Father Goof just suffered through a birthday last week. It was a tough one as I have officially left my mid-thirties and entered my late ones. Then it is on to forty and middle-age. (Although I hear 50 is the new 40, I also hear 90 is the new 80.)
To cheer myself up I thought about what I've really achieved in my short (but, in the opinion of many, too long) time on this mortal coil. Two achievements stand out.
When you go to a supermarket and there is a sign by the produce scales that reads, "This scale is for produce ONLY!"
I did that. When he was an infant I would take my son to the supermarket and weigh him. Then for "fun" I would calculate how much he would cost if he were cucumbers ($10.36), tomatoes ($15.11), or shitaake mushrooms ($77.43).*
Now I know what you are thinking (assuming it isn't: those are great prices on cucumbers), "Why?"
I can't say I have an answer - although it was an excuse to get out of the house and take a walk and while I was there I also bought cookies. Anyway, I was firmly told to cease and desist. It probably didn't help that we played it like a little gameshow and I would try to involve other customers (I used a broccoli tree as a microphone.)
I think if it hadn't been for the gameshow bit maybe they wouldn't have cracked down so hard and other people could have used the scales quietly to weigh their children. I notice these signs at almost every super-market. So, sorry I ruined this for everyone, but now I can take my son to supermarkets, point to the sign and proudly tell him we did that together.
My other big accomplishment is more positive. When you go to a movie theater the doorman will dutifully inform you that "The Concession stand is straight ahead."
I invented that - sort of. In college I worked at the Loews Theater at Copley Place in Boston. Most of the guys wanted to be ushers because you could linger in movie theaters, sneak snacks of popcorn and soda, get high in the bathroom, and hide if any actual work was needed. Good points, but I wanted to help people. So I would volunteer to be doorman. When people came up, in addition to telling them where their movie was, I would announce, "The recommended candy for your movie is..."
And if pressed I usually had some rationale. And people would do it. I would suggest Toblerone as the recommended candy for "Look Who's Talking Too" (I believe I told them the nougat would counter-act the grating impact of Roseanne Barr's voice coming out of a baby) and people who had never tried anything more sophisticated than Goobers would suddenly become fans of more cosmopolitan Eurocandy.
I had an impact. I got people to try new things. By telling the customers there was a candy choice that would make their specific movie choice better - I made their movie theater experience that much better. I was more than doorman - I was a sugar sommelier.
One day then Vice President of Loews, Harry Goldwater (and yes we did follow him around muttering "...extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! ...moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
He thought it was a great idea. But of course the squares at corporate got hold of it and turned my creative, empowering idea into a bland reminder that there were calories to be consumed up ahead.
Still - I started it. Some small comfort as I begin my slide down the slippery slope...
* While writing this I called up to my wife, "Honey, what is the funniest vegetable?"
"I don't know," she yelled back, "Cauliflower? Arugala maybe?"
"Thanks, do you want to know what I'm doing?"
"No, not one bit." So you can see why I need to cherish what achievements I have, however modest.