Ah, the stock market. The only spot where intelligent people are quite at home with the words “soared” and “plummet.” (Imagine if those were your choices in an elevator…).
And yet, is there much difference between the ups and downs of the stock market and those on a family vacation? In both cases, you’re in danger if you become too emotionally invested. You might get your heart broken when what you expected and what happened turn out to be two totally different things.
That was the case in this instance.
On one memorable trip, I felt like Clark Griswold loading two eight year olds and my wife into a car jam-packed full of camping equipment and making the six hour drive to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. It sounded like fun to spend a few nights out under the stars, singing around the campfire, so I booked us four nights at the Jellystone Campground, in Cave City.
This place is custom made for kids. There was a pool, water slide, mini golf, and arcade. Heck, who cares about the kids, I was fired up.
I needed a break.
I was a financial advisor and it was July of 2002. I spent every day on the phone with clients reassuring them that the financial meltdown wasn’t swallowing all of their money. I’d revisit our defensive strategy. In fact, even on this trip, I’d been sneaking off for an hour each day to keep making phone calls.
I felt guilty being on vacation, but I kept reminding myself that this was “recharging the ol’ batteries” to keep fighting the good fight. The markets had started tanking 24 months earlier and hadn’t stopped.
Of course, the second we jumped in the car the Dow Jones took its worst turn of all. We didn’t know it at the time, but I was vacationing at the very bottom of the market.
So I’m just hanging up after strategizing with a client on the third day of our trip when the activities coordinator (who looked to be about 17) approached me.
Him: Sir, would you mind helping me with the hayride?
Me: Sure. (Are you kidding me? I wanted to hug the guy. I’d pay money to do anything besides talk about how the worst time to sell was when the market happened to be in free-fall).
Him: How’d you like to be Yogi Bear?
Me: Come again? (I didn’t know if I should be offended. I knew I’d had a few beers in my day, but my waist was still fairly trim).
Him: Yogi Bear. I like having dads play the part of Yogi Bear on the hayride.
Me: You’ve got to be f$%#ing kidding me. Hell yeah. I’m in.
He tells me to be back at 2:30 to get into costume. I’m practically skipping as I cross the campground to tell my family. This is my big break. Maybe I’ll be able to turn this into a full time job as the hay ride Yogi Bear. It sure would beat having the same conversation over and over and over and….
Cheryl: Better day than yesterday?
Me: You’ll never believe how much better. Guess who’s Yogi Bear?
Cheryl: Is that some kind of code? Because I’m not Boo Boo.
Me: No! Guess who’s going to be Yogi Bear on the hayride.
Daughter: Oh no.
Son: No you’re not.
Me: Am too. High five me. (I’m pretty sure kids don’t do that, but I’ve never tried to be hip. These Jordache jeans are a little snug, but they go with my mullet.)
Cheryl: Don’t do anything stupid.
Me: What are you talking about?
Cheryl: Just do what the guy tells you. Don’t try to be funny.
Me: I wouldn’t try to do anything funny.
Cheryl: Like the time you tried to break dance at that wedding.
Son: Or when you tried to start the wave at the Tiger game.
Daughter: Or when you were trying to get the neighbor’s attention and she thought you were a peeping Tom looking in their window waving your hands.
Me: None of that was my fault, except the wave, and those were some lousy fans.
Cheryl: (sigh) Okay, good luck.
So….2:30 rolls around and I’m standing outside the campground office, ready to completely forget about the financial markets. In fact, I’m so stoked, I’d showed up ten minutes early.
Director: There you are, ready?
Me: Sure. What’s the belt for?
Him: Well, it’s about 85 degrees. Inside that costume it’s going to be a furnace.
Me: (totally sure this is overkill) Is it going to melt my pants off? Why the belt?
Him: Feel it.
I do. The huge pockets around the parameter are all ice. I can’t imagine why I’ll need that.
We head up a little hill where there are houses that are supposedly home to Yogi and Boo Boo. He unlocks the largest house and we step inside.
There it is.
My escape from the markets: hanging on the hook is a pristine Yogi Bear costume. Next to it on a bench is that big ‘ol crazy Yogi Bear head.
Me: This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Him: (laughs. Thinks I’m joking.)
We put the belt around my waist. It’s freezing. Immediately I’m freezing.
Me: This is too cold.
Him: Put on the suit.
Me: Can we just take the belt off first? I don’t think I need it.
Him: How about this. If you’re complaining about ice once we get the suit fitted, we’ll take it back off.
I realize he’s placating me, but it’s good enough reassurance. We put on the suit. Now I have a pair of shorts, tee shirt, ice belt, and furry Yogi suit.
Him: How does it fit?
Me: I might get one of these for home.
We put on these huge hands. He shows me how to wave. Then he feeds me the great Yogi Bear hayride secret. I’m not to talk. At all. That sounds like heaven. After the last two years of client call after client call, I’m glad to have someone tell me to shut up.
Him: If you talk, you’ll try to sound like Yogi Bear. You won’t sound like him. I’ve had dad’s try. Don’t talk.
He shows me how to wave, and tells me that once we have the head on, I’ll need to turn my whole body if I want to look at things.
Don’t approach kids unless they approach me. Some kids cry. If they do, don’t try to console them; you’ll scare them more.
Cool. I think. I’m ready.
That’s when he puts that flippin’ head on me.
I’m not sure of the exact temperature, but I think it must have been somewhere in the range of 162 degrees.
Me: It’s hot in here.
Him: That’s why you have the ice belt.
Me: I still have on the ice belt?
He presses it into my skin. I feel a sharp stab of cold. But now it doesn’t radiate.
He’s talking to me and I can’t see him. Even when I turn my body like he told me I have a hard time tracking just where the heck his voice is coming from.
Me: No. How do you see out of this–
Him: Okay, let’s go. I’ve got your hand. Wave.
Ignoring my protests he opens the door and here comes the activities director and a sweating, bumbling Yogi Bear.
Twice I almost fall. Somehow, we make it to the wagon. They help me in. I’m sitting along a bench that runs the length of the thing. Kids jump on all around me. From time to time I see them. I’m waving like the queen on steroids. Every once in awhile I hear an adult say to a whining child, “maybe if you put your hand higher, Yogi will be able to see you.”
Thanks for the hint, parents.
Then I’d look down, almost dropping my Yogi head. Their pride and joy is standing right under me, hoping for a hand shake.
I deliver somewhere between a high three and high four. Usually I miss the kid’s hand altogether.
It’s now 199 degrees, but its okay because we’re singing songs. From time to time the wagon stops and more kids climb in. For the most part I hear this but don’t see them because I’m still trying to figure out how to see through that little hole.
We launch into “Old McDonald.”
Old McDonald had a —
All the sudden, I’m nearly yanked off the bench. Someone was pulling something in front of me. Then they let go.
“…farm, eee, iiii, eee, iii, oooo. And on his farm—“ I look around. I can’t see who did it. Hell, I can’t even find the little hole I’m supposed to look out of. When I straighten up there’s just some guy in his twenties. If he’s doing it, he must be a client I’d forgotten to call.
“he had a duck. eeee, iiii, eee, iii, ooo. With a qua—“ I’m just starting to figure out how to clap my hands and someone yanks me toward the floor again. I have to hang onto the side of the wagon to stay upright.
I can’t see anything out of the little f%$ing hole in the mouth. Sweat is dripping from every pore in my body.
Finally I find my culprit! Sitting right next to me…almost on top of me, is a little blonde kid. Maybe four. He’s staring right into the little hole I look out of. The guy in his twenties must be his dad.
The kid smiles, reaches up, grabs my tie, and forces me to the floor again.
I grab for the kid, but miss, and this time I go down. People stop singing. The director is helping up Yogi Bear. I’m trying to keep my head on and maintain regular breathing because it’s only 265 degrees. Something is baking. I’m pretty sure it’s my ass.
Director: Hey, don’t pull his tie, okay?
Dad: Who are you talking to?
Director: Your son is pulling Yogi’s tie.
Dad: Oh. Sorry.
I realize by his tone that Dad isn’t sorry at all. He’s barely paying attention. I’m horrified when the director lets it go and turns away.
This time I knew it was coming. Like slow motion the kid reaches up again, but I can’t stop it.
The second–and I mean the second–the activities director turns his head away I watch the kid reaches up, grab my tie, and yank the hardest he’s ever yanked anything in his whole life.
I have my feet dug in this time, and avoid the first Yogi Bear hayride accident on record.
I turn my body so the little eye hole can find the dad. He’s staring at me, with a monster grin on his face. Suddenly, I realize: he thinks this is hilarious!
Now they’ve gone and gotten Yogi Bear angry.
I’m going to grab that damned kid by the throat and choke him. I’m sure the heat wasn’t helping curb my rage. What about the ice belt, you ask? What $%#! ice belt? I had steaming hot water in a pool around my waist now. My nerves were shot.
Yogi Bear had one thought: Damn kid’s goin’ down.
I didn’t care anymore. That punk was about to learn a lesson.
Luckily for us all, the hay ride ended right then. Everyone got off. The director marched me back to Yogi’s house. He lifted the head off me and suddenly I could breath again. We took off the costume and I was a free man.
Thank goodness I hadn’t gone after the child, although I think it would have been a memorable YouTube video: Yogi Bear beating the $%!T out of some kid at the Jellystone Mammoth Cave Campground.
I marched back to the campsite.
Son: We saw you!
Daughter: You were funny.
Cheryl: What did you think? Fun?
Me: I’ll take calling clients about the market any day over being Yogi Bear.