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Apparently, it has become our mission as grandparents to provide our grandson with the Christmas season’s hottest toy.

Many of you will remember the great Zhu-Zhu shortage of 2009, where you were forced to swallow all pride and humility and stand in line for an hour BEFORE the store opened; just for the CHANCE to purchase one (limit of one per customer) of the furry creatures.

I mean; it was getting to the point where I was seriously considering purchasing a live hamster and teaching it to be a Zhu-Zhu.

But, my efforts paid off and I got TWO. I got one for my grandson and after taking off my glasses, hat and coat, I went back in and purchased another one under my new identity. I did so, knowing that my darling wife would want one. I was right.

This year, she told me that I would be in search of Bigfoot Monster, a Mattel Fisher-Price interactive, remote control robotic toy. The toy is amazing in what it can do.

So, I went in search of Bigfoot and found them at a large chain store in the city where I work. I took one from behind the one in front-I never grab the front one; I always go two deep-and went to the check-out lane with mission accomplished.

I got Bigfoot home, charged the battery pack, put batteries in the remote, so after my grandson opened it, my son could finish assembly and Bigfoot would be ready to do somersaults, back flips, throw the ball, chew on a leaf and say 80 different phrases. The box said so!

After Bigfoot was assembled, the rechargeable battery pack was inserted under the right foot panel and he was ready to go.

Bigfoot’s first spoken words were in Spanish!

How cool; a Bigfoot that can speak foreign languages. It didn’t say THAT on the box!

It continued to speak Spanish. OK; where’s the switch for English? I wondered.

“Dustin; what does the instructions say?” I asked.

“I don’t know; they’re in Spanish”, he replied.

Funny, but everything on the outside of the box was in ENGLISH!

Well; we left Bigfoot, the Spanish-speaking Monster with the grandson, because he was having so much fun with his Hispanic buddy.

The next day, I went back to the store to the customer service counter, where I stood in line for a half hour-familiar territory to me.

Finally, I got up to the counter to the young ladies and the fun began.

“Hi; I purchased a Bigfoot Monster for my grandson and when he opened it and started playing with it, the toy spoke in Spanish”, I said.

She looked at the girl next to her and then, in unison, they turned and looked at me like I was a Martian.

“Really? That’s odd,” she said.

I said, “You know what’s odd? Bigfoot is from Canada. If anything, he should have been talking like a hockey player and punctuating every sentence with “eh”.

More stares.

I asked, “Am I the only one who has complained of getting a Spanish-speaking Bigfoot?”

No joke; all FOUR women behind the counter said, “YES”!

“Am I out 95 bucks?” I asked.

“You can bring it back and exchange it, if you have the receipt”, she replied.

“OK; here’s my problem. The receipt is 65 miles west of here and Bigfoot is 45 miles EAST of here, so I have to get both together in the same place before that can happen”, I said.

They stared at me. I silently/dejectedly shuffled away; shoulders sagging/rolling forward; you know, like when your spouse asks you to pick up two items and you forget one. (How could you forget one item on a two-item list? You could not explain it in a hundred years; no need to try.)

Then, I walked back to the Toy Department to see if they had any left. They did and they were discounted to 60 bucks! I grabbed one and went back to the customer service counter, where I stood in line for another half hour.

I got up to the counter and told the girl that I had been there earlier and she replied, “I know”.

I asked her to open the box, because I wanted positive proof that I had an English-speaking Bigfoot. She told me that rules would not permit her to open. I looked at her like she was a Martian.

Then she said, “But, you can open it” and she handed me a box cutter; a very risky move, considering the mood that I was in!

I opened the box and inside were instructions that were in English; a positive, first step, but no guarantee that Bigfoot would speak English.

“Can we put batteries in and test it?” I asked.

She said, “You can do whatever you want after you purchase it”.

Dear God; please give me strength on this, the busiest day after the birthday of your only begotten Son.

I bought it, but testing would have to wait until I got home.

I got home and walked into the family room, where my wife was knitting.

She said, “You looked rather composed after the day you had”.

I shot back, “You trying to be funny? Oh; sorry”.

I took off my coat and took Bigfoot to the laundry room where, with the door closed, Wifey couldn’t hear my cussing.

I took out the rechargeable battery pack and put it on charge while I loaded batteries into the remote control-shaped like a big foot I might add-and assembled Bigfoot.

My anticipation grew as I let the batteries charge. I paced like an expectant daddy. My palms were sweating; my heart was racing. I couldn’t stand it any longer.

I put the battery pack in and turned him on.

NOTHING!

I had forgotten to turn on the remote control. I turned it on.

Bigfoot came to life and almost fell off of the dryer. My cat-like reflexes caught him before he could hit the floor. Good save I thought.

I almost cried when I heard his first words come out in English.

But, this tale isn’t over. Spanish Bigfoot is still miles away.

I had my wife call our son to tell him to meet me half way on the morrow to make the exchange. It would be in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. The exchange went flawlessly.

Now; armed with the receipt and Spanish Bigfoot, I returned to the store to customer service, where I stood in line.

When it was my turn, I took the toy and the box to the counter and the girl said, “He’s not in the box”.

I said, “He won’t fix in the box”.

She replied, “He came out of the box”. I looked at her like she was a Martian.

She asked, “What’s the problem?”

I said, “He speaks Spanish”.

She said, “So?” There was an uncomfortable silence.

Then I said, “My grandson is 4 years old. He’s in pre-school. They haven’t gotten to foreign languages yet”.

“Oh” was all that she said, as she tried to cram the Bigfoot back into its box.

“Don’t you want to turn him on and hear him?” I asked.

“Naw; that’s OK. We’ll credit your account”, she said.

I got my credit receipt, looked at her name tag and said, “Thank you, Juanita”.

Now; you are probably wondering what this could possibly have to do with firefighting?

Well, for starters; “tactical patience” comes to mind. Chris Naum has written extensively on tactical patience and has presented at FDIC. Check out his www.commandsafety.com and www.buildingsonfire.com series.

Communication. Officers; when you communicate with your firefighters, does what you say connect with them or do they look at you like you’re a Martian? Are you speaking in plain English and in layman’s terms? Remember KISS?

Training officers; are you giving your trainees “boxed” lessons or are you putting your thumbprint on the training that you do? Do you make it your own or would you rather that they stare at videos and  PowerPoints until their eyes bleed? Mixing classroom with hands on at a level that is appropriate for your trainees will have them begging; well, at least asking, for more training.

Have you considered a second language? I hear Rosetta Stone is pretty good.

Happy New Year or as Spanish Bigfoot would say, Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on January 2, 2011 at 12:39pm

Roger that, Jeff.

Bring a big spoon.

Starting a new decade.

Sounds funny to say that.

TCSS.

Comment by Jeff Schwering on January 2, 2011 at 11:47am
Art, I got the picture Brother, but, stepping away isn't in my nature.  The trip on the pants and hopping on one foot thing, well to late. I'll continue to take my chances and stir the pot where I can, what the heck, makes for good discussion and entertainment. Happy New Year Art!
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on January 2, 2011 at 10:08am

Thanks for the comments.

I am a magnet for misfortune.

Jeff: if you've gotten to the point where you can predict me; buddy, it's time to step away for awhile.

Next thing you know; you will trip putting your pants on, hop on one foot until you step on a shoe, as you go down you grab for anything (I grabbed the remote. It was like a life preserver without a rope.), you attempt to tuck and roll, but there's no room to roll because it's in the corner of the room; thank God, you land on a stack of your favorite fire magazines. See; the paper version still  has a purpose. It cushioned your fall. Get the picture?

Comment by Larry Cowser on December 30, 2010 at 5:19am
I still break out in a cold sweat when I see a Cabbage Patch Doll
Comment by John Gilmore on December 29, 2010 at 9:01pm
You know Art, I think that almost everyone of us can relate to that . . . although I don't think that we all could be as cool, calm and collected as you.  But like always you have a keen way of providing unexpected insight to the firefighting aspect.
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on December 29, 2010 at 3:46pm

I sincerely thought you had fabricated the Mattel Bigfoot until I Googled it.

Nice segue, hilarious message!

Comment by Jeff Schwering on December 29, 2010 at 3:42pm
Art, well done! That true was some funny, well you know. The scariest part for me, I knew before you got there how you were going to tie it in to our Profession. Like Bobby, my daughter walked by as a was reading this and gave me her best senior in college Martian look! Happy New Year Brother!
Comment by Brad Hoff on December 29, 2010 at 3:11pm
LOL...Chief, that was a great story with a good morale at the end! I was laughing so hard about you and the whole ladies at the counter! The people in my office asked me if I really sit here and read this kind of stuff everyday! I said hell yeah, I said it's expanding my mind! They seem to think something is really wrong with me? Maybe there is and to me that's a good thing in my book!
Comment by Bobby Halton on December 29, 2010 at 2:28pm
Art, That is one of the funniest stories I have ever heard! I loved it even without your tie into firefighting! I laughed out loud and my wife gave me the Martian look.  Feliz Ano Nuevo! Brother!

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