When I as knee high to a grasshopper (who says that?) I played in the Springdale Little league for Palmer’s Market (which, like some of the other sponsors including Handyman Hardware and Machlette Laboratories, is no longer in business in Springdale). I remember having a hard time hitting curveballs (to be truthful, I had a hard time hitting anything – the only thing that explained my on base percentage was the fact that my smart ass attitude was a target for pitchers). I think I have a permanent Rawlings tattoo on my left hip!

I remember one game in particular where Palmer’s Market was playing my brother’s team, Handyman Hardware. On my grandmother’s gave, the opposing pitcher was 11 feet tall and had blond hair. He kind of reminded me of William Zabka; the actor who played Johnny Lawrence, the antagonist in the Karate Kid. Any rate, he threw a curveball that curved right towards my body on its journey from the mound to the plate. Being a righty, it slammed into my left hip. I was down for the count. When I took my base, the first base coach asked me, “why didn’t you get out of the way?” I replied, “I did not see it coming.” No more words were spoken between us, but his expression said it all, ‘maybe its time for glasses.’

It dawned on me yesterday though that long after our ball playing days are over, the curveballs keep coming, albeit in different forms. Consider the following events which unfolded over a 12 hour period yesterday;

  1. As I was waiting to board a flight from New York to San Diego, I spilled coffee on the only dress shirt I brought on the trip (I was only to be gone overnight). No problem, I said to myself, I was going to have 4 hours to kill once I landed in San Diego as my focus groups were only going to start at 5:30.
  1. As we approach the San Diego area, the pilot comes on and tells us that we are being diverted to Long Beach due to bad weather in San Diego. Bad weather? Really? It rains once a decade in San Diego and I have to fly on the day of an apparent monsoon. Okay, stay calm, it will all work out.
  1. We land in Long Beach and the pilot does not know how long we will be there. However, anyone with a carry on bag can deplane and make their own transportation arrangements to get to San Diego. Having friends who were stuck on an airplane for 30 hours, I decided to deplane and rent a car. It is only about 119 miles to San Diego from Long Beach and I had 4 hours to make it. This should not have been a problem only for the fact that A. the GPS I rented did not work and B. people in Southern California apparently don’t know how to drive in the rain. It was stop and go as I got onto the 405 S.

At this point, I was fuming. I thought I was going to miss my focus groups; a first in my career. Then, as I was driving south, I saw a break in the clouds and the sun came out for a brief moment. Something caught my periphery vision; the biggest and brightest rainbow I had ever seen in my life. I felt as if I could open my window and touch it. I then looked to my right and saw the Pacific Ocean. I could not help but smile at its beauty. So, I decided to do what one does in such situations and turn on the radio. The first song I heard was Simple Minds’ Alive and Kicking:

You turn me on, you lift me up

And like the sweetest cup I’d share with you

You lift me up, don’t you ever stop, I’m here with you

Now it’s all or nothing

‘Cause you say you’ll follow through

You follow me, and I, I, I follow you

What you gonna do when things go wrong?

What you gonna do when it all cracks up?

What you gonna do when the Love burns down?

What you gonna do when the flames go up?

Who is gonna come and turn the tide?

What’s it gonna take to make a dream survive?

Who’s got the touch to calm the storm inside?

Who’s gonna save you?

Alive and Kicking

What an appropriate message to receive at that point in time! Suddenly, I felt the stress and frustration which were on my back like a monkey leave me as I traveled south towards San Diego. I then started to reflect on the topic of the night’s focus groups; the US Army. Images of soldiers I had seen in airports reunited with their families after a long deployment only increased my happiness. The thought of soldiers thousands of miles away engaged in war and separated from their families during the holidays made me think that my current ordeal was nothing compared to what they face.

I made it to San Diego with 15 minutes to spare before my first focus group. Not enough time to get a new shirt so I just started off the session making fun of my own clumsiness; group participants always like it when the moderator is a bit self deprecating. The groups went great and I felt as if I did a great job for my client.

At the end of the night I realized that, after 35 years, I finally managed to hit a curveball.