The time between August 2007 and February 2010 is what I call “my time wandering in the wasteland.” I had shown the awesome timing of getting fired, after 26 years at the same facility, just as the economic meltdown of the latter part of the first decade of this century hit full flower in 2007. I went from being a department of one, with my own office and a lot of autonomy to being unemployed. (Now losing that job was not all bad: I always said that that job had everything, except a work/life balance, anyone to back me up and a salary commensurate with my responsibilities…) I told myself that my identity had nothing to do with my job. It was a losing battle, as many people that I knew felt that I was the walking dead. Like the undead, I was still there, but without a job, I was a pitiable soul, lost and wandering.
It is funny to think about one of the things that I missed in particular. I did miss my coworkers, I missed my office – in a hundred-year-old building that overlooked the neighborhood that my dad grew up in. I missed the security of having a decent paying job. But what kind of nagged at me continually?
I did not have business cards anymore.
When I was working, it was easy to pass business cards out to anyone, and people then knew how to contact me. I liked having cards to hand out to people. In my two point five years in the wasteland, I worked temp jobs, part-time jobs, and multiple jobs, patching together whatever I could to continue to support my family. None of those jobs were the kinds where I would have business cards. At work and at home, I have almost every business card that anyone has ever given me.
So, at the risk of having you, kind reader, roll your eyes so far back into your head that your eyeballs never come back to center… I will offer you this: a story about a certain business card that I wanted in the worst way, and yes, it involves my beloved marching band.
This incident occurred during the summer of 2009, the fifth of the seven summers that I spent with the band. It was an odd year, as we went to a few different places that we had not been to before, and we were without my buddy and tireless Marine truck driver Ted. He had been diagnosed with kidney cancer shortly after the 2008 season had ended, so during this summer, he was undergoing treatment. That made it weird, and his replacements worked valiantly, and successfully, to fill his shoes – but it wasn’t the same. I had fun with them, gave them a fairly hard time, and lovingly dubbed the three-man team, “Larry, Darrell, and Darrell,” after the trio from one incarnation of “The Bob Newhart Show.” When they’d call me, I’d say, “Excuse me, I have to take this, it’s the Darrell’s.”
My absolute favorite thing about that summer was that we marched in The Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, WI. There are tens of thousands of reasons to love Wisconsin, one of those reasons is that the Great Circus Museum is in central Wisconsin in a town named Baraboo. For many years the circus packed up wagons and elephants and all kinds of circus stuff, loaded it all on trains, and made a slow trip around Wisconsin, finally ending up in Milwaukee. Once there, they would set up for a few days and have a great big circus on the shore of Lake Michigan. Then on a Sunday in July, all that stuff would meander down the streets of Milwaukee as The Great Circus Parade, as a fundraiser in support of the museum. You can look it up on Wikipedia, and I am certain that there has not been a parade since that 2009 edition.
Because we were marching in the parade, and as part of my gig as Head Chaperone, I had an ongoing discussion, via phone, mail, and email, with organizers of the parade. There was an initial disagreement about how the chaperones were to dress for the parade, but we got that ironed out. Twin brothers who had a connection to the band were trying to get into the parade, as they were known locally in the Appleton area as clowns and performed in many of the parades that our band marched in. They asked me to put in a good word for them. I did, through my connections with the organizers. I wrote a few emails extolling their virtues, and kind of forgot about it.
Some of the kids were less fond of the Circus Parade, as they had to march, heads up, in formal fashion, without the ability to look down. Chaperones tried to help and guide them as to where to step, but it was unavoidable that their shiny band shoes did incur some incidental contact with the clumps of animal byproduct, casually deposited by the horses, elephants, and other creatures from the Circus World. It was almost everywhere. I loved this parade because we didn’t march in a lot of big cities, and the acoustics of the band were tremendous as we made our way down some of the major streets of Wisconsin’s biggest city, and when we got between tall buildings, the sound reverberated for blocks. Of the 100 or so parades or performances that I was a part of, the Great Circus Parade is in my top five, without question.
Have I lost you? What does this overwrought word orgy have to do with business cards? Well, in the run-up to the Circus Parade, maybe the week that it took place, we were staying in one of our high schools, rehearsing. I was inside preparing for wherever we were going next, and conversing with other members of the staff when my phone rang. I got up from the table and walked outside with my phone, so as not to inflict my conversation on everyone else.
The person calling was a pleasant and friendly woman who was happy to inform me that the request for Don and Dave, our friends the clowns, to march in the Circus Parade, had been approved. I was happy to hear that, as they had been working hard, trying to get in, but had little success in talking to anyone. I don’t remember her name, but I do remember as I was finishing my conversation with her, I said: “Thank you, I appreciate it very much. And may I ask who I am speaking with?”
“I am with the Great Circus Parade, and I serve as Clown Coordinator.”
If I couldn’t have a business card of my own, I definitely coveted hers.