September, 2013

The FISH! Philosophy in Kalamazoo-topia

I was there the day we decided Kalamazoo is Utopia.

uto·pia noun yu̇-ˈtō-pē-ə
: a place of ideal perfection

The event, hosted by the Downtown Kalamazoo Retail and Restaurant Association, was called “Connecting with Customers.” We laughed, we talked, we looked each other in the eye and decided it is possible to create utopia, in any community. I have a pretty big crush on Kalamazoo. They gave me a unicornfish.

Click on the unicornfish to see Deena in action!

Looks like they’re sweet on me too…I found this article, whereupon nice things are written around “creating an environment where customers feel terrifically comfortable saying ‘yes.'”.

Yes Kalamazoo. I heart you too. I meant it when I said you have a unique quality of being accessible. You’re irresistible. Keep doing that.

Read what Kathy Jennings, managing editor of Second Wave Media, had to say about following four steps that have become known as the FISH! Philosophy:
Be There! Play! Make Their Day! and Choose Your Attitude!

A Cup of Gumption

Today is that day. The day I need to be brave, step to the front, and speak for my people. I am more than a little nervous. I am the MC.

Master of Ceremonies is typically the tenor’s post, but he’s up at the lake or at a softball game or finishing up a daunting work project. Fortunately, I have his notes. Painstakingly prepared and perfect. Five pages of flair. Unfortunately, I don’t have my glasses.

Today is that day. The day I need gumption.

I sing with the TC Jazz Cats on odd weekends when we’re mostly all available. We congregate from remote corners of the music universe to volunteer in senior communities and care centers. We rock the cantina, as it were, with toe-tapping rhythm and smooth crooning. The residents love it, and we love them; the entire experience a real treat. I’m the new kid, still getting the swing of it, the spontaneity born of in-the-moment collaboration.

Today is that day. The day when I part with precious coin (four dollars and thirty-two cents worth – to be precise) on a spendy cup of gumption. A coffee treat.

The coffee shop is a treat for me. The place where I occasionally break my spendthrift habit of making plain, perfectly serviceable coffee at home. The place where I break the chain of isolation. The coffee shop is built on interaction; the fancy cup of caffeine is incidental, taking second place to the social boost.

“Today is that day.” I proclaim, walking in. “The day I pay you for a fancy cup of gumption.”

“Excellent.” smiles Coffee Dude. “What are we putting in your cup of gumption?”

Together we confabulate a coffee treat. You know the one. The fancy one. With whip.

“Name?” asks Coffee Dude, hands hovering over the register.

“You pick.” This is my favorite coffee shop game. “You pick a name, and I’ll be that person for the rest of the day.”

Coffee Dude nods. He likes this game too. He squints a little bit, considering. Today is our first encounter, and serendipity demands scrutiny. Coffee Dudette looks over his shoulder as he types my sobriquet into the computer. She smiles wide.

I step aside to wait for my treat, musing on the responsibility of venturing into unexplored worlds, of speaking up.  Of being amplified, in front of an audience, and maybe flubbing it up.

“Order up! Order for Princess Leia!”

I laugh. Out loud. Really loud. I’ve had some good coffee shop sobriquets in my day, but today takes the cake. I’ve been Adelle and Susy-Q. I’ve been Batgirl. I’ve been Shanaynay, which I liked so well I reused the cup until it disintegrated. Consistently, long after the coffee and the cup is gone, I recall the treat of interaction.

Today? Today is that day when what matters most is not perfection, but interaction and gumption. Honored and humored, with a grin and a cup, I float out the door. My mind plays the melodious refrain of Princess Leia’s theme song. And I am made brave.

A world of gratitude to Caribou Coffee Dude. I had a blast being Princess Leia.

What (and more importantly who) propels you?  Who gives you gumption? 

Musical Interlude:  I YouTube’d a lot of Leia themes before landing on this for your listening enjoyment, played with genuine gumption by the Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra, led by conductor Netta Hadari, a leader who loves his job.