Let me just start this off with a healthy dose of honesty – I am FULL of awesome ideas. But every once in a while, I pull one out of the ol’ bad idea box and run with it. Those are the ones that usually seem like great ideas at the time, and only reveal their crappiness at a later date.
To better understand this particular story, I should give a little bit of a background here. My sister and I are like two peas in a pod. And our dad was the third pea. The three of us were so much alike in our personalities, our sense of humor, the way we would tease each other. So when his last birthday came around – our first without him – we felt we needed to do something together…something special.
I took the day off work, and we started out eating breakfast at a local diner – one that my family has eaten at for years, kind of a family favorite. At breakfast, we talked a little bit about what we thought we should do for the rest of the day. The goal was to just honor our dad on his birthday and try not to start crying.
We thought we’d get some balloons, write messages to dad on them, and release them down by the river. Simple enough, right? WRONG. There was a national shortage of helium (seriously), so finding helium-filled balloons proved to be not such an easy task. On our third trip to a store trying to find helium, we found some pre-filled mylar foil balloons – one that said “happy birthday” and the other was just a smiley face. Alright, fine. That’s just going to have to do.
As we were looking around the store, we stumbled across this package of yellow rubber ducks. One big one, and two smaller ones. GENIUS!! The big one is dad, and the two smaller ones are US! Omigosh, it’s PERFECT! So we got the two balloons, the package of rubber ducks, a black sharpie, party hats and a 2-pack of Butterfinger candy bars – dad’s favorite – and we headed on down to the river.
To help you paint a mental picture, we drove separately down to the river and parked right along the edge and I got into my sister’s car. Lucky us, we pulled up next to some old dude in a truck who didn’t really try to hide the “WTF?” expression on his face as we took turns with the sharpie, writing the messages on our balloons, going back and forth from tears to laughter. We had the windows rolled partially down, and his were completely down, so he really had a front seat to our little freak show.
I decided to have a little fun with things, so I took the rubber ducks out and started drawing on them. I drew broken hearts on the chests of the two little ones (obviously), and wrote my and my sister’s names on the bottom. Then, I drew my dad’s trademark necklace, his two tattoos, an earring, and hair on the big duck. The resemblance was uncanny.
Then – in a stroke of genius – I had the best idea ever. (Me to my sister: “hey – let’s put ‘if found, please call [my phone #]’ on the ducks and the balloons to see how far they go!”) Ok. Fine. Maybe I’ve seen one too many “Message in a Bottle” type movies. Whatever. My thought at the time was that, say…if it traveled an hour away, NEXT year for dad’s birthday, we would do the same thing from wherever that location was, and so on an so forth. Y’know, kinda like a “grief around the world” type thing.
So… On two balloons and one of the ducks (the biggest), I wrote my phone number and “If found, please call”. We released the balloons, and after a very slow start, they were up, up, and away. The ducks, on the other hand, were little bastards. We took turns tossing ours into the water, and watched them float about 20 feet, and then they just kinda hugged and kissed the shoreline for a good ten minutes. We finally left with the notion that the river current would carry them further downstream.
I need to add something here so that you have a better idea of where this is going. I live in the Midwest, and one thing about us Midwesterners is that we LOVE us some festivals. Parades, food, carnival rides and craft shows all centered around some sort of theme – a flower, a gourd, a bird, etc. Some of these festivals kick off with some “treasure hunt” type shenanigans, which involves reading clues and hunting all over the city for this special object. Once found, the finder is given instructions to “call this number” to verify the authenticity of the object. The super sleuth who finds it is awarded with some very nice prizes – a cruise, goods and services from local businesses, etc. It’s a pretty big deal around here. And it just so happens that my dad’s birthday was one week after one of these festivals.
Fast-forward to a few days after my dad’s birthday. My phone rings. It’s a local number, but not one I’m familiar with. Here’s how the conversation went:
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling this number because I found this duck!”
Me: (thinking OMG, yay, it worked!) “yeah, where did you find it?”
Caller: (still enthusiastic) “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge, so I picked it up and called the number!”
Me: (well that SUCKS. That’s freaking EXACTLY where I put the little bastard in the water) <– and that’s actually exactly what I said to her.
….. LONG PAUSE …..
Me: “Uhhmmm…yeah…there’s no prize or anything, I’m sorry. We just—It was— We just wanted to see how far it would go.”
Caller: “Oh. Ok.” <– and it wasn’t cheerful, like “Oh. Ok. No biggie, thanks anyway” It was more like “Oh. Ok. EFF YOU AND YOUR STUPID SCIENCE PROJECT.”
POP! went her bubble. She probably would’ve punched me and spit in my eye if we were face to face.
…… END OF CONVERSATION …
At this point, I was half pissed, and half amused. I was pissed that the stupid rubber duck traveled a whopping ZERO FEET in three days, but super amused that this chick found the duck, bee-lined her ass to a phone and called the rubber ducky prize hotline, only to be met with “Uhhhmm…yeah, there’s no prize or anything.” What a dick move on my part, right?
So I told my sister about it. We laughed and agreed that dad was most certainly getting a kick out of all of this. End of story. –WRONG.
A few more days pass, and again, local phone number unknown to me, is calling my phone. I answer.
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling because I found this duck and it said to call this number!”
Me: (thinking to myself – you have GOT to be shitting me) “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. There’s actually not a prize or anything. It was something we did for my dad’s birthd—just never mind. I’m sorry. But, since you called, can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Of course it was. Thanks for calling.”
She hung up on me.
Again – half pissed, half amused. PISSED because this meant that the first caller, probably in a fit of rage over not winning anything on the rubber ducky prize hotline, just launched that sucker right back into the river, probably cussing me the whole time….which set Caller #2 up for HER letdown. AMUSED because – well… for the very same reason.
I figured that this last chick – since she hung up on me – would just throw the duck in the garbage. Then again, I thought the first woman would have done the same thing. I was wrong on both counts.
So another several days pass. By this time, it’s been about two weeks since my dad’s birthday, and over a week since I heard from the last would-be rubber duck millionaire. So imagine my surprise when I received a call from a MAN that went a little something like this:
Caller: (again with the enthusiasm right outta the gate) “Hey there, I found this duck floatin’ in the river and it had this phone number on it!”
Me: (Sigh with head-shaking)“Can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “I found it in (MyTown) down at the (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Yeah…it’s been there for two weeks. It was just something we did to see how far it would go, but apparently it’s broken. I’m sorry…there’s not a prize or anything.”
Caller: “oh…” – Mr. Happy Pants has left the building and has been replaced with Mr. Pissy Pants.
Me: “Would you mind doing me a favor and just throw the thing in the garbage for me. Don’t throw it back in the river.”
Caller: “yeah.” —dial tone.
I have to believe he actually did throw it away, because I never heard from anyone else.
This whole thing had me so perturbed. I mean REALLY – can’t a girl just try out an awesome idea without it backfiring in her face by getting three total strangers pissed off at her? Can people not be so greedy? They call up all nice-y nice sweetie pie, and then one “I’m sorry, but there’s no prize or anything” and they turn into a-holes. I mean, these people were seriously…pissed…off. I’m sorry, but did someone sneak some writing onto the duck that said “If found please call this number TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE???” I think not. I didn’t promise anything. I just said “If found, please call”. I mean, it’s not like it was a briefcase or a bag of money floating. It was A RUBBER DUCK FLOATING IN WATER. That’s pretty much their sole purpose. And while I’m on that subject, can someone find me a damn rubber duck that might actually FLOAT? Is THAT too much to ask? Well, technically, I guess “floating” wasn’t really the issue. He actually really excelled at that particular area. But how about one that might actually flow with a current or something? I mean it was very early fall, so I know boats were still traveling through. You’d think some wake action might move the damn thing along. Nope. Not my duck. Mine was a stubborn little $h!t that apparently came with an anchor.
You had ONE JOB, rubber duck. ONE JOB.
But then I just couldn’t stop thinking of how awesome it would’ve been to actually SEE all of this. And the more I told about these people calling me thinking they’d won something and me shooting them down when I tried to explain what I thought was a great idea, the more I realized it really just needed to be told on a broader spectrum…because it’s just absolutely typical of things that only happen to me.
I think we can all take away a valuable lesson from all of this. Well, maybe two lessons. #1 – I’m putting my sister’s phone number on things from now on. #2 – Nicholas Sparks and Sting are both full of CRAP and they can just knock it off with their “Message in a Bottle” crappery that puts such stupid ideas and CRAP in the heads of sentimental fools like me. And again I say CRAP.
But all in all, I got exactly what I wanted – something that brought honor to my dad, and did so in a way that he would have LOVED. With each phone call when I was having to explain myself, hearing the “whammy” sounder in my head as I let these greedy bastards down, feeling dumber and dumber about my idea, I could hear his cackling laughter. I have no doubt that he orchestrated the whole thing. I don’t know what we’ll do for his next birthday, but I’m not sure anything else could have quite the “bite me in the ass” backfire effect that this did. But if it does…I’m sure you’ll hear about it.