A Ghost Story

My friend, fellow BIZCATALYST 360˚ scribe, and one of my favorite storytellers, Tom Dietzler, recently wrote a typically wonderful story called, “A Single Bottle of Diet Pepsi Cola”. Since no summarization would do it justice, and since I choose not to spoil anything, please read it for yourself. You’ll be happy you did.

A Single Bottle of Diet Pepsi Cola

I will tell you, though, that one line, toward the end, launched me into a reverie of recollection that left me as grateful as I am for all of Tom’s stories. This is the line: “It was part of our routine, it told me that all was well and that a job was well done.” As Robbie Robertson says in Somewhere Down the Crazy River, “Oh, this is sure stirring up some ghosts for me.”

From 2000 to 2004, I worked in an ad agency in Avon, Connecticut. There was no main road from where I lived to Avon, so my commutes would find me winding, cross lots, through a number of small towns. On one street, in one of those towns, I’d see the same two women walking and talking with each other, every morning. Their joy in and their contentment with each other and their walking was contagious. The comfort they gave me was undeniable.

One evening, on my way home, I stopped and bought flowers. The next morning, I put them in my car for my drive to work. When I saw those two women walking, I stopped my car, got out, and approached them with the flowers.

I said, “Ladies, I hope you won’t think I’m nuts or call the police on me or anything. But I want to tell you something. I see you every morning on my drive to work. And as long as I see the two of you out walking, I know everything’s right with the world. Thank you.” And I handed them the flowers.

I don’t necessarily think of myself as a creature of habit. Maybe I am. I don’t know. But I do know there’s great comfort in routines. It’s why the sun rises and sets. It’s why the seasons change. It’s why we have traditions. It’s why Tom Dietzler writes stories. It’s why there’s always a cold bottle of Pepsi on the bus. And it’s why Joseph Campbell wrote this in The Hero With a Thousand Faces:

Looking back at what promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.

We’re constantly stirring up our own ghosts. We find the comfort of the familiar in them because they are of all of us. We may not recognize, acknowledge, or connect with them. But they’re there, nevertheless.

Thank you for reminding me, Tom.

DON'T WAIT! ONLY 2 OF 50 SEATS LEFT! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE

Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brienhttps://obriencg.com/
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.


  1. What a great story, Mark. As Jeff Ikler mentioned, my mind immediately began wondering how the two ladies reacted and how much more special their walks must have been after your beautiful gesture. I bet that moment became a fond ghost for those ladies to remember with a smile on their faces and warmth in their hearts.

    I’m off to read Tom’s story about the Pepsi now. Thanks for your story, and Tom’s.

    • Tammy, thank you. I’m grateful for your comments for two reasons:

      1. I’m aways gratified to receive compliments from a writer’s writer, from a storyteller’s storyteller. You’re both.

      2. I’ve been remiss in not commenting on your recent story, “The Layered Sky Overlooking My Ant Hill”. The best stories hold us spellbound in the beauty of their telling, in the keenness of their observations, in the generosity of their spirits. It’s only after we’ve read them we realize they’ve also imparted universal truths and timeless, hopeful affirmations of our humanity. All your stories do those things.

      Sometimes I wrestle with the question of whether stories tellers are born or can be made. Then I read your stories and know the truth.

      Thank you.

    • Jeff, I flunked Chest-Thumping in school. And as George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch: “He said he should prefer not to know the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown regions preserved as hunting-grounds for the poetic imagination.”

      Thank you for bringing your thoughts and your ghosts to this thread.

  2. What a lovely story, Mark. And a wonderful complement to Tom’s story. You’re right, of course. Those ghosts are everywhere, and the older we get, the more there seem to be. We never know whether they’ll make us sad or happy, or if we’ll spend a second or an hour with them, but overall I’m always happy for the visit. Thanks so much for sharing this way of looking at things. :-)

  3. It’s truly an honor to be referenced like this. A person never knows what will happen when they throw a little bit of themselves out into the ether. In this case, my fond little memory got picked up and someone, you, my friend, Mark O’Brien, flung it out there a little further. I write for an audience of one, sometimes that one is me, but if it happens that it touches someone else, it’s a gift that every writer cherishes. Thank you, your story is almost required reading in this age that we currently inhabit. I loved reading and thinking about those two ladies being flummoxed by a stranger who drove by and chose to bless their friendship. It can’t get any better. If I conjured that memory, I can’t be more thankful.