my car-riding companion. She was a good girl.

Rosie made sure Abbey had a good winter break at home. She made sure that she and I had fun last Saturday, enjoying the outdoors and talking to the neighbor and playing with her friend Lance. Then she let Grandma and Grandpa and Susan and me visit Allie in Columbia on Sunday, while the Grandma Lea had a good visit and brought a few snacks. And on Monday, she and I and Susan had one more routine day of 5 am wakeup and breakfast, 6:30 am walk, seeing us off to work, greeting me for lunch, and giving me a hearty welcome home. We then had our usual walk around the yard, a run into the house when I said, “Let’s eat,” an impromptu game of “hide the kibbles in the Kong toy,” a visit to the cool deck, and a nap on her bed.

After all of that was done – after everything was just right — Rosie succumbed to the cancers that we didn’t even know she had. On Monday, January 28, 2019, as she was nearing her 12th birthday, Rosie left and our nest became emptier.

We miss her dearly. While she was quiet and gentle, her presence filled our home, and her absence is deafening.

All those years ago, you would have thought that I would have known better, wouldn’t you? But I’m so glad I didn’t. Rest easy, Good Girl.

 

Debbie Moeller Joins the Mauer Law Firm

The Mauer Law Firm PC, formerly Zerger & Mauer, announces the addition of Debbie Moeller to the Kansas City, Mo-based firm.

Debbie has represented medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers in mass tort litigation for over 25 years. She has earned recognition from Benchmark Litigation as one of the Top 250 Women in Litigation for several years.

“Debbie is a creative problem solver with experience as national counsel for several Fortune 500 companies,” says Steve Mauer. “She’s a perfect fit for the Mauer Law Firm’s focus on delivering big-firm capabilities with the personal attention, focus and flexibility our clients expect from a small firm.”

The Mauer Law Firm is located in City Center Square, 1100 Main Street, Suite 2100, Kansas City, MO 64105. The firm represents medical drug and device companies, financial institutions, businesses, municipalities, and individuals in complex commercial litigation, employment counseling and defense, trust litigation and contract and tort actions.

Dancing with Allie

Dear Allie,

Allie and Darrin at the 2015 World Series Parade.

“Do You Believe in Magic?” I do. (What I cannot believe is that you are 16 today. Where has the time gone?)

Also, I cannot believe that I am one of those people who always wonders where the time has gone. When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I promised myself that when I grew older I wouldn’t say “back when I was a kid” and “I remember when” and “where has the time gone.” But I do say those things. And I am saying them now to you. And as our youngest child with a sister off at college, you get to hear it all the time now.

But yes, I do believe in magic. For one thing, “Do You Believe in Magic” was the song played during our first Father/Daughter dance routine. I know you were petrified about how I was going to act — and how I was going to dance – in front of all those people in the Lee’s Summit High School auditorium.  (And you were right to be worried about my dancing!)

Allie, who can dance, with her dad, who can’t.

And I believe in magic because it is magic – a miracle – that you have any ability to dance at all. For though I am a proud Dance Dad (not as hard of work as being a Dance Mom … but still hard work) I. Cannot. Dance. Period. But miracles happen, and you have worked so hard at it, and you are able to dance, and I love that you can do something that you love so much.

I believe that, as my Darling Dance Daughter celebrates her birthday, I can reflect back on your 16 years (where in the hell did the time go?) as a wonderful daughter.

I believe I know exactly the moment that it became clear that dancing was your future. One year, you decided to give soccer a chance. You were pretty good at it, too. But I remember the moment when a boy on the other team blasted a shot off your leg. And I remember the look on your face that said, “That will be the last time I am standing on some goat pasture getting kicked by a ball on one of the legs I dance with.” With that kick, that first soccer season was also your last and you became a former soccer player and a full-time dancer.

The “Wannabe” sign worked in getting Ms. Andrews’s attention.

I remember your early interest in Mizzou sports. Early on, a lot of it had to do with watching the cheerleaders and Golden Girls. But you also knew a lot about the football and basketball teams, and we have always enjoyed great trips to games and Homecoming and GameDay and parades and House Decs and Bowl games.

I remember your interest in ESPN College GameDay, especially the segments with Erin Andrews. When Game Day came to Columbia in 2010, you made a sign for Erin: “Mizzou J-School and Erin Andrews Wannabe.” I was hoping beyond hope that you would get to meet her, but it looked grim for most of the morning.

Allie, Abbey and Erin Andrews

I could not believe when we finally positioned ourselves in the perfect spot after GameDay was off the air and I heard Ms. Andrews, as she was meeting-and-greeting sponsors, read your sign aloud and head straight to you to chat for a moment, autograph your sign, and pause for a photo. I was so happy for you.

I don’t know when it was, exactly, but you kind of became a Daddy’s Girl. Mom spent a lot of time with you, helping with backstage dance stuff and hair and makeup and all the things dads can’t do. And I was often running your sister around to soccer fields all over the Midwest. And you are more liberal, while I am more conservative. And you can dance, and I can’t. And I like barbecue ribs and spicy food and you don’t. And you like high school boys, and I don’t like high school boys. But you somehow became a Daddy’s Girl. And I love that about you.

I believe you have a great high school career ahead of you. Your grades are awesome. Your teachers spoke so highly of you during our recent parent/teacher conferences. You do a great job on the Touch of Silver Dance Team and Heart of America Youth Ballet. I can’t wait to see where you go from here. I am proud of you.

I believe you will do great in journalism school, or whichever major you choose at Mizzou or Arizona State or some other warm place (hey, we better get some visits planned!). Whether you become a sideline reporter or writer — or whatever field you choose — you’ll do great. And I’ll be proud of you, just like I have been for your first 16 years.

So, yes, I believe in magic. And I believe in Daddy’s girls. And I believe in dance, and sideline reporting, and Instagramming, and attending college at your parents’ alma mater, or maybe going someplace warm for school. And I believe in you.

Happy 16th Birthday!

Love,

Dad

‘Don’t Say I Didn’t Say I Didn’t Warn Ya About My Blank Space, Baby’

So while driving my daughter to school recently, I received an imaginary FaceTime call. We didn’t recognize the number, but I had my daughter answer it anyway. I couldn’t really see the face while driving, but the voice sounded familiar.

“Nice to meet you. Where you been?” the voice asked.

Again, I know that voice … but I just can’t place it yet, and I can’t see the face while driving. “Well, just driving my daughter to school,” I say.  “Who is this, and how did you get my number?”

“I could show you incredible things,” she said in a sing-songy voice. “Magic, madness, heaven, sin.”

“Umm, are you sure you meant to call me? I’m happily married, you know? Who is this?” (At this point, my daughter is freaking out, and telling me that I am embarrassing her because I didn’t recognize the famous singer on the line. Both of my daughters are always telling me how embarrassing I am, though, so I still didn’t believe it was someone famous on the line.) Anyway, I assume it’s a setup or a prank, but I’ll play along. “What do you need, Miss Swift?”

“Saw you there and I thought, ‘oh my god, look at that face, you look like my next mistake!’”

“Well, that makes two of you, then, because “a mistake” is certainly what my wife thinks about marrying me.”

“Love’s a game, wanna play?”

“Like I said, I’m already playing. Have been for 25ish years (I’ll get back to you on the exact number).”

“New money, suit and tie. I can read you like a magazine.”

“Well, this dog-eared magazine probably should be easy to read. This suit, however, is actually kind of old. I don’t really wear suits much, and only buy new ones when I outgrow the others, so you’re wrong on that one.”

“Ain’t it funny — rumors fly. And I know you heard about me. So hey, let’s be friends. I’m dying to see how this one ends.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about you. You seem to be a little young to have had all these experiences with love and everything, but I guess you do live in a world I know nothing about. Anyway, does ‘let’s be friends’ happen first or does ‘we’re talking’ happen first? I don’t know the order of things.”

“Grab your passport and my hand. I could make the bad guys good for a weekend.”

“I do have a passport, but something tells me if I grab your hand, and my wife finds out, that may be the last thing I ever touch with that hand. Not worth it for a weekend, even if you think I’m a bad guy.”

“So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames.”

“Not exactly a ringing endorsement on us being friends, huh? Forever … or down in flames. No middle ground?”

“You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain.”

“I can tell you right now … down in flames ain’t worth the pain.”

“Got a long list of ex-lovers … they’ll tell you I’m insane. Cause you know I love the players, and you love the game.”

“I think you may be warning me about something ….”

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless, we’ll take this way too far.”

“You’re young, and the fact that I have FaceTimed with you this long may be way too reckless and way too far for my well being.”

“It’ll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar.”

“The scar you leave won’t be anything like the one my wife will give me (she’s a dentist, you know. With pliers and needles and sharp picks and all kinds of scar-inducing tools).”

“Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane. But I got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name.”

“Remember when I said earlier that you might be warning me about something? I’m slow and all, but I’m hearing a refrain (no pun intended) here.”

“Cherry lips, crystal skies … I could show you incredible things. Stolen kisses, pretty lies … you’re the king baby I’m your queen.”

“Do you always talk in rhymes?”

“Find out what you want. Be that girl for a month. But the worst is yet to come. Oh no.”

“Oh no is right! There’s worse than this?”

“Screaming, crying, perfect storms. I could make all the tables turn. Rose garden filled with thorns, keep you second guessing …”

“Is this where I interrupt you to say, ‘Like oh my god, who is she?’”

“I get drunk on jealousy.”

“I get drunk on a couple beers.”

“You’ll come back each time you leave. Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”

“I’m dumb, but not stupid. If I ever were dumb enough to visit once, I’m sure I wouldn’t be stupid enough to come back to this nightmare.”

“So it’s gonna be forever. Or it’s gonna go down in flames. You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain. Got a long list of ex-lovers. They’ll tell you I’m insane. Cause you know I love the players. And you love the game.”

“Not sure, but I think you may be repeating yourself.”

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless. We’ll take this way too far. And leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar. Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane. But I got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name.”

“How sweet of you ….”

“Boys only want love if it’s torture.”

“Sadistic boys only want love if it’s torture.”

“Don’t say I didn’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I think that is a double or triple negative or something.”

“Boys only want love if it’s torture. Don’t say I didn’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Double negative or not, one thing nobody can say is that you aren’t straight forward, because you certainly did warn the players.”

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless. We’ll take this way too far. And it’ll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar. Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane. But I got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name.”

“No, no you won’t. I’ve heard enough. I’m out.” And I ended the imaginary FaceTime chat. It seemed ok in the beginning, but the tables did indeed turn there.

What is strange is that it seems like this call comes back once every hour or so. Like it’s in heavy rotation or something.

Driving with Abbey

Dear Abbey,

“How Do You Like Me Now?”

The author and daughter, driving.

You know, that Toby Keith tune really has nothing to do with anything. But that song means everything to me. It represents 17 years of some really great times that you and I have spent together in the car. More on that later, but let’s start at the beginning …

I remember the first ride with you, leaving North Kansas City Hospital with you and Mom in the back seat. And I remember being in the left lane, and needing to be in the right lane, and not changing lanes for a mile because I didn’t want to risk it. (In my previous 30 years on this Earth, I would have made that lane change without hesitation. But not this time.) We missed the turn we needed to make, and had to turn around in a parking lot. But you were safe. And that was important to me.

I remember sitting at a stoplight not far from our first home in Independence. Listening (and singing out loud) to Wee Sing Silly Songs. And for no reason whatsoever you said, “You know what, Dad? I love you.” It touched me. I wrote a letter to you about it, to give to you when you were older. Which I will give to you. When I find it again. I will find it.

I remember driving you around to get you to fall asleep. At all hours of the day. And night. And morning. And afternoon. And evening. I could get you to sleep no other way. It made me happy when you fell asleep.

I remember driving you to weeknight Mizzou basketball games in Columbia. You’d let me watch the game while you watched some of it, but mostly you’d watch and mimic the Golden Girls and cheerleaders, then go down after the game to get your picture taken with them. Then we’d put on your jammies and drive home late at night. I loved it.

I remember driving to Father/Daughter dance practices at Steppin’ Out, worried that I would embarrass you (and myself) with my (lack of) dancing ability. But you didn’t care about how poorly I danced. You just cared that you got to perform with your Dad. That meant a lot to me.

I remember driving you to middle school every morning, listening to National Public Radio, talking about the events of the day. I liked that.

I remember checking you out of that middle school to drive you to an interview. You had entered an essay into a contest for a $1000 scholarship as part of The Federal Reserve’s Money Smart Week. At the conclusion of the interview, one of the judges asked you how you knew so much about current events and financial issues. You turned to me and said, “My Dad and I talk and listen to NPR every morning in the car on the way to school.” I was very proud.

I remember driving you to a fancy breakfast at the Federal Reserve Bank downtown, where you picked up an over-sized $1000 scholarship check from Dr. Thomas Hoenig, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and now a director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in Washington, D.C. Those in attendance included school district officials, and mayors, and congressmen, and other dignitaries. I told Dr. Hoenig that I had read his recent essay, titled “Too Big Has Failed,” about the then-ongoing financial crisis. He said he was going to read your essay on his flight to Washington later that day. I was a proud Dad.

I remember driving to soccer practices in Blue Springs, and Lee’s Summit and Overland Park. I remember driving to local soccer matches, and to matches in Topeka and St. Louis and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and Little Rock and Tulsa. And often those drives, as we neared the soccer field, ended with a blaring rendition of that Toby Keith song, “How Do You Like Me Now.” I have no idea why that was the song. But it was. And I’m glad for that song.

I remember you driving me during preparation for your driving test. We practiced parallel parking, and turns and stops, and driving the actual course. You passed. And Mom and I gave you my favorite car ever. That 200,000+ mile car had a lot of memories of a father and daughter driving around, talking about stuff, going to places, listening to NPR and Toby Keith. I love that car. And I love you. And I love you and that car.

And I remember driving you yesterday, in that 200,000+ mile car, to your ACT test. So you could relax, and eat your breakfast, and put on your makeup, and Instagram your friends. Driving you home from that test, listening to NPR (for a little while anyway), brought back a lot of memories from the past 17 years. Thanks for the drive down memory lane.

How do you like me now, you ask? I like you a lot. I love you. I’m proud of you, and all that you’ve accomplished. I’m excited for your future. And for wherever our drives take us down the road.

Happy 17th Birthday!

Dad

What if they treated us like Disney ‘guests’ at the grocery store?

My family recently had the good fortune to cruise on the *Disney Fantasy for a relaxing family vacation.

The Disney Fantasy

* As a marketing professional, I’ve long been fascinated with the Disney Way. In fact, when Disney came to talk to my college communication class, I pretty much decided I wanted to go to work at Disney World. Having experience as a furry character, I figured Goofy at Disney World was a realistic entry level job as I joined the work force. But I digress.

Anyway, it was back from Fantasy to reality after the cruise. Late on Saturday night after arriving home that day, my wife wanted me to pick up a couple things at the store. (Actually, she was asleep on the couch after the exhausting vacation, but had she been awake she would have asked me to pick up some milk and bread, so I did as I would have been told if she were awake to tell me.)

So I walk into the store, late at night on the weekend, and there were as many people working as there were customers in the store. I walked past the customer service counter where four or five employees were standing around talking to each other. After I got by them, I almost stopped in my tracks. Something was amiss, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then I realized that no one said a word to me as I entered the store and walked by the employees. (Granted, I didn’t say anything either, so there is blame to go around.) But I had just spent a week on a Disney cruise where you don’t walk by any employee without their acknowledging you with a “hello” or “good morning” or “how are you, sir?” Wouldn’t I feel more welcomed if I were greeted politely?

I understand that Disney is getting a lot more for the cruise than the grocery store is getting for a couple gallons of milk and a loaf of bread. So Disney can afford to treat their ‘guests’ a little better. But do we really have to be invisible when we walk into the home town grocery? Worse yet, I passed one employee no less than three times as I wondered aimlessly around the store trying to find where they hid the breakfast bars or ramen noodles or pickles or something. Each time, the employee was chatting away on her phone in an obvious personal conversation (she wasn’t trying to hide it). Wouldn’t it have been nice if she had asked if she could help me find something?

To top it off, I took my mini-cart of 10-or-less items to the register to wait with about 10 other folks. Only one register was open. I literally got behind one extended family that had — amongst a cruise-ship-load of other items — three cases of those ramen noodles I was searching for. And the cashier had to count every last one of them, and scan all the other items in their cart, and personally bag every item because no one was there to help him. About the time I got to the front, one of the four or five employees I encountered on the way in broke away from the conversation (not the one on the phone … she was still walking in circles around the store on the phone) to open another register.

“I can help someone over here,” she said. And the guy who was tenth in my line rushed over to be the first in the new line.  Wouldn’t it have been great if she had said, “I can help the guest who has been waiting the longest”?

And, in general, wouldn’t it be great if we could be treated as ‘guests’ in the hometown grocery store like we are on vacation thousands of miles away? A “welcome to our store” or “may I help you find anything” goes a long way toward earning our loyalty, and perhaps making us feel a little better about spending our money in the same place on a weekly basis.

Do your customers or clients feel like ‘guests’ when they do business with you?

Colorado Buffalo Stampede

We came across an article today about the University of Colorado leaving the Big 12 Conference. (That’s a whole can of worms in-and-of-itself, but it isn’t the purpose of this post.) The article, titled “Buffaloes Start College Realignment Stampede,” reminded us of a more literal stampede by a singular Colorado Buffalo many moons ago. (Can one buffalo stampede? Ralphie can!)

While a sophomore in college in 1987, we saw an ad in Mizzou’s student newspaper for Truman the Tiger mascot tryouts. Because we didn’t have a test or anything else important until the next day, we thought we’d give it the ol’ college tryout. Lo and behold, the childish antics we practiced to perfection in high school (which our teachers so wrongly predicted would get us nowhere in life) actually paid off and we were selected to the Spirit Squad as one of the Trumans. Our parents, we are sure, had to be so proud that their tuition money was going to such good use. Actually, though, we did get awarded class credit for it each semester. And, we needed every “A” we could get.

Someday, we’ll write a book (working title: “Tails of a College Mascot”) about the whole experience, so we’ll save some details and skip forward to our first road football game as Truman. It was Nov. 7, 1987 in Boulder, CO. Though it was a long, long bus ride from Columbia, MO, it was worth it. Boulder was a great town, and we had a lot of fun (more on that in “Tails”). So on to the game.

We’re not tough guy, mind you, or we would have put on the pads and been a football player, not put on big feet, a tail and a large head as an animated tiger. But when you put on that Truman suit, it kind of changes you. You’re on stage. You’re tough. You won’t back down from Cornhuskers or Wildcats or Jayhawks or Nittany Lions … nothing. So in the pre-game festivities at Colorado that cool fall day, we marched around Folsom Field like we owned the place, messing with Chip (our Colorado costumed counterpart) and haranguing a university police officer enough to where he peered out over his cool mirrored sunglasses and grumbled, “Better get away from me, Tigger.” But I was tough. He didn’t scare me.

Shortly after we harassed the cop, a gentleman in cowboy boots, chaps and a Stetson come over to tell us to get off the field. Say what … did he know to whom he was speaking? We’d already spent considerable time pestering Colorado’s cheerleaders, mascot, police officers, etc. … we weren’t moving for some urban cowboy.

“Move,” he told us again. Playing to anyone in the crowd who may have been watching, we didn’t budge. We’re tough. So the cowboy came over real close and proceeded to tell us: “Look, we’re fixin’ to unleash a 1000 lb. real, live buffalo here in a moment. Six of us are going to lead her around the field and several of us will help try to keep her headed in the right direction. And, if we can keep control, we’ll bring her right by this spot and into her trailer down yonder. If we can’t control her, she’s liable to go after the biggest, brightest thing she sees, and with that goofy head you’re about 6’5” and very yellow. I suggest you move.”

Did we mention that, underneath that costume, we’re not very tough?

We got off the field right quick and bravely hid behind one of the cheerleaders. Sure enough, shortly thereafter a big ruckus broke out and here comes Ralphie III leading the Colorado Buffaloes onto the field, six guys hanging on to her for dear life (including my new-found cowboy friend). Right by us she ran down the visitors sideline and headed for her awaiting trailer.

We should add that Ralphie III is no name for a lady. Apparently Ralphie I started out as Ralph, but a smart Colorado undergrad discovered that he was a she, so Ralph became Ralphie. They are up to Ralphie V now. Our game actually marked the debut of Ralphie III, as II had just passed. If you are so inclined, you can read all about it on the Ralphie the Buffalo page.

But we digress …

Anyway, Ralphie runs by and, back to full tough guy mode, we pushed the cheerleader who was protecting us aside and ran in hot pursuit of the buffalo. Her handlers ran her into the trailer and, as soon as the gate slammed shut, we jumped on the side rails and “gave Ralphie the business,” flexing our tiger muscles and thumbing our nose at her.

We were having a grand time, playing to the Tiger fans in the crowd and getting a few good laughs. Then the cowboy dudes intervened. “Oh, a tough guy, huh. Well how about you go in there with her.” They sounded very, very serious. Our heart sank. Remembering that the cowboy had said she’ll go after the biggest, yellowest thing she can find, we thought we were dead. Buffalo food. And no one would probably help us, thinking it was some sort of funny mascot routine.

“Look, Mommy. The buffalo is eating Truman.”

“Don’t worry, honey, it’s just pretend. Isn’t Truman funny?”

The cowboys took us to the trailer gate, opened it a little, swung us by our hands and feet like you do a little kid, and counted like they were going to let us go on three. 1 … 2 … 3 …

And they didn’t throw us in. Of course not. They wouldn’t throw a big yellow tiger in with a real live buffalo. But the thing is, we weren’t so sure at the time. They were talking a lot of smack and seemed intent on the guy in the tiger suit taking on the buffalo in the trailer. And we were convinced that our first road football game as Truman was going to be our last appearance ever.

But, as mentioned, they didn’t throw us in and we survived to fight another day, spending the rest of that day being our tough guy self. Except around the cowboys. We shined their boots and made nice. You just never know.

Now, about Colorado leaving the Big 12 ….