Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One More

In my last blog I mentioned that I might be able to come up with one more story from my experiences at the Pioneer Inn. In the last few installments of From The Booth, I have been gushing about the fabulous week that I spent in Oshkosh back in 1990. In “So Happy”, I wrote about the wonderful people that I had met and the incredible party we had on the last night there.

As great as that party was, it wasn’t the only fond memory from that week. There was something else that comes to mind that provides me with one more story.

If you recall, the first classmate that I met at the Human Resource seminar was my “next door neighbor”, John. He had the room next to mine and came knocking on my door minutes after I arrived. Given the proximity of our living quarters, John and I got to know each quite well and usually ate lunch together at the resort’s outstanding restaurant.

John lived in Milwaukee, commuted to Madison daily for his job and had just recently gotten married. I knew this because he often excused himself to call his bride. I recall one afternoon when he bolted out of the conference room the moment class ended. As he rushed down the hall, he looked over his shoulder, smiled at me and shouted, “The wife drove up for a visit!” He was young and in love.

I may have neglected to tell you one other noteworthy thing about John. He was black and now that I think of it, I would imagine that he still is. To me, the color of a person’s skin is irrelevant. However, for this particular story it does have significance. Trust me, you will see.

Typically, our class was from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm with an hour off for lunch. Except for Wednesday, that was our short day. After an early lunch, we were free for the rest of the day.

It seemed like everyone had plans on how to spend their free time. Many of the ladies had planned to go shopping at the huge outlet mall located in Oshkosh, while others were going to enjoy Lake Winnebago.

Since the Green Bay Packer training camp was in full swing, I had decided to go watch the team practice. I asked the people seated near me in the restaurant if any of them were interested in joining me.

They all politely declined, except for John. He quietly said that he would like to go with. I told him, “Cool, let’s go” and got up from the table.

As we were walking toward the parking lot, John asked me if I was really okay with him coming along. Somewhat perplexed, I reassured him with a loud, “Why wouldn’t I be?” and we were on our way. The 50-mile trip on Highway 41 went by quickly and we arrived in Titletown less than an hour later.

Practice hadn’t started yet, so I chose to drive around Lambeau Field to give John a tour of the venerable stadium, driving slowly through the large parking lot.

As I carefully maneuvered my bulky silver-gray Dodge Ramcharger through the multitude of Packer fans that were milling about, some began approaching us. John’s eyes widened when the fans started waving at us and slapping the hood of my SUV.

When I noticed the Packer players were riding bikes and making their way from Lambeau Field to the practice fields across the street, I decided to get a parking space and find a spot for us to sit.

While walking to the portable bleachers, fans continued to wave at the two of us, many cheerfully shouting hello. When we finally sat down, John had a twinkle in his eye and said, “Man, the people up here sure are nice. Thanks!” I smiled and told him it was no problem.

A heartwarming story, don’t you think? Let me reveal the humorous wrinkle to this tale.

Remember that I said it was noteworthy that John was black? Well, not only was he black, but he was also tall, good-looking and put together well. In fact, he played varsity tennis in college. He had an athletic look about him.

Now factor into the equation that we were in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the year 1990. At that time, there were very few blacks in Green Bay that weren’t playing for the Packers or a part of their organization. Especially young, athletic-looking black males.

John was a young, athletic-looking black man at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and training camp was going on. He just had to be a Packer! At least that’s what those fans thought on that warm summer day in 1990.

I am pretty sure that’s why they were so hospitable to John; they thought he played for the Packers. But the thing is, if they actually knew John, they would have been just as nice to him even though he wasn’t a Packer. I know that I’m glad that he spent the afternoon with me.

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This blog was originally posted July 30, 2011. The final chapter of this saga will be posted on Thursday.

Until next time…from the booth