On Thursday afternoon over the lunch hour two young women were observed on Nicollet Mall passing out small cellophane packages, each stickered with this blog’s address and containing a blue silicone bracelet embossed with “Think Blue – 11/04/08.” In the course of about 15 minutes the two passed out more than 200 bracelets and then vanished into the crowd.
Was it a bit of political street theater to promote unity among Democrats?
A shameless promotion of this blog?
A counterpoint to the GOP operatives who were set up in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center soliciting volunteers for the upcoming convention?
Yes, yes and yes. But…like everything in my life, how those two women came to be at that spot with those bracelets is a story that once again illustrates why my wife’s signature is required for any checks over $200 and why my mother used to send notes to my friends asking them to remind me to wear shoes.
I’ll make it brief.
About two years ago a friend of mine gave me a bracelet – blue with the words “Think Blue” and the date of the next presidential election – “11/04/08” – embossed on it circumference. This captured my mood perfectly – I’m not sure a GOP ticket with a risen-from-the dead Abe Lincoln leading it could get my vote this cycle – and I happily added it to the “Todd’s Buddy System” and “Livestrong” already adorning my right wrist.
Six months later, I run into a friend who admires “Think Blue” and so I give it to her. Spread the word, viva la revolution, etc.
I miss my little blue bracelet, though, so I do what we all do these days when looking for something, I head for Google and search “Think Blue bracelet.” I get hits, of course, including one that seems to be the source of the bracelets. The problem is that the site doesn’t appear particularly active and the commerce module is offline. I call the person identified as the contact, leave a very nice message, offer to buy several bracelets, no response.
Now I’m getting a little fixated on this issue. I live in an age of instant gratification and I WANT MY BRACELET NOW!
So I head for eBay, where the world goes to buy and sell the crap in its collective attic. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-doom, Bob’s your uncle and voila! I find a seller with one – exactly one – of the coveted bracelets. I place a pre-emptory “Don’t fuck with me” bid on the sucker – $10 bucks or so for a 5-cent piece of silicone and a week later – success! – the bracelet is mine. I am complete, satiated at last. I have shopped and therefore I am.
But then comes Christmas 2007 and during Christmas eve brunch my aunt-in-law admires the bracelet. “Where can I get one?” she asks.
“Right here,” I reply, forcing a smile to my lips. “Please take this one.”
How could I have refused?
That afternoon, literally two hours later, I’m back on eBay looking for my next bracelet – no joy. I run the traps with Google again. Nada. When I should be wrapping presents and hanging stockings with care by the chimney, I’m instead flogging servers in 14 timezones to no avail. There are no more damned “Think Blue” bracelets to be had anywhwere in the world.
Christmas rang hollow and empty for me. If I’d caught St. Nick slithering down my chute empty-handed, I would have met him at the bottom and taken an electric sander to his ass: “Where’s my bracelet, you old fraud?”
Days and then weeks pass and I’ve just about resigned myself to living without the bracelet. Then, as I sit – numb – on the couch, I get a bolt and a VOG says, “If no one else is making them, you should make them.”
Of course! I live in an age where not only can you buy anything over the internet, you can order things to be made just as easily. Sixteen digits and expiration date and factories around the world will spring into action to produce the objects of your heart’s desire. Fifteen minutes after the brain stroke and I’m live chatting with a guy in Missouri who reps for a bracelet manufacturer in China. I e-mail the wording and my pick of PMS colors, the proof comes back six hours later and 10 days later UPS drops at my door a stuffed mylar mailer full of my much-missed bracelets.
Did I forget to mention that the minimum order is 300?
Flash forward six months and here I am still staring at the mostly full mylar mailer and its 250 bracelets. No one has asked me for the one of my wrist since Christmas and I’ve given one to everyone in my family, in the neighborhood and to anyone who sets foot in my office. The guilt of all of those unworn bracelets is getting me down.
This is where two other currents of my life flow together into the great river that has become this endless post.
The first is this blog. For those of you who have been among our hardy band of frequent readers and commentators, you know that I am far from the most prolific – or thoughtful – contributor to the Crowd. My posts tend to run in bursts and I can’t seem to write more than a sentence for wanting to stick in a wise-ass comment or two. As a result, I’m constantly feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough to support its existence and to keep it fresh and that others are wrestling with better angels than me.
And then there’s my interns. I have three this summer which – any one of them will probably tell you – is probably two-and-a-half more than I should have. I took on one – Michael – this spring and then two more – Laney and Laura – at the start of the summer.
Some of you may have met them on Thursday.
In an effort to assuage guilt in three areas – for wastefully ordering way more bracelets than I can use, for not doing enough to support the SRC and for not thinking of interesting things for my interns to do – I came up with Thursday’s “Great Bracelet Giveaway”.
“Hand ’em out, see what happens, see what people say,” I told them. “It’s interesting.”
And, as those of us who have come up through the ranks of PR know, it’s a pretty safe bet that some day you’ll be in a mascot suit or some other humiliating outfit on a street corner on behalf of some client. Why not get a feel for it now?
For those of you who took one of those bracelets, thank you. I’m sleeping better at night because of it.
And, now that you’re here, I hope you’ll stick around to check out some of the other topics we cover at the Crowd. We’re open to most any topic and we especially like to hear different points of view. We try not to be simplistic or boring.
And, for those of you who feel left out and want a bracelet of your own, never fear, we still have inventory. Send a note to either Laney or Laura with your mailing address and we’ll get one out to you.
– Austin tax refunds fine