Posted by: andresassociates | February 15, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines PR still sinking

Today, an injured Carnival cruise ship finally limped into port. 4,200 passengers debarked, kissing the ground, complaining to the media and vowing never to set sail on a Carnival Cruise again. Millions of TV viewers have followed the passengers’ plight, as day after day of news stories aired about ship-board vacationers stranded with no food, no running water, and unflushable toilets.

Management of the cruise lines downplayed the severity of the crisis, seemingly unaware that passengers were texting, phoning media and sending pictures telling a different story. The passengers are now on shore, but the reputation of Carnival Cruise lines is listing horribly because upper management failed to recognize the PR iceberg ripping at their corporate hull.

Without getting too deep into the chronology of this slow motion disaster, every day seemed to bring another puzzling move by Carnival. The ship sat for a days after an engine room fire disabled propulsion, navigation and sanitation systems. With the entire world watching, Carnival sent one –count it, one—tugboat to the rescue. Back here on land, we all wondered why they didn’t send three or four tugs, or a repair vessel with engine parts and fresh water, or another cruise ship to rescue the passengers.

Earlier in the week, Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill took off his tie and went on camera, reading a prepared statement saying Carnival Cruises tries to deliver a true vacation experience for its guests but failed to do so. Saying “We failed in our mission” without including “we’re sorry and we’ll make this right,” is merely acknowledging the problem without doing anything to fix it. It is not an apology, which was in order.

Finally, today, with the ship in port at Mobile, Alabama, Mr. Cahill apologized to the passengers of the Triumph. He spoke on camera to the media, then went on board the ship to personally apologize to the guests. His effort to accept responsibility, although a bit late, was entirely appropriate.

One can only imagine a ship’s company of lawyers, all advising the boss not to admit fault or blame for fear that words of apology would come back to bite. The legal team always seems to forget that a huge judgment has already been rendered… in the court of public opinion. Americans have already examined the evidence, as every TV network spent at least ten minutes each morning and evening reporting on the plight of those stranded on board and the tone-deaf reactions of Carnival Corporate.

Never mind thoughts of a class-action suit; an even bigger audience, the potential cruise booking public, was given reason to doubt the good intentions of a hospitality giant whose guests were more than inconvenienced. People who decide not to book a cruise on Carnival because of the company’s reaction in time of crisis will cause far more damage than any lawsuit.

How can Carnival salvage this mess? From all passenger accounts, the crew of the Carnival Triumph did their best to feed and care for passengers under very horrible circumstances. Passengers and crew bonded in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the hardships they endured together. No one on board ship, so it seems, has anything bad to say about the crew. It is, after all, the service, personal care and pampering that one gets from the crew that makes a cruise memorable.

Instead of the corporate suits standing at a podium, let the good guys of this story, the crew, tell their side of it. A few anecdotes from the crew about going above and beyond to care for the passengers could help rescue the corporation’s reputation. Passengers might have nice things to say about the crew even when they’re ready to keel-haul the cruise line.

Don’t defend your corporation, Mr. Cahill, praise your employees who did everything they could to see to the needs of their guests. Make statements like, “The crew of the Carnival Triumph deserves high praise for keeping our passengers safe, healthy and comfortable under some of the worst circumstances imaginable at sea.”

Make it about what you did right, and that might be the ultimate take away. Deflecting blame might win in the court of law, but you’ll lose big time in the court of public opinion.

Posted by: andresassociates | January 28, 2013

You Are Not Alone!

You are not alone.

Most Arizona businesses are still feeling the pinch of the recession, and we’ve all had to make adjustments, stay lean and adapt to a slower marketplace. It’s been tough on each of us, but together we’re emerging from the economic doldrums.

2013 marks the beginning of Andres Associates Public Relations and Media’s ninth year in business. Since first opening shop in 2005, we’ve helped clients in a wide range of industries achieve their local, regional and national public relations goals. Along the way, we’ve built new relationships, sharpened our capabilities and earned a reputation as a solid member of the Arizona business community.

But we didn’t do it alone. We’ve relied on other successful businesses, just as they’ve relied on us. Our success is based on inter-connectivity, and we became more successful when other Arizona businesses succeeded and prospered.

In that spirit, let’s help each other succeed in 2013. We’ll communicate your messages to your target consumers using the media and internet channels they’re already using.

To sweeten the deal, we’ll give you a great price, too.

For the first three months of 2013, we’ll knock 20% off our regular hourly rates for public relations, social media, crisis communication planning, media training and all our other services. Think of it… You’ll reach your target customers and save money to boot!

Want to make 2013 the year your business turns around? You are not alone. Call Andres Associates Public Relations and Media today, and let’s move forward together!

Since 2005, Andres Associates Public Relations and Media has improved the visibility of clients in education, public safety, government, manufacturing, publishing, hospitality, health informatics, retail, entertainment, development, logistics, the arts, politics, financial services, web design, supply chain, solar energy and the nonprofit and legal professions, to name a few. How can we help you? Visit http://www.andresassociates.com

Posted by: andresassociates | November 9, 2012

Second-Guessing Benghazi

My father in law was a Diplomat with the United States Department of State. He served as the comptroller at U.S. Embassies in Somalia, Spain, Malaysia, Denmark, Russia and Vietnam. No matter where in the world Norman Nelson was called on to serve (with the exception of Vietnam, an active war zone at the time), his wife Kitt and their kids Elizabeth and Bruce went along. They all served as ambassadors for our nation, but only Norm got paid for it.

I bring this up because, after the murder of our ambassador to Libya, we’ve been hearing a lot of people express shock and surprise that our overseas Diplomats are not afforded better protection… that a contingent of Marine guards isn’t present wherever our Diplomats go. If the average American knew anything about what our State Department officials—and their families—experience on a regular basis, perhaps we wouldn’t have to put up with all this naïve chatter.

Our US Embassy personnel are expected to represent our nation in any number of ways, most of which would not be well received if our people were accompanied by armed guards. It’s difficult to convince others of your peaceful intentions when they’re looking at your fully armed escort. So in most cases, our embassy staff and their families do our nation’s work unprotected. If today’s Diplomatic Corps members are anything like the Nelsons, they undertake potentially dangerous missions all the time, without question, without fanfare, and without military escorts.

The Nelsons didn’t have armed guards when Kitt and Liz were almost machetéed by a Kenyan Mao-Mao masquerading as a taxi driver. In later years, when Norm carried suitcases full of cash through the back country of Vietnam to pay our troops, he did so alone and unescorted. The only escort Kitt ever had in Moscow was the Russian KGB agent assigned to tail her.

Perhaps the best illustration of the dangerous work my in-laws took on for our country was in the early sixties when the Russians and the East Germans hastily slapped up the Berlin Wall. They wanted to stop the exodus from Communist East Germany to the West, and East German soldiers were shooting anyone who tried to get into or out of Communist territory. Things were happening very quickly, and the United States government didn’t know if the East Germans would follow international protocol and honor American diplomatic passports.

So they contacted Norman Nelson, a bean-counter at the embassy in Copenhagen and sent him and his family on a trip to West Berlin. After a lengthy train ride and an hour or two walking around West Berlin, Norm, Kitt, Bruce and Liz marched up to the Brandenburg Gate, presented their US Diplomatic passports to the East German border guards and demanded to be let into East Germany.

Remember, this was at the height of the Cold War. The Nelsons didn’t know if they’d be shot, imprisoned, tortured or ever seen again, but they had been given an assignment by our government, and they carried it out without question, without fanfare. As luck would have it, the East Germans scrutinized the passports, looked at the unassuming diplomat and his attractive family, and let them through into East Berlin without firing a shot. The Nelsons walked around East Berlin for an hour or so, went back through the Brandenburg Gate, and the US government now knew that U.S. Diplomatic passports would be honored by Communist East Germany.

This is a perfect example of the kind of mission our Diplomatic personnel can only accomplish when unaccompanied by the military. There’s no way the East Germans would have allowed armed Americans through their checkpoint, and if the Nelsons had been unwilling to carry out this test, perhaps someone might have died trying to cross that dangerous border.

Our Diplomatic Corps personnel around the world accomplish similar assignments every day that add to the safety and security of our nation, in ways that foster international respect for America and its people. They understand that their mission cannot always be aided by the presence of the military, and that many assignments cannot even be attempted with the military present. Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other American Diplomats who died at the consulate in Benghazi understood this, just as thousands of other American Diplomats do the world over.

Partisan TV pundits who question why the Ambassador didn’t have a phalanx of Marines with him, or why the Navy couldn’t call in airstrikes don’t understand the vital role our Diplomats play. Merely asking these questions belies their ignorance of the sacrifices our Diplomats willingly make for our country. Second guessing how it might have played out differently cheapens and demeans that sacrifice.

Posted by: andresassociates | April 19, 2012

Save the U.S. Penny!

Most Americans know the meaning of the phrase, “Watch those pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.” Originally, the saying comes from Scotland, where Scots were admonished to take care of their pennies and their pounds, not dollars. But the idea remains the same: If you save small amounts, you’ll eventually be saving big.

Today in the US, there’s a debate brewing about the fate of the American penny. Our Canadian neighbors (or as they prefer, neighbours) have decided to stop minting new pennies and to just start rounding amounts either up or down rather than dealing with the almost-obsolete copper coins. Or, as I like to say it, the Canadians have decided to stop making cents.

As a fan of late-nite infomercials, the idea of rounding up to the nearest dollar just seems un-American. Can you see getting excited about getting “not one, but TWO amazing Sham-Wows for Twenty Dollars”? It just doesn’t sound like as much of a bargain as $19.99, does it?

Here in the States, folks like me still value pennies, even though I don’t use them much. The pennies I get in change end up in a jar on my dresser where, in their own small way, they remind me of how much I can save if I just set a little bit aside. Which is, next to nothing.

Sure, when I fill a mayonnaise jar with pennies, I’ve amassed five or six dollars worth of useable currency. Rather than spending it, I’m more likely to roll the pennies up in fifty-cent rolls, and put them in a shoe box in the garage with all the other mayo-jarfuls I’ve collected and rolled over the years. Last time I broke down and cashed in a shoe-box full of pennies, it ended up being about eighty bucks. Not a bad decade’s work!

I saw a report on TV news a week or so ago about the declining value of the US penny. It’s not worth as much as it once was, which stands to reason since even $10,000 ain’t what it used to be. The report said the government is considering phasing out the penny because minting each new penny costs about two-and-a-half cents.

Now, you and I know the government rarely has a problem paying more for something than it’s worth, and spending two-and-a-half cents for every penny isn’t in the league of $400 hammers or $1,000 toilet seats but still, having a one-cent coin that costs two-and-a-half cents to make is pretty stupid. The US mints up to 14 billion pennies a year, which if we do the math means it can cost up to 35 billion pennies a year just to make 14 billion pennies. That’s 21 billion pennies– $210,000,000–wasted just to make $140,000,000 in pennies!

Well, you know me, Mr. Compromise and Common Sense. I’ve come up with a perfect solution that could save the government millions, clean off the dressers of America and empty garages full of penny-filled shoeboxes all across our great land. Here’s my idea: The Great American Penny Recall.

For one week, people could bring their rolled pennies into banks, credit unions and post offices. For every penny they bring in, people would be paid one-and-a-half cents. That means the roll of pennies in your hall closet, now worth fifty cents, would be worth seventy-five cents during the Great American Penny Recall. The ten bucks worth of pennies floating around your sock drawer would be worth fifteen bucks. The forty dollars in pennies in the water-cooler bottle you stole from your previous employer would, for that one week only, be worth sixty dollars. You get the idea.

Americans rarely do anything unless there’s something in it for them, but with a small investment, we could trick them into doing something that was good for everyone! The Great American Penny Recall would put extra money into the pockets of average Americans (and above average Americans like you, too). It would put billions of pennies back into circulation and actually save taxpayers a full cent on every new penny the government didn’t have to make.

With an extra $210,000,000 in our treasury, America could buy a facelift for every member of the US Senate, invade a hostile country for seven minutes, or start teaching math in our schools again. (Hey, we’re paying for the facelifts already anyway).

So what do you say, America? Are you ready to save the US penny and make money in the process? Help me get the Great American Penny Recall started. Spread the word. Tell your friends. Share this blog! Call Congress, call the President, call Dancing with the Stars!

The Great American Penny Recall: An idea whose dime has come.

Posted by: andresassociates | March 28, 2012

Are you paying for ads that don’t work?

When explaining the difference between Public Relations and advertising, I often tell clients that yes, buying an ad guarantees that your message will appear (in print, on air or online), but there’s no guarantee that your target audience will see it. People watch the news, listen to a favorite radio show, visit a preferred website or scan a newspaper for the content, not the advertising. We change the channel, disable “cookies,” or just glance past the print ads without ever really absorbing the messaging.

In PR, when we get a reporter to cover one of our clients, that message becomes part of the “content,” the information that people are seeking in the first place. Something happened to me yesterday that made the difference between advertising and Public Relations clearer than ever before.

I admit it: I’m a relic. I read the Arizona Republic from cover to cover every day and make a point of absorbing as much content as I can. This helps me know what the media is covering and keeps me familiar with reporters, columnists and editors, all of which gives me a leg up when pitching my clients’ stories. I concentrate on the content of the paper, with little regard to the ads, pretty much like everyone else.

Yesterday, my son Eric, a junior at Northern Arizona University, sent me an email and attached was an NAU print ad in which he is featured. It’s a nice black and white ad touting the NAU School of Education, with a picture of an NAU professor on the left and a picture of Eric on the right. It even says “Eric Andres, Shadow Mountain High School” in the ad.

It turns out this ad has already run several times in the Arizona Republic, and despite my studious daily perusal of the paper, I never even saw it! If a confirmed news junkie and devoted father doesn’t even notice an ad featuring his own son in the newspaper, how likely is it that a casual news reader will see the print ad you’re paying good money for?

Yes, advertising will give you exactly what you pay for; you’ll get the exact size ad, the exact placement, the exact artwork and the exact date you’ve paid for, but there’s still no guarantee your target audience will see it.

If you enjoy paying for messaging your audience is likely to ignore, then buy advertising. If you want your messaging viewed as the content your customers are actively seeking, then hire Andres Associates Public Relations and Media (www.andresassociates.com). Our specialty is placing content where your audience will see it.

Posted by: andresassociates | March 13, 2012

The Language of Baseball

It’s the start of the baseball exhibition season, and it’s really too early to start talking about who’s going to win it all come November. Perhaps it’d be fun to consider the effect of our National Pastime on American language. Over the years, as baseball has become more engrained on our national psyche, the language of baseball has permeated American business speech. Even when we’re not talking about baseball, we’re still talking about baseball.

As a public relations guy, I regularly “pitch” stories about my clients. Once, after landing a hit on page A-1 of the Sunday paper, my client sent a nice note saying I’d “hit a home run.” I was able to do this because I’d covered all the bases. I prepared my client for softball questions, and gave him some safe answers to use if the reporter threw any curves. I had other spokespeople ready to pinch hit, but come interview time, my client hit it out of the park.

With some reporters, I can’t get to first base, and that puts me in a pickle. Whenever that happens, I step up to the plate and do my best to read the signs. I try not to go over the line, but sometimes it’s the screwball idea out of left field that gets the media’s attention. Occasionally, I must take one for the team and I’m always willing to offer a rain check when I strike out.

The PR game is very competitive, and other agencies try to get their mitts on my big league clients, but my batting average is pretty good at keeping customers close to home. Sure, I’ve been forced out in a few squeeze plays, but I’ve never considered that a strike against me because, let’s face it, almost nobody is batting a thousand.

I could keep doing this into extra innings, but it’s probably time for the closer. When the scouting report shows your business needs a little relief, we’re ready to go to bat for you. One call to Andres Associates could change the whole ball game.

Posted by: andresassociates | February 29, 2012

Leap Day: All that EXTRA Time!

Happy Leap Day!

This is that glorious EXTRA day when our calendar catches up with the actual length of the earth’s revolution around the sun. Back in 45 B.C, the Roman astronomer Sosigenes figured out that it actually takes the earth 365.242 days to travel around the sun. To fix the Roman calendar, Julius Caesar created the 365-day year (the “Julian” calendar) and added an extra day every four years to bring things into line.

As often happens, what seemed like a simple solution at the time was eventually exposed to have a flaw… Since the actual length of the year (365.242 days) was slightly less than one extra day every four years, it resulted in about 3 extra days being added erroneously every four hundred years. Someone far smarter than I figured out that making one out of every four “century years” (e.g. 1600, 2000) a leap year, and skipping century leap years in between, would even everything out. Century years divisible by 400 are leap years, the rest are not (This will be very handy if you’re around in the year 2100).

Imagine you had been given all this information 2000 years ago. Assuming your mental acuity back then was equal to your brilliance today, you might have been able to discern all this and concoct your own accurate calendar, but that might have kept you from running your business and putting food on the table while you worked out the math.

It’s really the same thing with Public Relations and Social Media, which are not rocket science (or even calendar science). You could probably determine the best audiences for your business, create clever messaging to entice customers, write compelling news releases and pitch letters, pull together lists of all the media you’ve helped and befriended over the years, create a presence on social media pages, recruit “friends” interested in your products, message them regularly and direct them to your robust website for information and sales.

But who would be tending your core business?

Just as we’d advise against spending your valuable time making calendars, don’t waste time doing something we’re set up to do for you. Let Andres Associates Public Relations and Media connect you to your customers and target audiences. You might find yourself with EXTRA time more than once every four years!

Andres Associates Public Relations and Media
602-427-7310
Bill@AndresAssociates.com
Twitter: AZMediaGuru
Linked-in: Bill Andres
Facebook: Andres Associates Public Relations and Media

Posted by: andresassociates | October 27, 2011

Bring Back the 7th Inning Stretch

Despite the fact that my Arizona Diamondbacks were eliminated from the post-season playoffs, I’m still watching the last games of the 2011 World Series.

Calling the championship of an American sports league the “World” Series has always been a bit pompous, but it’s a slightly more accurate moniker today, as baseball is played the world over. It’s the national game in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and numerous other nations. It’s played in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Canada and Australia, and more and more international players are making it into America’s Big Leagues.

Oddly enough, as the game has become more international, “America’s Great National Pastime” has also become more jingoistic. But let me back up a sec.

I am proud to be an American. I vote in every election, fly my flag on all National Holidays, I actually show up for jury duty, and my heart races at the sound of a John Phillip Sousa march. Heck, I married a girl born on the Fourth of July! I’m the son and grandson (and nephew, cousin and brother-in-law) of military veterans, and I volunteer for veterans’ causes because it is the right thing to do. I consider myself a Patriot with a capital “P.”

When I attend a baseball game, I always get there early enough to hear the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. I doff my cap, place my hand over my heart and either stand at attention or sing along, whichever is more appropriate. Rising for our National Anthem is a fitting way for Americans to affirm our faith in and allegiance to our nation, and I enjoy being part of it. I owe that respect to my country and my fellow countrymen, especially those who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy.

In the last decade, singing “God Bless America” has become common practice during the seventh inning stretch at Major League Baseball games. After 911, when the nation was looking for common purpose, this patriotic gesture seemed a way to heal the wounds caused by the criminal attacks on our country. Playing the song continued at every Major League game during the 2002 season. In the years that followed, some stadiums only played it on Sundays.

But somehow, it has crept back into baseball. It’s now played during every seventh inning stretch of the World Series, replacing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the time-honored reminder that the reason we watch baseball is to have fun. No longer can we get up in the middle of the seventh and stretch around, find a restroom or yell for the beer guy… we must instead stand and deliver a second demonstration of national fealty.

What is it about baseball that demands two shows of loyalty? Are we required to do this at pro football or basketball games, when we board an airplane or get our driver’s license renewed? Do we get up half-way through a business meeting for a rousing Pledge of Allegiance, or stop at church between offertory and communion to sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag?” Does anyone sing “God Bless America” after the first nine holes at the golf course? The answer, of course, is “of course not.” So why do this at baseball games?

Maybe the folks who started our two non-declared Asian land wars thought this was a swell way to make Americans feel, despite doing absolutely nothing for the war effort, that watching a baseball game is somehow a patriotic sacrifice. Perhaps it’s a reminder to stay fearful and on a constant war footing. Or maybe it’s to make us feel that if we stand and sing a second patriotic song, we’ve done more than enough for our country.

Whatever the original intent, when no one can offer an explanation why we’re doing it (other than the catch-all “To Honor America”), the song becomes a forced vestigial display. Baseball doesn’t need this, nor do Americans need patriotism reduced to mindless, effortless compliance or false jingoistic conceit. True patriotism requires participation, not just the momentary postponement of a gratifying trip to the snack bar.

You want to sing “God Bless America” at games on national holidays? That’s fine, and I’ll sing along with you. But give it a rest at the World Series. My guess is God won’t be paying attention to the World Series until the Diamondbacks are back in it anyway.

Posted by: andresassociates | August 11, 2011

Waiting for a Miracle?

The stock market is unpredictable, everybody in Washington is yelling at each other, and here at home, we’re all wondering when business is going to get better. About the only lesson to be learned from the last two weeks is that it’s time for a miracle.

Not just any miracle, but the kind of miracle Humphrey Bogart’s character Sgt. Gunn talks about in the movie, “Sahara.” One of my favorite movies, it’s set against the stark background of North Africa in World War II. Bogie is an Allied tank commander, retreating (as ordered) across the barren desert, looking for a way out of his current mess. When one of his comrades suggests they need a miracle, Bogie utters a most profound response:

“The only miracles I believe in are the ones you work for.”

Bogie and the cast go on to bust their humps to turn their fortunes around, and despite heavy losses and unforeseen circumstances, they make it back to their own lines and a hero’s welcome.

Right now too many businesses are holding back, waiting for a miracle, as if the seas will part, water will turn to wine and businesses will miraculously start making money again. As much as I’d favor divine intervention here, I figure The Big Guy has more important things to do than bring customers through your doors.

Think about it: Are you offering a solid product or service? Are you connecting with the right audiences? Are you saying the right things to attract customers? Are you demonstrating confidence in your own survival? In short, are you working for a miracle?

 

Having Andres Associates Public Relations and Media promote your business can put you in position to make miracles happen. We’ll use the best public relations, social media and advertising tools available to make your messages seen and heard.

Contact Andres Associates for a free consultation, and let’s get started working on YOUR miracle!

Posted by: andresassociates | July 14, 2011

40 years later, we’re still the best class

This past weekend, I travelled back east and back in time to attend my 40th high school reunion. It’s hard to believe I’ve been out of high school twice as long as it took to get through it… until, of course, I look in a mirror and see a slightly more tired version of my father staring back. Mentally, I feel just as energetic, vibrant, attractive and adventurous as a seventeen year old high school graduate, but physical reality
and fond memory are rarely passengers in the same car pool.

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve led for a chance to start over today. My life has had its ups and downs, as every good life should, and while I might be tempted to enjoy some new peaks, I don’t believe I’d care to try for a whole new set of life’s low blows. So I approached this reunion knowing full well where life has brought me, what it has made of me and what I’ve made of it.

On the whole, I’m fairly pleased with what I’ve amassed: a wonderful wife of 29 years, two fine sons, my own small business, three beater cars, two sizeable mortgages, a few acres in the mountains for camping and a treasure trove of good friends and good memories.

As a seventeen year old, I never fathomed how life would change me or imagined where it would lead. A high school kid assumes he knows everything and uses the next sixty years (if he’s lucky) to disprove that theory. There is nothing like life to give you new perspective, and few things like a class reunion to hammer home that awareness.

I was especially excited to attend this reunion after the uncertainty of the past five years. An insurance company decided my life was a “pre-existing condition,” and a botched colon surgery and three subsequent surgeries to correct the botching pretty much emptied the bank account. The recession dried up much of my business just as I was diagnosed with a heart condition. The present was spinning, the future was sketchy, and the certainty of the past became more attractive.

I had a good solid childhood with Leave it to Beaver parents and Dennis the Menace friends, and my Catholic high school years were full of envelope-pushing rebellion against a common enemy: the Christian Brothers of Ireland. While the brothers (some notable good ones, but the majority, not so much) worked hard to teach us the boundaries of authoritarian obedience, my classmates and I struggled to learn common sense and self-expression. Going to this reunion, for me anyway, was the acknowledgment that independence and common sense had won the day and were to be celebrated.

So, I looked forward to revisiting high school: the touchstone of past solidity, a time in my life when I knew everything, when life had not yet frightened me, and when I had good solid friends there to back me up. With the present still a coin toss, I needed to see and feel the firmness of the bonds we created 40 years ago.

The day of the reunion arrived and after travelling back to Irondequoit, New York, I had the chance to reconnect with many of my old high school—and even some grammar school—friends. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with any one of them, but heard lots of condensed elevator-speech versions of life stories that both echoed my own experience and showed the different roads we’d each plowed for ourselves. It was wonderful to see and hear how each had embraced the stranglehold of life.

Several members of our class formed a band to play at the reunion, and they regularly got together at a barn in Webster to work out a set. I was fortunate to join them on guitar and vocals, and we had a blast playing for our classmates. Several people came up after the set and said they didn’t know I could sing (I think the jury is still out…). Others asked, “When did you learn to play the guitar?”

My answer was, “Over the last forty years.”

The more I’ve thought about it, I realize that same answer, “over the last forty years,” applied to things my classmates have learned as well:

“When did you learn to fly a plane?” “When did you get so well-adjusted?” “When did you learn to run a business?” “When did you come out of your shell?” “When did you learn to cope with the death of a spouse?” “When did you become so generous?” “When did you get so damn smart?”  “When did you get the strength to overcome cancer?”

Or as one classmate put it, “When did we start looking at 58-year-old women and
talking about how HOT they are?”

Over the last forty years.

My classmates and I have all peaked at different times… some in high school, some in our 30’s or 40’s and some are just starting to peak now. Maybe I’ll peak when (if) I become a grandparent, I dunno. It’s exciting and reassuring that my peers have been successful, overcome the odds, braved things I wouldn’t think I had the guts to face.

It turns out we were not just linked for a brief four year moment in time. Each of our lives may not have been a big dish of pudding, but after forty years, we assembled and were there for each other as, in one way or another, we always have been. And that left me feeling pretty solid.

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