When I grow up

FREIGHT TRAIN

You know you’re getting older when you find your birthdays barreling down on you like an out of control freight train….and you can’t get off the tracks.

When I was a kid, I loved birthdays.  It felt like a national holiday just for me.  Lots of presents, maybe your name would be mentioned on the P.A. system at school, and you had amnesty from your parents for those things that would get you in trouble on any other day of the year.

Pretty sweet!  You just had to avoid the ‘Patty-Whacks’…that part sucked!

Overall, I still like birthdays, but the amnesty thing doesn’t work so well anymore, and you NEVER want your name called out on any P.A. system.  Flying under the radar is the key to birthdays when you’re old enough to remember life before microwave ovens and computers.

The trouble is, now I spend more time thinking of what I dreamed of as a kid and just how far from that path I wandered.  That sounds more morose than it is….I wanted to be either Spider-man or Bat Man.  I probably would have ended up as some sort of mutant 8-legged bat super hero thingy.

I don’t think that would have worked out very well.

I do spend time thinking of what I really want to be when I grow up, though.  I know, it sounds stupid coming from a guy past the curve of his working life.  I guess I just never really gave it a lot of thought.

I always envied those people who just knew what they wanted and went after it.  It didn’t even matter if that’s not what they ended up doing – just the drive towards something they could see down the road always left me in awe.

My plan was probably a lot like a fugitives – stay one step ahead of trouble.  If I could do that, I’d be doin’ all right!  It also meant that I’d probably never reach any sort of destination.  Not sure if that’s good or bad.

But I think I finally got it down.  I think, that after 40 50 something years, I can say with some conviction that what I really want to be when I grow up is….rich.

That sounds pretty shallow I’ll admit, but honestly, I think I’d be really good at it!  I’m a fun-loving guy, and I’m generous, at times, to a fault.  I’d totally share in my riches….tithe, volunteer, help my fellow man and all that – even throw pool parties and invite people over, or have huge barbecues and feed the whole neighbourhood.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking Warren Buffet rich.  That’s too much pressure.  In fact, I’m not even talking ‘personal jet’ rich.  Just rich enough so that I don’t have to worry about prioritizing work over play. Doesn’t that sound great??

I don’t want to have to go to the grocery store in disguise, though.  I will – I just don’t want to have to.

bad disguise

Frankly, I don’t know why everyone else hasn’t thought of that as a goal for life.  I guess that’s what happens when you have enough time to contemplate your options, and have worked long enough to know what you NEVER WANT TO DO AGAIN.

Now that I have that figured out, all I need to do is get rich.

Who wants to help me?

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Missing the mark – why you should hate Target

target fail

Last week Target Canada announced that after 2 years of losses, it was going to take it’s little dog and go home, leaving the land of maple syrup and poutine to pick up the pieces of a shattered dream for over 17,000 Canadians.

Sure, Canada can be an inhospitable place when it comes to the frozen retail jungle, with our high taxes, importing tariffs, base labour rates, etcetera, etcetera.  That much we know, so why didn’t the big brains at Target know that?  Maybe they could have nudged a friendly Canuck on the arm and found out what we’re all about, or sifted through the ashes of other failed chains like Radio Shack, Sam’s Club and Marks & Spencer for clues.

Perhaps the giveaway of their eventual demise was their clamor to buy up retail space from the failed Zeller’s chain…an omen of things to come?

We can all sympathize with the dire news that hits us every January in this country, when the bean-counters tally up the coveted Christmas retail sales numbers only to find another chain is waving the white flag and liquidating it’s inventory as sales fell short of what was needed to keep the ship afloat.

For that, I feel sad.  For Target, my feelings are not so benevolent.  It has nothing to do with it being a U.S. chain that invaded our snow-covered borders.  Heck, we were excited to have them here!  We welcomed the enormous bulls-eye with open arms and open wallets.  No, my wrath has nothing to do with where Target came from.  It’s in how they came and how they left.

Target arrived with more fanfare than a Presidential Inauguration.  “We are the great Target, and we will give good jobs to hard-working Canadians.  We will support distributors, vendors, support services, and landlords; bring tax revenue to this quaint little country, and we will take on the much-despised Walmart”.

They traded here on their U.S. strength, deep coffers, savvy buying and great prices all wrapped in a sophisticated retail environment.  They said, in so many words, that they were a huge American company, so trust them.

Vendors signed up to deliver goods without credit check, terms or deposits.  They were happy just to be one of the few chosen to stock the shelves in this great retailing giant. Workers were romanced into leaving good paying jobs to join this amazing company. They all had dreams of long-term growth, as demonstrated south of the border.  And Target traded on their impressive U.S. CV.

But something went very wrong.  Their first store openings were as unimpressive as a beach party during a Canadian snow storm.  Empty shelves, weak pricing, boring selection all had the Canadian shoppers shaking their collective heads as to what Target was thinking.

It never got any better.  Stores continued to suffer from delivery issues, non-competitive pricing, and ineffective advertising.  The only thing emptier than the shelves were the check-out lines. The writing was on the wall right from the first ribbon-cutting in Guelph Ontario.

Bad planning?  Perhaps.  Underestimating the Canadian retail landscape?  For sure. These things are tragic and stupid, but that’s not what has me writing this.  The ire is in what Target did next.

After using the American head office muscle to sway us into a false sense of security with Target, they decided to pack up and leave not as an American retail powerhouse, but as a failed Canadian company that has applied for creditor protection (Canadian version of Chapter 7 – bankruptcy protection).

That’s right – Target, with all its money and influence, chose to slink back south of the border without having to make good on it’s promises to us Canadians.  Besides the 17,000 plus employees that are left in the dust, Target has used a legal loophole to avoid having to pay it’s bills here.  Not as that big American company that used all its leverage to gain favour, but as a uniquely Canadian company unable to cover it’s debt.

So now they’ll leave with hat in hand, saying ‘Gee, shucks.  Really sorry about all that inventory you shipped us, but we can’t pay for it’.  Nowhere is the American parent, still with deep pockets and international influence, swooping in to take care of the mess their offspring created, even though it was that parent who persuaded us to ‘trust’ their kid.

Where is that strong giant parent company, now that all those workers are applying for employment insurance?  What about the suppliers who are hoping to get something from the inventory liquidation process to cover some of their losses – and probably having to lay off more people – the contractors who clean, maintain, and provide security to the Target stores? All out of work, and possibly out of pocket.

There are more, I’m sure that will be affected by this, and many won’t get paid for outstanding invoices.  Target will carry on south of the border as if nothing happened up here, and some of us will still travel across to cash in on bargains, just like they have in the past.

Instead of stepping back into the mess they’ve created and making good on their financial commitments, Target chose to protect itself from taking responsibility for a lousy business strategy, and for causing a huge ripple effect on the Canadian economy.

Shameful…and I hate them for it.

Bone-head New Years Resolution

screw upBy now, all of you should know that my actions have pitched me a bit off course a few times.  Most of the time, these things happen out of my control, but occasionally I’ve deliberately and single-handedly been a total bone-head.

But hey!  Every new year allows us to clean the slate and start fresh.  An amnesty of the soul if you will. How refreshing.  How inspiring. How delusional.

Instead of setting myself up for failure with resolutions to lose weight, call my mother more often, and being more organized, I thought that this year maybe I’d just try not to do the same stupid stuff I’ve done in the past.  That seems more realistic.

With that in mind, and with a nod to the 12-step programs, I thought I’d share some of these less-than-stellar moments of my life so that you, dear reader, can help me to steer clear of the shoals, make amends for my past indiscretion’s,  and maybe avoid them yourself.

BUT, just for the sake of plausible deniability, one of these things did not involve me (unfortunately though, they are all very true).

WHAT’S THAT SMELL?:  I once conducted a business review with an owner, all the while standing there with a big pile of dog poop on my shoe.

TALES FROM THE DEEP: For a stunt, I once ‘borrowed’ a ceramic swordfish off a front lawn, threw it in the lake then nearly drowned myself trying to get it to swim to the surface….alcohol and peer pressure may have been factors.  And I brought the fish back.

OOPS!: While doing work at a grocery store, I completely tipped over a 40′ aisle of groceries by mistake.  The crashing merchandise missed a mother and child by a couple of feet. I never went back there again.

THE PURGE: After a night of celebrating for the completion of my job training, I arrived bright and early at my first customer sales call and threw up at their front door…while they were standing there to meet me.

CAREER SUICIDE: Golfing at a company event, one of our executives would hit the ball into the woods and immediately run in after it while the rest of us waited to tee off.  Late in the game, when this happened for the 15th consecutive time, the others assured me it was okay to go ahead and hit while he was rooting around in the foliage.  Just as he stepped out of the woods,  I sliced the ball hard, directly at his head.  Only a small branch saved his life and my job.

FLAME-OUT: For Christmas one year, I accidentally caught the yard on fire after throwing a flaming turkey about 10 feet into a snowbank.

DID YOU GET THE LICENCE OF THAT JACUZZI?: I ran myself over with a bathtub on the lake.  We were entering it in a ‘bathtub’ race and while testing it, the front dipped in a wave and threw me over the front.  It kept going, right over me.

YES, DEAR: At a convention, I accidentally pocket-dialed my wife while a group of us were making ‘comments’ about a model search going on in the adjoining hall.

BYGONES: I took my best friend snow skiing once.  It was his first time, but because I was such a jerk, I took him down the double-diamond run.  He still talks to me.

9-11:  When I was training for a low-risk sales job, I was admitted to the hospital 3 times on 3 separate occasions – once for severing an artery.

WHAT AN ICE HOLE!: One winter when I was a kid after a freezing rain storm, my friend and I strapped on our hockey skates and raced around our block on the frozen sidewalk.  As we got to one stretch, I saw that one of the driveways had been cleared of ice.  I stopped but didn’t warn my friend, who raced past me.  You could see the sparks for miles.  He had to buy new skates.

EXPLETIVE EXCUSE: Coaching a kids soccer team, I had one troubled player who had a real potty mouth. At a tournament, I told the other coaches that he had Tourette Syndrome so we wouldn’t be disqualified for swearing.

INAPPROPRIATE GIFTING: Yes I did.  For either Valentines Day or Mother’s Day (I’ve blocked out much of it), I bought my beautiful bride a………wait for it………gym membership.

Whew!  That feels better already.  Achieving my New Years goals should be dead easy with that kind of history.  Can you guess which one if these true stories didn’t happen to me?  No fair for those of you who were victimized in one or more of them…I will block your responses.

Wish me luck!

PS:  The statutes of limitations has expired for most of these, so don’t call the cops.

The Bus Ride

This blog is a departure from my usual style, but I felt compelled to write it.  I hope you enjoy it, or at least see the metaphors in your own ‘bus ride’.

When you’re young and just starting out, you begin a long journey that will last the better part of your lifetime.  Everything you learned up to now was designed to prepare you for a long bus trip, and almost all of us will take that ride.

You stand, excited and scared at the same time, with thousands of other people, young and old alike, waiting to get on a bus.  Buses of all sizes, shapes, and colours, numbering in the hundreds, rev their engines and vie for a spot on the road, or are parked to let people on or off.  You wonder which bus you should try to board, or perhaps more importantly, which bus will let you on.

You stand at the doorway to a bus you seem to like, and the driver may talk to you.  If they like you, they may ask you to board, and travel with them, hopefully to your destination, although that destination hasn’t been determined yet – at least not for you.

You may have to talk to a lot of bus drivers.  Some will close the door without acknowledging you were even standing there.  Others say they have to make a stop first, but will come back for you, but never show up again.

In time, you will find a seat on a bus that will take you.  The bus is crowded, but you locate a seat at the back that you will share with a total stranger for some time.  The air is thick and hot back there.  No windows – at least not clean enough or near enough to see out of – and no air conditioning.  It’s not pleasant, but the promise of a journey into the future keeps you smiling, or at least tolerating it.

The bus begins to move, and you watch as the busy streets blur around you.  Any sense of direction is lost to you, but you put your trust in the driver, and know that wherever you’re going, it’s better than where you were.

There are buses everywhere, big and small – some slow and broken, others shiny and fast.  Most are just like any other bus, though, and that’s the kind you’re on – conservative and consistent.  Just like you.

The bus makes frequent stops, and some people are escorted off, crying or yelling.  Others jump off as soon as it slows down, and run to another bus.  No explanation is given, and you likely will never see them again.  An empty seat becomes a semi-civilized battle with the other passengers, especially those at the back with little air and no space.

If they’re fortunate enough, someone will move up to the vacant seat, leaving a bit more room for you to stretch out and maybe become known as a good passenger to the few around you.  Often, though, the seat is stolen by someone picked up along the way that the bus stopped for.

Not fair!

On the bus, you get to know the other passengers around you.  Everyone has a different reason to be on the bus, but in the end, they are all  looking for their own destination somewhere down that long road.

Some might become friends, although most will remain ‘that guy’ who says hello to you every morning but you still don’t know his name. Such is life when you are traveling on a great journey, and you begin to realize that the expedition itself is as relevant as the destination you were looking for.

If you’re lucky, seats will become empty further to the front on this very, very long trip, and as you move forward on the bus, you become more well-known and liked.  You try to keep in touch with those at the back, but its tough. The air is cleaner up here, and you can actually see out the side windows, although the path ahead is still not fully in view.

You feel glad you got on a bus that could go so long without any breakdowns or getting lost.  You praise the drivers’ skills and work with the other passengers to make sure the bus keeps on the road, straight and true.  Life is good.

Eventually, after a long time, you realize that your destination, although still an extremely long way off, is actually closer to you now than your starting point, and everything you dreamed of for yourself is coming to fruition.  You have moved a long way forward on the bus, and can even talk to the driver occasionally.

The bus still stops, and people get on and off – either voluntarily or by force.  You don’t make contact with most of them, but a few promise to keep in touch.  Most don’t, though.

The bus has become home.  In fact, you realize you’ve spent more time on the bus than anywhere else as long as you’ve lived.

Some people have changed buses many times, but you, with the exception of a few quick transfers early on, have remained on this bus the whole time.  Even the driver has changed over the years, but the bus has stayed, more or less, on the same path the whole time.

At some point, you notice, however, that the bus has begun to move more slowly.  Other newer, faster buses are better equipped for the road ahead, and pass you quickly.  The destination is not approaching at the rate it once was, and more and more seats are now empty.  Fewer passengers are picked up to fill them. The driver isn’t talking as much as they used to, either.

The bus slows even more, despite the lighter load, and people start to whisper about what the driver is going to do about it.  You all trust him – you have to!  He’ll figure things out and you’ll continue on our route like you always have.  You got on the right bus.

Then one day it happens.  The bus stops, and as you look out the window to see why, you find that you are the next one to be escorted off, along with a few others.  No explanation, or forewarning.  Just a somber handshake and some tips on how to find another bus somewhere else.

So there you are.  Standing on the side of the road, watching the bus amble along without you, shakily heading to the destination that you were sure it would take you to. Shock, sadness, and yes, even anger fill you, and for a while, you can’t even think about getting on another bus.  Even if you did, where would you sit?  Where would the bus be going?  Can you trust the driver and the other passengers?  No – just sit a while and think.

You decide to stay and play for a time – stretch your legs and smell the flowers around you that you sped past all those years.  If feels good to do this, but in the back of your mind, you recall just how much further you still need to travel to reach your destination.  That thought is always there, lurking in the recesses of your brain, like a sinister shadow, threatening to step into full view.

The thought of the long path ahead becomes overwhelming, so you make up a little sign “Great Passenger. Hard Working. Respectful. Loyal. Will take any seat”, and you stand on the side of the road, forcing a smile, waiting for a bus to see you and stop.

Buses pass by so fast that you’re sure they can’t even read the sign.  A few slow down and give you a quick glance, but speed off without stopping.  You stand on the side of the road for a long time, wondering how some people get buses to stop and pick them up, but you can’t.  Is the the sign wrong?  Do you look intimidating? Are you too old……?

A few buses stop, and even let you look inside.  They have an empty seat, and need someone to fill it.  You’re dressed well, and are groomed to give a great impression, but the seat they have is pretty far back, and it might not be a good thing for someone so well groomed to sit back there.

The bus leaves without picking you up.  This happens a lot.

Down the side of the road, you see one of the old passengers from your bus, pushing a motorcycle along the soft shoulder of the road towards you.

They stop when they reach you, and show you the motorcycle they have.  It’s not working, but maybe, with the two of you together, you can get it running and zoom right past all those stinky, noisy buses to your destination in record time.  No more bus drivers deciding who gets on or off, and when.  You’re the drivers now!

You have nothing to lose, but as you both push the old machine along in the soft sand, you tape the sign to your back – just in case.

The hope of getting that motorcycle running keeps your energy up for a while, but the tires don’t roll in the sand very well, and for some reason the engine just won’t start.  You keep watching over your shoulder, hoping another bus might just stop and pick you up.  It’s a tactic that’s mixed with wishful thinking and guilt, but one that you hope will pay off.

Others on motorcycles pass along the way.  You are conflicted with desire for yourself, and jealousy that they got theirs working while you still push yours along in the hot sun.  Still, the thought of being in the drivers seat brings new hope, and you push on, despite the odds.

At times, when you’re alone on the road, those dark shadows flow into the light like a river breaking its protective banks.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  The bus was supposed to carry you all the way to your destination.  How will you get there now?  It’s way to far to walk, the motorcycle idea doesn’t seem to be working, and despite a few stops, no bus has made a seat available to you.  How did this happen to a good person? It’s not fair.  But, as they say, life isn’t fair.  No one was out to get you.  No malicious intent was a part of anyone’s agenda. S**t happens sometimes.

In the end, there’s no guarantees.  You may never get on a bus to begin with, and even if you do, it might be a short trip.  You were luckier than most.  You had a good ride – and a long one.  Time to stop the pity party, and do what you’ve done before.  You’re smarter now than you were back then.  You know which buses to stay away from and which ones can get you all the way to your destination.

This is nothing more than another new adventure.  A bump in the road, and you should be excited like you were when you stepped foot on that first bus so long ago.

Except this time, the stakes are a lot higher.  You have more skin in the game, and more people are expecting big things out of you. Failure is not an option, and the bus drivers have a lot more questions now than they did back then.

Where will you end up?  Will you ever get that motorcycle running, or will you have to take a few buses to get there?  You’ll never know.  The only thing to do is to know that everyone you’ve ever met is rooting for you, and wants to see you get there, and that somehow, it will happen.

Leap and the net will appear.  Keep those dark shadows behind the banks as much as possible, and when you feel like they’re seeping in, run for the high ground of friends and family.  They’ll always carry you.

Have faith in God.  He has big plans for you.  This change is a chance to reassess your path and to listen to what he’s calling you to.  There’s a purpose for everything, even, if like that first part of your bus trip, you can’t see it yet.

I wish for your bus ride to be full of adventure, great friends, deep faith, and an awesome destination.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Safe travels, my friend.

 

 

 

 

The humility of being humbled

There’s few things more gratifying than watching some loudmouth get put in his place.  You know the guy – usually drunk and obnoxious, bullying everyone else until he gets clocked by someone half his size, or his pants fall down, showing off his Buzz Lightyear underwear…or no underwear at all!

Mortified, he runs for cover while everyone laughs at him.  At least, that’s what you hope for.

There’s gotta be a million You Tube videos out there of karmic revenge on the annoying or stupid.  We love the modern telling of David and Goliath.  Rooting for the underdog against a jerk-faced foe is something we can all relate to.

In Hollywood movies, it’s the villain who is the most annoying, hated person and ends up with the most spectacular death scene, not only getting shot 100 times in slow motion, but falling into a pit of molten metal, while being eaten by zombies or something.

But, have you ever been that guy (or girl) who is the unwelcome star of these little vignettes?  C’mon, sure you have.

I was retelling a story the other day about something that happened to me a long time ago that kind of fits this scenario.

For the record, I wasn’t drunk, and I was just doing my job.  I’m sure, though, that the other characters in this little scene were just as pleased as those watching the bully run away with his pants down.

I had a job once where part of my duties included making sure that my customers followed some expected level of quality, since they represented our products to the world.  This could make things a bit tricky at times, seeing as I needed these customers to buy stuff from me, but I also had to act like a Mom telling her kid to clean his room….without the folded hands and tapping of the foot….you know the look.

I used to wear a suit.  Not because I had to, but because I thought it was important to look professional….what a jerk!

Anyway, I had to meet a customer who’s business was in desperate need of the ‘angry Mom’ look.  The owner was very casual and would always tease me about wearing a suit all the time, ‘Geez!  Even the Mayor doesn’t dress like that’.

Fully suited up, just to make a point, I parked a block away from the store, again making a point about giving the best parking to the paying customers, and walked into the rear entrance of the store.  Very smug and probably abusing my power, I’m quite sure they were not happy about this visit.

As I walked the store with the owner’s wife, pointing out how bad the business was, I started to notice a foul smell.

I said, ‘Another thing.  Do not smell that?  It smells like dung in here.’

She acknowledged that she too smelt it, then motioned at my shiny dress shoes.  I looked down at the same time, and saw where the smell was coming from. I guess somewhere on my pretentious strut to the store, I stepped in a steaming pile of doo-doo.

I glanced back to see the owner on his hands and knees, scrubbing the disgusting footsteps I had taken all through the place.

I turned as red as the goal light at a Leafs game!

Mortified, I carefully took off my shoe, and hopped out the back door to find a stick.  I think I just went home after that.  Any sense of superiority or authority was left on the stained carpet behind me.

Of course, I had no way of making an elegant exit from that train wreck.  I think I mumbled something about why there would be horse poop on the sidewalk outside the store in the first place, then quickly got in my car, and drove home with one shoe on.

I stopped wearing a suit after that.

The office clown

I don’t know why there isn’t more fun in the workplace.

Not smiling, suppressing laughs, and being all business around the cubicles seems to be the rule these days.  No wonder no one seems to like going to work.

It’s not like enjoying yourself at work is a productivity drain or anything.  Heck, I’ll bet that if folks had more fun at work, they might even put in longer hours.  Instead, they stand at the old time clock with their coats on, waiting for the minute hand to hit 12.

I was talking to a friend about having more fun at work, and I jokingly (sort of) suggested that they wear a clown outfit to work next week.

Think of the positive distraction that would be for the dismal, grey office environment, when your coworker shows up in a wild coloured costume, red nose, curly yellow hair, and those huge red shoes.

Unfortunately, not many of us are brave enough to try to pull off a stunt like that, but I’m not so sure it would be job-ending.

With all the political correctness and employee engagement ‘group hug’ police we call Human Resources, I’ll bet you’d actually get away with it altogether.

In fact, the longer you lounge around the office in the clown outfit, the more legitimate it becomes.  Maybe, it would even fall under one of those sacred cow categories, like a ‘lifestyle choice’ or ‘religion’.

I can just imagine the conversation your boss might be having with HR…

“Hello, Bob.  My, your shirt and tie look appropriate for the workplace, by which I am in no way implying any type of inappropriate or sexual comment on your wardrobe”

“Gee, thanks, Lisa…I think.  I’ve come to complain about Becky, who now insists I refer to her as Binky”.

“What seems to be the problem with ‘Binky’, Bob?  She shows up for work on time every day, which, considering those huge shoes she wears, is quite an accomplishment, and she has had top-notch performance reviews.  She even signs them with a big orange smiley-face stamp.  It’s very unique”.

“That’s just the problem, Lisa.  I can’t have a clown in my department – all the other supervisors are laughing at me!”

“Now Bob, we here at Catatonic Distributing don’t take kindly to discriminatory comments about those who are different than us. I have to write up an intolerance conduct report on you”.

“What?”

“We take these things very seriously here, Bob.  Everyone, regardless of race, age, creed, sexual orientation, or circus attire choice is to be treated as an equal here”.

“But she answers all incoming calls by honking one of those old bike horns.  It’s very frustrating to our customers and the coworkers.”

“You see Bob?  That’s exactly your problem.  Instead of focusing on the special uniqueness of Binky, you lash out at her differences”.  “We can’t have that here”.

“But she drives around in that little clown car all day, knocking into people”.  “She even demanded a ‘clown stall’ in the ladies room.  It’s outrageous!”

“She did?”

“Yes!  Thank goodness you finally see my point.”

“No, Bob.  I don’t see your point.”  “If Binky requires a special place to relieve herself, it’s up to us to act immediately and provide it for her”.

“Your kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding, Bob?”

“I can’t tell.  You never smile, frown, or anything.  It’s like talking to Keanu Reeves, to be perfectly honest.”

“Well, I’m not kidding.  You need to make immediate arrangements for Binky to have equal accessibility with her little car, as you would for any other person with ‘different’ abilities.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“You’ll have to figure that out.  Until then, I have no choice but to send Binky home with full pay until we have accommodated her needs.  It’s a serious liability issue for us, Bob.”

“But the door to the staff washroom isn’t wide enough since she sits sideways in the little car.  Her huge shoes stick out and can’t fit through the door”.

“What about your office door, Bob?”

“What about my office door?”

“It’s much wider than the washroom door”.

“But it’s my office, not a washroom.”

“Get building maintenance to retrofit your minibar area to a private washroom stall.”

“But, its MY office.  What am I supposed to do?”

“I guess you can sit in Binky’s old cubicle.  With any luck, we won’t be sued by the ‘CLWS’.”

“What is ‘CLWS’, Lisa?”

“Clowns Living Without Shame.  They’re a radical group I just heard about from Binky.  Very powerful.”

“Are you sure she’s not just making all this up?”

“You see, Bob.  It doesn’t matter if I believe it or not. As long as Binky says it exists, we have no choice but to accommodate for it.”

“That’s ridiculous. She can just make up some crazy idea, wear a clown costume around the place, and I have to give her my office?”

“And we have to get her a helium tank so she can make religious balloon animal symbols.”

“Of course we do.”  “Is there anything else I need to do for Becky…I mean Binky?”

“Not yet, but she did put in a purchase request for a case of cream pies.”

……yup, I think you’d be safe.

The Red Suit Conspiracy – believing in Santa

WARNING:  THIS BLOG MAY MAKE FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAT IF LITTLE ONES READ IT.

As a kid, I was pretty gullible.  I tended to think that what anyone told me was the truth, otherwise, why would they say it?

I also spent a lot of time getting sucked in to things.  Maybe that’s why I hate gambling so much.  Not that I have a moral stance on it, but just because I’m lousy at it.

When you’re really little, like pre-school or Kindergarten aged, Santa is like God to you.  What an incredible being, who rides around at night in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, leaving presents under the tree for every kid in the world. It’s no wonder kids run screaming from him at the mall.  He’s super human!

Of course, toddlers don’t think in practical terms.  We are told about Santa, we see the gifts, so therefore, Santa is real.  Simple.

As you get a bit older, you start to see some cracks in the Santa story, though.  Mostly, it’s from older kids laughing or beating up some poor sucker who blathered that they still believe.  Who wants that kind of Christmas gift?

I remember when I lost my ‘Christmas Virginity’.  It took a while, much like my rea…..never mind.  Anyway, it started out with little things like opening the gifts with Santa’s signature on them, then going to our cousins house to see similar Santa gifts with different hand writing on the presents.  That sure seemed odd.

Then there would be Christmas Eve when we were tucked not so neatly into our beds, and I’d hear what sounded like Mom and Dad stumbling down the stairs with something big.

I spent some serious time contemplating this dilemma.  I mean, on one hand, for every Christmas up to now, the manifestation of the great and powerful Santa was clearly evident.  Shopping malls had him on display, Christmas specials confirmed his existence, and our parents and older family members assured us that he was very real.  Then, as sure as the sun would come up, presents were littered around the tree.

Being the gullible kid I was, and knowing I was gullible, meant that I had to take serious stock of things.  I didn’t want to be that kid getting beat up in the school yard for believing – especially if it wasn’t true.

So, I weighed the evidence before me.  The gifts showed up as promised every year, with no trace of them in the house before I went to bed, and all the television, radio, and adult conversation said he was real.  It’s what I was raised to believe.

On the other hand, the idea that one man could circumnavigate the entire globe in one night flying around with magic reindeer, stopping at virtually every house on the planet, and little elves making cool toys like etch-a-sketch and rock-em-sock-em robots didn’t seem very likely.

So, it came down to one key factor.  Was the Santa story a magical truth or an elaborate hoax?  When faced with this at the age of 8 or 9, I decided that the only logical explanation was that he must exist, simply because I concluded that there was no way an entire adult world could support such an elaborate ruse for that long.  Not a chance!

I was happily resolved with my results until one day when I was playing at a friends house, and he said to me, “I don’t believe in Santa.  Do you?“.  Gulp!  The acid test.  Could I stand behind my conviction?

No!  Of course not.  I blurted out, unconvincingly, “No, I don’t either.

Just then, my friend’s mother walked in and scolded us for telling the secret when his little sister was just in the other room.

Wait a minute.  I was lying when I said that I didn’t believe.  Now, this lady unwittingly confirmed my worst fear.  Santa didn’t exist after all.

I was quietly heart-broken.  All those dumb adults really could keep the secret.  So much for logical deduction!

Through adolescence and early adulthood, I was wise and smug about Santa.  I would mentally criticize parents who tried to convince their kids that the jolly old elf was working hard up at the North Pole, so they’d better be nice…..or else!

That is, until I had kids of my own.

When you have children, your cynicism about things starts to soften.  You start to immerse yourself into their wonderful little fantasy worlds.  And along with that, you begin to rethink your stance on the whole Santa conspiracy.

I took a logical approach to Santa, just like I did when I was 8. Putting aside for a moment, just who Santa is, lets look at things:

  • He still comes late at night, delivering gifts to children – CHECK
  • He works all year in his ‘workshop’ so the kids will have gifts under the tree by Christmas – CHECK
  • He brings joy and amazement to little children on Christmas morning – CHECK

I think that if you put a few details aside, like the little reindeer, and the North Pole, Santa is every bit as real as us.  I think we, in our smug, all-knowing youth, had it completely wrong.  The little kids were right after all.

Santa does exist.  There is no conspiracy after all.

Great, old St. Nickolaus, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey who is said to have given gifts to children at the time, was only the first in a very long line.

Now, those honoured enough, and who have a hint of that childhood belief, work all year long in their own ‘workshops’ (office), along side the ‘elves’ (co-workers), and deliver gifts on that magical night to their little children.

What an awesome job to have.  Being Santa Claus. If all those parents slogging away all year, then standing in line at the mall don’t believe in Santa, they are as lost to the magic as any child who stops believing at an early age.

Let me stress that Christmas is NOT about giving and getting presents, or going into debt while burning through your credit limit at the mall.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that spirit, however, bringing joy to children seems like a pretty nice way to celebrate God’s love for us.

Don’t give up on Santa.  He’s real, and he’s in each of us.  The sleigh and red suit may be gone, but what he did, and what he represents is as real as ever.

Merry Christmas!