If Only I Were a Car

As a guy, I have always been prone to getting attached to my cars. Before you question that statement, just consider that men approach cars so differently than women. We give them feminine names. We care for them as if they were are pets. We even speak of them in sexual connotations, just don’t ask me to get into specifics on that one. Men know what I mean. But even with all this said, I have always espoused to a set belief when it came to cars. I would date my car for two to three years, five years tops if I was really in love with her, and then I would trade her in for a slightly newer model with fewer miles and that shiny sexier frame and then start up a new love affair.

If only I were a car. If that were true, I could trade myself in for a newer model with a few less years on it, hell, maybe a lot fewer years on it. As I approach my next birthday, a birthday as yet not named, my body is showing signs of the well driven years I have put on her. Oh, she still tries to have that new car smell and sure, she shines up real nice when we are going out on the town, but truth be told, she lacks some of that get up and go she had when I first started driving her. She’s a little slower out of the gate in the morning and her tires are looking worn. Don’t get me wrong, I suspect she still has some good years left in her, but you know, if only I could trade her in.

When I posed this idea to my wife, she immediately wanted to know how many models I was planning on stepping up and just how low a number of years was I considering? I assured her I was intending to be reasonable, maybe a couple of model years up and oh maybe somewhere between thirty-five to forty years on her. Not too surprisingly, after visualizing the new me, she was all in.

Now, if only I were a car,

The Call of the Road Trip

The road trip has been talked about for generations. When I was growing up the best road trip one could take, was Route 66. This one was so famous, they wrote books about it and even made a TV show with Route 66 as the premise. The idea of a road trip offered a chance to see America close up and if you really wanted to see the out of the way, you had to take the by ways and avoid the free ways.

During my lifetime I have taken my share of road trips. The first road trips were relatively short in that they didn’t even leave the state. Later, my road trips expanded beyond the borders of my state and several took me all the way across the country. I have driven to San Francisco on one coast and New York on the opposite. One trip reached the tip of Cape Cod, while another the tip of the Florida Keys at Key West. Two took me out of the country to Quebec City on the Atlantic side and Edmonton, Alberta on the western side of Canada. Each and every one of these trips hold very special memories. Memories of driving with my small children. Bonding trips with friends from college. Several long trips with my wife as copilot. In the end, I brought home lots of photos and souvenirs, but more importantly, incredible memories of the places and views as well as new friends made along the way. I could never pick one favorite trip, but there certainly were some great ones. 

There is one trip that does stand out from the rest for it’s sheer audacity. It was the summer of 1977, I had just resigned from my first teaching job and had moved back home before I would start my new one that fall. My brother had some vacation time coming and asked if I were up for a road trip. We would load the car and head west eventually reaching Sacramento where we would drop in on our sister. We had zero plans but big ideas. With my little red mustang loaded with the few things we thought we might need, we said good by to our mother and headed west. We reached Omaha, Nebraska sometime in the wee hours of the next morning and passed Lincoln around sunrise. Some small Nebraska town out in the middle of nowhere became our first pit stop. It seems the Nebraska State Patrol believes one should drive slow enough to truly enjoy the amazing scenery their state has to offer. After paying for our share of that view, we were back on the road. We eventually crossed the Rockies, the Great Salt Lake, and the Sierras arriving at our destination, my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Sacramento. It had taken us most of two days and I am not even sure I remember where we stopped for the night or even if we did. All in all, we spent the better part of two weeks on that trip. We toured Sacramento, took in one of my brother-in-laws stock car races, made several new acquaintances curtesy of the Sacramento night scene, and re-established our significance to our sister.

Our return trip back across the country was equally noteworthy. Safe to say, we still went more or less by the seat of our pants when it came to planning. Night one found us rolling out our sleeping bags under a moonlit Oregon sky only to be awakened soon after by rather large animal sounds, at least they sounded large. Back in the car, we decided we were not cut out to be cowboys sleeping under the stars. We reached Yellowstone by morning and actually made Mt Rushmore in time for the evening lighting of the monument. I still remember Keith asking if the one day park sticker we had bought that morning in Yellowstone, also got us into Mt Rushmore. The look on the ranger’s face said it all. I believe his exact words were, “You’re covered on the park entrance fee, but maybe I should be giving you a speeding ticket instead.” After a good laugh, we were granted entrance to the park. Our intent that night was to pitch a tent and start back on our trip home the in the morning. Our intent was valid, but after a night out in Keystone, two more new acquaintances, and a trip to an abandoned gold mine at three am, it was already dawn when we got to our tent. Our camp ground neighbors commented on how impressed they were with our being such early risers. We left them believe that.

That trip sticks out in my mind as being the event that re-bonded me with my brother. Sharing all that time, and yes, adventures with him, renewed our brotherhood. That is what road trips are meant to do. We get to reacquaint ourselves, we discover new places and new people, we adventure. The open road cannot be seen from 30,000 feet up. It needs to roll beneath the tires of your vehicle. It needs to be seen from the windshield of your car and it needs to invite you to pull over, get out, and experience it first hand. Every road trip I have taken has afforded me those priceless opportunities. Next time someone offers you the chance for a road trip, don’t hesitate. Throw a few things in the back of the car, buckle your seatbelt, and hit the road.

                                 Queet’s Beach, Washington.  One of many great road trips with my daughters

The Winds of Change

I have had three careers in my life. Each time I had the opportunity to change, I took it. I moved from classroom teacher to business entrepreneur to personal planner. Now I admit that each career had aspects that were very similar, but they were still changes that I decided to embrace. In each and every case, though there was risk involved, the end result moved my families well being forward. In 2017, I retired, sort of. It was not long before I found myself volunteering for an organization that allowed me to mentor other entrepreneurs as they tried to change their business ideas into functioning businesses.

Then in March of 2020, COVID-19 entered our lives and caused some of the greatest change we have had to face in recent times. From my perspective as a business mentor, I had a front row seat to observing businesses as they were forced to adapt to a new way of delivering their products and service. They not only had to change once, in some cases they had to make multiple adaptations as the pandemic held on, let up, and roared back. The pandemic we thought would last three months, now sits poised to enter its third year.

What the pandemic has reaffirmed is not only our ability to adapt, but also our perseverance and yes, our stubbornness. We, as a collective, have a great capacity for making and accepting change. As a country, we also have a tendency to be stubborn. Too often, when change is thrust upon us, some would choose to dig in their heels and refuse to accept it, or at the very least, take the responsibility to do their part to facilitate the necessary change.

I could go down the rabbit hole here and talk about some of the divisive issues that have come out of or because of the pandemic, but I would be trying to change the minds of the stubborn element of our society. I would rather point out the great ability of businesses to adapt to what we all now refer to as our new normal. I would point out how restaurants, who by the way were forced to make the greatest adaptations, overnight switched from in service dining to takeout. But it wasn’t just takeout, it had to be done curb side or by contactless delivery. Others added outside dining to their service and even found ways to continue that well into the fall and in some cases, through the winter. No small task. And then there were the retail sellers who, suddenly finding their indoor capacity reduced or even eliminated as they were forced to close their doors, either created or greatly increased their on-line services. The list goes on as doctors found ways to offer telemedical appointments and virtually every business went to some form of virtual meetings, appointments, and conferences. In short, they adapted the resources available to adjust to new business systems.

Unless you were in hibernation during the last two years, I haven’t told you anything you didn’t likely already observe for yourself. So let me tell you about three businesses I was mentoring and the changes they made to survive and to actually thrive. The first was a retail store. When the pandemic first struck, they were forced to close their doors to the public. Overnight, they rapidly increased their on-line store and added additional products to their website catalogue. But their adaptation didn’t stop there. When they were allowed to reopen to their customers, albeit in very limited store capacity, they went to a boutique model and began scheduling shopping appointments. When last I checked, they were having a record year in sales.

My second business was a real estate agency, who was, prior to the pandemic, in the process of forming her own real estate team. When the pandemic made it obvious that business could not be done in the usual way, she adapted overnight to virtual showings and closings and not only went ahead with her plan to build a team, but thanks to her ability to be adaptive, has realized great success and can now facilitate even more clients in more creative ways.

My final business story, amazed me the most, in that I worried about her business more than any other. She had just started her business assisting clients in decluttering their homes. Her model was to go to the clients home and through a methodical process, categorize their possessions, identify those that needed to go, and then reorganize what remained. When COVID struck, I worried about how her business would survive. When I contacted her, she told me how worried she was at first and then decided she would try a virtual appointment. The client would pile up the clutter from a particular room and my business owner would, on screen, sort the clutter into multiple piles and gradually eliminate the unnecessary from the possible next to go and eventually the pile that would stay but be reorganized. It turns out that doing the process online was less threatening to the client than having the business owner actually come into their home. She received more referrals going forward and her business survived and thrived.

The point of this whole blog is that change is inevitable. It was a pandemic this time, but what will it be next time. Businesses adapt or die. Because they know this, the promising businesses plan ahead. In every case, businesses that want to survive, have found ways to continue in manners that keep the public safe. It is individuals that struggle far more. We resist change until there is no other choice than to accept it. It is obvious that the pandemic has changed our life styles over the last two years. The reality, is that many of the ways we did things will not return. We simply must adapt. Many have done their part. Others, have not. I felt that there was no better time to press my point than on New Year’s Day when every year we are offered a reset. I intend to not only accept change, but to embrace it and do what I can to facilitate it. I will do what I need to keep people around me safe by being conscious of their well being, even when that requires a little sacrifice on my part. And finally, by doing my part, I will look forward to 2022 being a little better than 2021 and a lot better than 2020.