Monday, October 17, 2005

Singing Telegrams

My Mom used to crack me up, many years ago, when I was quite young, telling one of her favourite stories, something she had heard on Arthur Godfrey or somewhere, about singing telegrams. The joke was that a man opened his front door to find a Telegram Delivery Boy on the stoop. The boy announced, “Telegram for Mr. Jones”. Then, Mr. Jones, having never received a “singing” telegram, began to badger the boy, saying things like “Is it a singing telegram? I’ve never had a singing telegram before!!!, please let it be a singing telegram!!!, etc.”, to which the boy replied, “Oh no sir, it isn’t a singing telegram, sir, just a regular telegram, sign here please”. But the man, having never received a singing telegram, goes on and on, trying to illicit a singing telegram from the boy, who, chagrined, finally relents. “All right sir”, he mutters, defeated. And then, in his best Vaudevillian Voice, the boy sings, with intro, “Dah- Dah Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah! Your sister Rose is dead, a car accident crushed her head!” My Mom, when she got laughing, was a fun gal, though a bit twisted.

In 1980, when I had been in bakery business for 5 years, cranking out those doughnuts and pastries, and all the other stuff, I had a feeling that my employees, some of whom had been with me from the start, were going to give me an award, or a gift, or something, I could just tell. They were way more excited about the anniversary than I was, and, I am sure you won’t be surprised that they were all women, and were saying things like, “Wow, five years, Ric, what are you gonna do for your anniversary, your special day?”, to which I would reply, “Uh, Craig, toss on 5 gallons of cracked wheat bread will ya?”

But I could feel it coming, and I was calm about it, and when the day arrived, I did my normal "get up at 3a.m., time to make the doughnuts". Then at about 10a.m., which is more than half the workin’ day gone already for a baker, one of my sales people hollers back to us in production, “Oh Ric, there’s someone up here who wants to see you”, all singsongy, so I know something is up.

Now, folks, I am not a sourpuss, I like a party, gimme a beer. But being at the center of attention, whether it is my birthday, or because I did something good (like succeeded in business for 5 years) is just not my cup of tea. To me, standing there, getting all congratulated, and back patted, and gifted, and honored, I dunno, I just wanna be a fly on the wall. But I’m fine with it, as long as it isn’t gonna last too long, and then I can get back to the cracked wheat.

So I walk up to the sales counter, and then I see this person, all dressed like a clown, with like a million balloons in her hands, and she rushes over to me, gives me a big kiss on the cheek, and squeals, “Congratulations on 5 years Ric, I have a surprise for you!”, and she hands me the balloons, half of which I lost in the exchange, steps back, and starts performing, loudly and showbiz-like, my special singing telegram.

To be honest, I kinda blacked out. Some of you might remember that my first bakery was in a grocery store, so there was no shortage of people there to see me squirm as the song began. I mean, maybe fifty people, all up and down the checkstand aisle, coming closer and closer as the singing went on, and on, and on. The song was all gushy and congratulatory and specific. Me standin’ there, all embarrassed, holding a bunch of balloons. I was polite. I thanked everyone profusely, and returned to the workbench, exausted.

About an hour later, and I swear this actually happened, my sales person, in the exact same tone as the first time, hollers back to me in the production department, “Oh Ric, there’s someone up here who would like to see you!” I am thinking, this is weird. Whut!!!??? More accolades?!

So I return to the sales area, and then, I see my daughter Stacey, who was 13 at the time, and it’s a school day, so I am confused. She stands aside, and then I see.....yet another singing telegram person, all dressed up like a Disney character, and the show begins again. It turns out, that my perfect daughter, with her own money, had arranged for a singing telegram for me also!!! The scene, the second time around, was nearly identical to the first. The singing telegram was a bit different, and since my daughter was involved, I admit I was way more attentive, maybe even shed a tear or two. But now, after all these years, and the fact that Stacey is now older than I was at the time, I can admit that singing telegrams suck, and getting two in one day, that double sucks.

But just so you can see me in my apron while others giggle and I cringe, here are a couple of photos.

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Pacific Beach, Washington, United States