Sunday, November 16


There are very few brief, flashes of brilliance and opportunity that come along setting the average person apart from the mundane. Occasionally there are opportunities that make head-lines almost ~

Like the time the kids and I attended a public service at the Colonnade Mall. We joined about 3,000 other volunteers to pack relief boxes for our troops during Desert Storm. Local T.V. channel 3 hosted the event and soon realized they were completely overwhelmed by it, too. They had planned for a few hundred volunteers. Crowds of people waited patiently for hours on end for their 10 minute stint on an assembly line packing boxes Gulf Region bound. The waiting was unremarkable; lowered, random conversation or none at all, avoidance of eye-contact, much shifting weight from one foot to the other. Crammed as we were shoulder to shoulder with patriotic citizens of every description, age and color on all sides in an extremely wide line that progressed barely an inch or two every so often, I smelled a golden opportunity for song.

On my signal, Bi ("Bee"), James and I opened our mouths and began singing, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", "America" and "The Star Spangled Banner". All the while we prodded a little girl scout troop in uniform that stood right in front of us - "C'mon!" we urged, "Sing with us! You can do it!" They refused and did not join in until we had bravely carried on for an entire song and most of the next selection. However, response from our captive audience was just like those cheesy Hollywood moments when silence prevails, until one person begins clapping slowly and deliberately. Then 2 more people clap, then 5 more, until at last everyone is clapping in unison steadily faster until a final eruption of total jubilation. Except replace the clapping with singing.

After the awkward silence while only our voices were lifting up over the surprised and hushed throng, our first singing companions were a group of retired people about 35 feet away. They came in timidly on about the 3rd line, almost the end of the verse. Our second selection began with just us again, but was immediately joined by many more voices once they knew what we were singing. By the time we launched into the National Anthem, hats came off and it appeared everyone in the place was singing, open-mouthed and full voice.

We tried "Yankee Doodle Dandee", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "God Bless America". I think we even offered "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean". It was by now a literal song-fest; we looked around and everyone was singing, even the people who were far back in the line that curved out of the cavernous building and deep into the parking lot.

Encouraged, Robin and James and I began singing some of the military signature songs
"The Caissons Go Rolling Along" and "The Marine's Hymn". This was the truly thrilling part of our group singing experience; we began bravely - not sure of all the words - but almost as soon as we began, hearty, deep voices in little pockets here and there full of vibrato rose up and stole the moment. The veterans were singing! We could spot them standing straighter and taller, their white hair or shining hairless pates distinguishing them from the younger and oh so less experienced crowd. Once the military songs began, we listened joyfully as each branch was represented in turn. The old men shouted and raised their hands in the air when they were done, their wives smiled admiringly at them, the young vets shouted "Semper Fi!" and the rest of us cheered long and loud for all of them.

I don't remember how many songs we did, and some we even repeated, but after a while, the magical moment wore off as we were all a little closer to the head of the line. About this time a news crew approached the head of the group. The girl scouts now in front and easily accessed by the reporter, microphone in hand. Heavy makeup impeccably applied, she told the girls someone had identified them as the ones who started the singing. "Is that true?" she asked brightly, thrusting the mike their direction. And right there, illuminated in the blazing t.v. camera glare, the girls and their adult troop leader all nodded "yes" and eagerly piped up about their inspiration to begin singing while waiting in line.

Seven year old James was spitting indignant. I had to literally hold him back from sucker-punching a pig-tailed girl scout. Robin seethed in 12 year old dignity, articulating the injustice under her breath while the t.v. interview continued to laud a precious and exempelary group of young girls. They both looked up at me to right the wrong. But, I declined. I let the brilliant flash of recognition pass us by.

I quietly explained to two very disappointed children that we didn't sing for the notoriety - we had done it simply to express our love of country, and our love of song. Soon enough we were finally ushered into the warehouse and busy with packing soap, shampoo, toothpaste, chewing gum, stationery and other useful things into endless rows of clean, empty boxes on a conveyor belt. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Recently I fired-off a letter to V8 Vegetable Juice. Tired of a ridiculously long-running, sexist and truly insulting advertising theme that featured men being physically assaulted first by their wives and then by total strangers simply for their choice to not buy their product - I spelled it out in an e-mail to their 'promotion feedback' department. I asked V8 if they really wanted their product associated with corporal punishment? Getting smacked on the forehead was not clever, it was not funny, it was not effectively representing the benefits of their product. I concluded with a zinger about the 'sucking vacuum' of their board room 'devoid of any really worthwhile, positive promotional ideas'. A couple days later I received a nice form letter e-mail thanking me for my valuable input to V8. I kind of expected a complimentary coupon, but was disappointed in that regard.

The very next week (plus a few days) - no kidding: a brand new V8 advertising theme with 2 totally new commercials. Have you noticed? They both feature people with amazingly active lives attributing their healthy success to a regular dose of tasty V8 vegetable juice products.

I have no proof, of course - however, after what? - a 9 month to year-long campaign of nothing but the head-thumping theme (not counting the years-long focus on individuals hitting themselves on the forehead preceding), now we suddenly have total abandonment of what they obviously considered an effective angle?

Seems I have been passed up once again for my brief flash of brilliance. Only, this time I am more willing to take the credit.

You're welcome, V8.

1 comment:

Yaj said...

When you were singing and packing boxes, I was speeding and packing boxes.

I am a dangerous driver - and I drive 1200-1500 miles a week! During 1990-91 I racked up 4 speeding tickets. Yes, 31 in a school zone, 41 in a 35mph zone, and so on with similar horrific violations. Very dangerous. But, in Virginia, when you get 4 moving violations in a year's span you also get 16 points -- and the required interview.

During the interview I was berated and lectured to about my dangerous driving. Reckless really. I needed to get more control. Why we oughta...

(Actually I got the guy to admit that I really wasn't that dangerous, but he had his spiel and had to give it to me...)

In addition to more control, I needed 24 hours of community service to wipe out some points. They gave me a choice, and I chose the local "care package" warehouse for Desert Storm.

I have to say, I had a complete blast! Yep, I packed (over packed really) hundreds of boxes. Added many personal notes. Extras here and there. It was fun -- I made some friends and put in more than my 24 required hours. They never did let me drive the Bobcat lifter, but hey, I was in for moving violations...

As to the Girl Scouts, we stopped buying from them years ago. It seems the girl who came by our house required cash and somehow kept it and threw away the sign-up sheet so no one could prove who gave her money. Hmmmm...

And please, please, given your track record with V-8 - can you do something about those free credit report dot com ads?!! PLEASE!! I have never been more serious and can pay you...

I want to read: "You're welcome, Yaj."