It was one of those dog-freezing, ear-petrifying, God-awful blizzard-ish nights that we’ve come to expect as the norm this winter. I had grabbed a hotel in Bloomington in preparation for a meeting the next day, having traveled up 55 to avoid the ice and snow predicted for the following morning.
Your choices for entertainment are limited in a strange city at 2 below zero. The motel’s cable TV featured about twenty-seven variations of ESPN and zero channels showing PBS, so I went a-hunting across the frozen tundra for a way to spend my evening. The local cinema featured mostly chick flicks, which are well and good if you’re a chick, and I have enough trouble sleeping in a strange bed without treating myself to a large meal somewhere. So . . . I took part in the all-American pastime and walked the aisles of the local Wal-Mart. Okay, I’m not a fan of the chain that’s managed to destroy most American downtowns, but it’s good place to watch people and besides, I had a mission.
I attend this conference once a year and the office staff at the Illinois Elementary School Association are sweet gals. When you serve on an advisory committee for 42 years you get to know the staff, and I always try to pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers to bring these fine ladies. Let me get right to the point: If you are male and you spend twenty minutes carrying a bouquet of roses through Wal-Mart you become the hit of the party.
The night was snowy, the shoppers were harried and rushed, the mood was gloom and I became a bloomin’ winner as I carried my dozen roses from aisle to aisle. I wasn’t showing off . . . just looking for the men’s socks department. . . but shopper after shopper would stop a moment to smile at me. Without exception, their eyes said, “Awwwww…..!”
And of course the unspoken question on everyone’s mind was, “What did you do to get in that much trouble?” It didn’t require any clairvoyance on my part to eavesdrop on their thoughts… “Let’s see…he’s too old for it to be a new romance… Maybe he forgot their anniversary? Did he get home late last night? No, at his age he was asleep by ten. A girlfriend? Then he’s a dreamer. A granddaughter’s birthday? His wife’s grave?” It would have been a terrible let down if I actually told them that it was for a group of four secretaries whose names I can’t even remember.
I began to keep score, racking up two “That’s nice,” a couple of “How pretty,” and one very since, “That’s sweet.” I felt like a new mother.
When I had killed all the time I could stand I headed for the checkout counter. My associate…sorry, but I get tickled at the title…don’t most associates get paid better than this? . . . .looked at my bouquet and said, “Somebody’s gonna get lucky.” It must have been a brain-lapse brought on by the cold weather, but I’d spent so much time in the socks section that I’d forgotten about the roses and thought the girl was coming on to me. Then I saw her eyes my roses and the cold set in again.
But it did give me an idea. I send this out to Shopko, J.C. Penney or County Market . . . whoever would like to spiff up their shopping experience a bit. Set up a stand at the store’s entrance, offering to rent roses to men shopping alone. You wouldn’t even have to buy the darned things, just carry them through the store and gain the admiration and envy of every female shopper in the building. Then when you leave the store you’d turn in your bouquet and it could be rented to the next single guy.
If this idea takes off (and it will), then expand the program. Rent our huge Teddy Bears for fathers to carry through the aisles at Christmas. I defy anyone to pass the bear-toting daddy without audibly sighing. Rent twin baby pajamas to young women, construction materials to little old ladies, and big cards reading, “I love my Dad!” to little boys. Think of the joy this will bring to otherwise distracted and rushed shoppers when they see these thoughtful renters coming at them!
I walked into my meeting on the following morning and the ladies at the IESA were delighted to receive the roses. One gal said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” I wanted to say, “But it was an ugly, snowy night. I had to.”