Friday, October 23, 2009

News of the week

Puff makes friends

I worked from home yesterday so that Scout wouldn't have to go to daycare for the few hours between Liberty leaving for work and me coming home. The day was uneventful, Scout played quietly while I worked, I made her some lunch, she watched a movie, then I was done with work and we went out.

We went to Stacey's school to watch Stacey play in the annual Powderpuff football game between the 7th and 8th grade girls. Stacey's team won handily (34 to 6, I believe), and she managed to get a little muddy, a little banged up, but in good spirits overall. Scout was happily cheering for a little while, but quickly became bored with the game, and struck up a conversation with the 5 year old beside her. A transcript, F for friend, S for Scout:

F "I like your Hello Kitty shoes."
S "Thanks, I like your Hello Kitty necklace."
F "Thanks, my mom got it for me. Do you live on Greenwood drive?*" * - name changed, not actually Greenwood drive
S "No, we live in Westerville."
F "Are you in school?"
S "Yes, I go to dinosaur school."
(pause to hear my whispers)
S "Oh, right... I go to Nikou, it's a dinosaur school."
F "Oh." ... "I'm in kindergarten."
[lull in conversation]
(pause to hear more of my whispers)
S "What school do you go to?"
F "Mark Twain. Do you leave near Greenwood drive?"
S "We didn't drive, we walked."

The other girl was very patient as the miscommunication continued, and they both rattled off random facts about themselves. Scout mentioned concepts like "Daddy Dave" who lives in Ohio rather than Westerville, they both talked about how old they were, and tried to figure out how to get invited over to play at each other's houses. The mom and I gave each other a couple sidelong glances, and the information exchange never happened. I didn't like the Nancy Nord I saw in her. I've been around hippies and other freethinkers too long now, and I can't stomach the angry Republic suburban moms any more; they just set me on edge. I can only imagine what she saw. Will Ferrell?

So after the girls carried on for a while and got bored, Scout and I ventured down to mill around the sidelines, and I bumped into an old friend I hadn't seen for the better part of a year. We caught up briefly, and after she dodged a question about her husband, I noticed her wedding ring was on her right hand, and when he finally showed up, the husband stood apart from her. I didn't ask, but I was suddenly profoundly sad. The blow of seeing a couple separated that I thought were inseparable, on top of being in a crowd of people I don't relate well to really got to me. Briefly: Scout pulled me out of it pretty quickly by finding a new friend.

Another lady standing by my old friend had a little two year old with her, and she sheepishly came over to eyeball Scout. It didn't take long for them to start playing, and she and Scout ran hand-in-hand up and down the ramp to the bleachers, hopped around in circles, exchanged hugs, and otherwise communicated perfectly with gesture, emotion, stance, and facial expressions. The game finished up, I went to talk to the separated husband (also my friend), and the two year old told Scout "I love you" a few times before she finally consented to let Scout go. Stacey came over excitedly to ask how we enjoyed them game - which I hadn't been following since the start of the second half, when it was clear that the game was one-sided.

We all walked home together, the sisters holding hands, and I fed them little kid food for dinner (pizza rolls and chicken nuggets). Stacey entertained Scout for a while, but Scout wanted me for a change, and she came up to help me with a little side-project: excavating Stacey's old room, choosing between items destined for thrift stores, half-priced book, and the city dump.

Despite the couple of downers, it was a great day with my girls.

God Himself

This Tuesday I attended the Big Brothers Big Sisters 76th annual luncheon at the Columbus Convention Center. I was invited because I am a mentor working for AEP, and our CEO was getting an award. There were about 30 of us there, sitting in tables of 8 with school principals, contributors, and a few kids from one of the schools in AEP's official program (I'm not in the official program, I starting mentoring before I came to AEP). The food was good, there were speeches, a self-congratulatory atmosphere common to these events, and the award Mike Morris ended up getting was a Norman Rockwell sketch (that I assume was an original). Nice little event, but I wouldn't mention it if I hadn't run into someone on the way out that I bumped into a long time ago: Jim Grote, founder of Donatos Pizza.

On the way back to work from the luncheon, I passed Jim in the hallway of the convention center, who was walking with his daughter Jane (who still looked young and attractive, despite the 16 years that have gone by since I last saw her in person), and I slowed to a crawl and watched them as they went by. Maybe a lot of people recognize them when they are out in public, but they didn't seem alarmed that I was staring at them, nor did they seem to recognize me - a beard and Mitch Mitchell hair I've found is damned good disguise when I bump into people from my past.

I worked for Donatos Pizza from 1991 - 1995, at first as kitchen help, then as an assistant manager, then once I thought about the stress/pay/career options matrix, I thought better about managing and became a delivery driver for the last two years, making close to the same money by driving around listening to audiobooks that I made in a hot kitchen listening to angry customers and trying to motivate lazy teens. Wise choice.

I didn't have much exposure to the founder and his family when I managed, but one particularly busy Sunday night Jane came in with her then-fiancee and ordered a pizza and ate it in the dining room. It's pretty much expected that when someone from "the family" shows up, you go pay them some respect, but I was swamped with make tickets, and focused on keeping up with business rather than stumbling through facetime with Jane.

A day or two later, I was for some reason driving down to the corporate office (dropping off paperwork? picking up uniforms? can't remember), and I happened to see Jane walk by, and I impulsively called out "Hi, Jane, how was your pizza Sunday?" She replied that it was good, I apologized for being unable to talk to her during her visit, and then I notice the guy standing beside her is her dad.

"You must be pretty confident to ask that in front of God himself," Jim says to me.

God himself. Honestly, he really said that. I attempted some pithy rejoinder, but my heart really wasn't in it, being a little turned off by his sheer arrogance. Every time I've seen him on TV since I'm reminded of that, and occasionally mutter under my breath. And then there he was Tuesday, walking by me in person, and I realized... that it's over.

I'm not the 20 year old boy anymore, with a chip on his shoulder, overreacting to a quip made in good fun, believing himself living beneath his station, deserving the world and having it stolen by animals in bad ties. I have a thicker skin now, I can laugh at myself, and I've accomplished things in life with a little pressure and a lot of time. As it turns out, there was no conspiracy to keep me down, people were just more inclined to make me prove myself before giving me the world, rather than handing it over based only on my say-so.

So thanks, Jim, for the reminder of how far I've come.

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