Scene One – ZANZIBAR – Madison, Wisconsin, July 2020
“As soon as I get to know her, she’ll leave,” I say.
“Bobby, who are you talking about?” Dan scoots his chair close to the kitchen table. A cool mid-summer breeze plays tag with gingham window curtains that dance and flow, dance and flow.
I look at Dan. He grins with expectation. Hair curls from under his blue Milwaukee Brewers baseball cap, a constant fixture in Dan’s attire, even indoors. “Everyone,” I say. “Especially baristas. As soon as she begins to recognize me as a regular customer, greets me by name, learns my bakery and coffee preferences, and I begin to form an attachment, she goes to another job, back to school, or moves to Zanzibar.”
I slump in my chair. Window curtains slowly dance. “Anyplace I’ll never go. The point is I’ll never know when she leaves and only learn of her departure after she’s gone. What’s wrong with me?”
“Baristas can be like that, Bobby. They change jobs frequently. It’s not you. Maybe you try too hard? Slow down your pace.”
“What do you mean? I just want to make a new friend.”
Dan removes his cap and wipes his brow. “What I’m saying is you seem to expect an outcome based on what you want. Life isn’t like that. We may influence a result but can’t control the outcome. If I push one end of a cooked spaghetti noodle across my dinner plate, I can’t assume the pasta will go where I intend. If I assume a specific result from interactions with people, I may be disappointed. Or worst case, if I try too hard to achieve a goal, move too fast, or I’m not clear with myself or others about what I want, I may receive something I never expected.”
“Yeah, like Jack Canfield’s story about a man who finds a Genie in a bottle.”
Dan leans toward me. “Say more.”
“Well, I’m paraphrasing Canfield’s story, but it goes something like this. He describes a man who rubs a magic bottle and says, ‘I wish I had a foreign car dealership in a major metropolitan area.’ Poof. He’s transported to Japan. The man says, ‘Hey Genie, I wanted a BMW dealership in Los Angeles, not a Chevrolet used car lot in Tokyo.’ The Genie says, ‘That’s not what you asked for.’”
Scene Two – OTHER PLANS – Madison, Wisconsin, September 2020
“They were called border wars,” I say.
“Who did?” Jeannie says.
“Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, among other Illinois newspapers. We were called raiders.”
Jeannie pulls her chair closer to me. “I don’t get it, Bobby. Who were you raiding?”
“We weren’t raiding. We were visiting Illinois businesses who were located close to the Wisconsin state line to try to convince owners to relocate their operations to Wisconsin. Jim Thompson, Governor of Illinois, Big Jim as he was known, took offense after Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson erected billboards at the state line suggesting Illinois businesses should relocate to Wisconsin. Relocated businesses would receive lower Wisconsin taxes, job training, and various other financial incentives. Well, Big Jim reacted with a publicity war and billboards of his own, castigating Tommy’s raiders.”
Jeannie leans back in her chair. “This is weird, especially because both governors were named Thompson. So how did you get involved in what seemed like a personal feud between two governors?”
“Remember my Harley Sportster? The one I bought when I found out about Sally’s affair?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Jeannie nods.
“I had a Norton 750 Scrambler before I bought the Harley. My Norton was notoriously unreliable. When I took a trip, I had to be sure that no rain was forecast. Otherwise, if I got caught in rain, I couldn’t start the engine. I was stranded many times, so I bought a more reliable Harley Davidson. The bike was terribly uncomfortable though, with handle bars that vibrated, chattering my teeth, giving me a headache. Sportsters are small, powerful, city bikes.
Tommy was a Harley rider, too. He rode a big over-the-road classic model, a sofa on wheels with saddlebags, leather fringe, and chrome trim. Each year he would round-up a bunch of business executives who owned Harleys and they would motorcycle to Washington D. C. to present business issues to Congress and President Bush.”
Jeannie leans in. “So, what I’m getting from your story is that somehow you and Tommy were connected through Harleys, but why?”
“Great question! I worked at Consolidated Can as Marketing Director. Tommy had a private group of business investors called Advance Wisconsin who wanted economic development through attraction of new businesses to Wisconsin. My boss volunteered my time to Advance Wisconsin. I was one of the so-called raiders that Big Jim referred to. At the end of each successful year, and there were many, Tommy would invite Advance Wisconsin staff and volunteers to a celebration at the Governor’s mansion on Lake Mendota.”
“So, you partied with Tommy. Cool!”
“Well, sort of. Over the years, I got to know him quite well by talking up our Harley connection. I must have inflated my motorcycle ability and my amount of riding because at the last party I attended, Tommy shouted to his assistant, ‘Andy, add Bobby to the Washington trip list.”
“OMG, how great,” Jeannie beams.
“Not really. My face flushed and my hands went cold when I heard Tommy. I could hardly ride from Madison to Milwaukee without seeing my dentist for aching teeth? How could I motorcycle 1,000 miles to Washington D.C.? But, more importantly, how could I turn down Tommy?”
“So, what did you do?”
“The only thing I could do. I said, ‘Sorry Tommy, I have other plans.’”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.