Wanted: American ingenuity to find new ways to work

We need to get back to work. But how we work needs to completely change. And for that, we need ideas.

We need to get back to work. But how we work needs to completely change. And for that, we need ideas.

Each day of this ongoing pandemic gets more grim. Our country and indeed, the world, was not adequately prepared for the challenges we now face.

Many people are in to finger pointing saying had he done this or had we done that, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re currently facing. But that accomplishes nothing for where we are today and where we might be as a nation by the time 2021 arrives.

We have to get back to work. But the way we work has to dramatically change. Business as usual would be a colossal failure leading to more spread of the virus and crippling our healthcare system for good.

So what can we do? We need to look at how we conduct business and what types of business we should be conducting in the first place.

We need American ingenuity now, more than ever.

Our first focus has to be on serving the needs of our healthcare providers. That seems to be the current emphasis – but the rest of us who aren’t involved in any of those endeavors can’t just sit idly by, waiting for someone to signal “Everyone back in the water.”

Social distancing needs to become the norm for the immediate future in the workplace. Workers need to be checked each day at the door for potential symptoms. Are there instant temperature reading devices available?  If not, we need them.

Factory automation needs to be ramped up. Just like Ford and GM have shifted to making ventilators and masks, we need more companies to figure out ways to mass produce protective shields, temperature readers, sanitizers and other key items that could allow retail stores, restaurants and other types of businesses to re-open their doors.

Mass transit is no longer an option. But it doesn’t mean it has to come to a complete end. If we got rid of 9 to 5 hours and went instead to shifts around the clock, that could ease some of that  burden. Purchasing tickets online and limiting the number of tickets sold for each stop could also help.

We may need to go to a cashless society. We may need to eliminate personal transactions between individuals.

We need to re-think our food preparation and food delivery system.

I don’t have all of the answers. In fact, I don’t have any of the answers. Many of the above items I just listed would take months, perhaps even years to implement which is not much help to what will take place next week.

But the fact remains, our work paradigm has completely shifted. And we need to find new ways to shift with it.

Sports and entertainment are a huge component of our American fabric. Sadly, until this resolves itself, team sports are out of the equation and attending events probably isn’t a viable option either.

Individual competitions could still go on. Professional golf could return – maybe the players wouldn’t be allowed to have caddies. They’d have to meet health criteria before going out on the course. Courses could follow the same restrictions they’re currently using with no flags or rakes. Broadcasts could still go on with limited camera coverage. That would mean ad revenue and sponsorships could return.

Track & Field events could be ramped up with new restrictions regarding social distancing. Same with swimming & diving. Figure skating. Skiing. Motocross. Bull riding.

Professional bowling could return. Bowling alleys could re-open with new sanitary rules and social distancing regulations.

The key is to get people to re-think how we’ve done things in the past. And figure out new ways of doing things for the future.

We cannot afford to wait to return to business as usual.

There may never again be a business as usual.

If you agree, please share.

More important, put on your thinking cap and whatever your profession may be, think and propose new ways that we can get back to work without further risking the spread of this virus.




Seersucker blues

Back when I was 27, I bought a Seersucker suit. It’s a classic spring suit, pin-striped, 100% cotton and one of those clothing items that you just don’t see too many people wearing anymore.

I remember getting the suit at Mister Guy, buying a dark blue dress shirt to go along with it and a purple paisley tie to top it all off.

First time I wore the suit was to a friend’s wedding down in Houston, Texas and I loved the look.

Unfortunately, Seersucker suits aren’t something you wear to too many occasions – if it’s too hot, the suit gets uncomfortable. Really, it seems like springtime is about the only time that it’s Seersucker time. Which is why every spring, when Easter rolls around, I pull the Seersucker out of its garment bag and see if I can somehow manage to get my now 57-year old body into a suit that was sold to a 27-year old man.

Last year, I had been working out hard throughout the winter months and when springtime rolled around, I was only a few pounds north of what I weighed back when I was still in high school. Putting on the suit was no problem even though it seems as if my body has shifted a lot of that weight to hover around my waist.

This year, I’m further north of last year’s north. You might even say I’m approaching the Canadian border as far as north goes regarding my weight.

I haven’t broken the suit out yet to see if I can somehow wedge my body into it.

I won’t do that until Easter Sunday morning.

So I still have a few days to shed a few pounds. It’s important that I get myself into that suit.

The Masters comes around every spring and so does the wearing of the Seersucker – a tradition unlike any other.

Golf for life

If you don’t golf, don’t bother reading this. If you do golf, maybe you’ll understand.

Golf is a timeless game. My dad is 87 and though he hasn’t been out on the links yet this year, he’s still hoping that he will. He played quite a few times last year but his stamina isn’t what it used to be. Still, you don’t see too many 87-year-olds out doing any other type of sporting activity other than merely walking.

My dad got me playing golf at an early age. I proposed to Chris on a golf course. (She beat me all three times we played on our honeymoon.) My brother, the Father, is an absolute golf fanatic who plays every Thursday, weather permitting and often, even when the weather doesn’t permit. Late this afternoon, Tom Jr. and Michael went out and played nine holes while Chris and I watched the Traveler’s Championship on TV. So you could say that the golf gene is somewhat dominant in our family.

I was going to do a post yesterday morning when I returned from playing 18 holes but it was too nice a day to spend holed up typing away on my mac. With the Cardinals in a rain delay, I thought now would be an ideal time to espouse on the simple joys and frustrations of this game.

I teed off yesterday a few minutes after 6 am. My attempts to talk any of my friends into a round failed so I went out as a single and finished my round in a little over two hours. It was a gorgeous morning and when you tee off that early, you sometimes have the course to yourself – that’s how it was yesterday. The sun was shining and the golf gods were looking upon me favorably – my first shot of the day found the center of the fairway, about 260 yards out and I followed that up with a perfect 6-iron that landed about eight feet from the pin. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Turns out, the round was like most of my other rounds – some good shots, a few great ones and some blatant stupidity tossed in to remind me that I’ll never really be a great golfer. But that’s okay.

I love to play. Any time. Anywhere.

And though no one will ever think of me as a really good golfer, I’m okay with that. I’m good enough for me.

Golf is a lot like life. I love to be in the game. I know there will be some good times, some memorable moments (not all of them good ones) and I’ll certainly have to endure some bad along the way as well. But I won’t give up. And I’ll always believe that my next shot, might just be my best shot I’ve ever had – but I won’t be surprised when it isn’t.

People who don’t play golf don’t understand the fascination. It’s a frustrating, time-consuming and expensive game.

Then again, there’s something almost magical about being able to say, “See this little ball? I’m going to hit it into that little hole in the ground that’s 440 yards away and I’ll bet I can do that in four swings or less.”

In theory, that doesn’t really sound like all that much fun.

In reality, there aren’t too many things I’d rather do.

Golf fires me up. I know I’m fortunate that I have a wife and family who understand my obsession. I’m even more fortunate that they enjoy playing as well.

Like my dad, I hope I’m still teeing it up well into my eighties but that’s not even worth contemplating. I’m playing in a scramble tomorrow and there’s no need to look any further ahead than that.

Golf for life? I sure hope so.


Disabled, but absolutely able

I found myself crying twice this Sunday morning, completely overwhelmed while watching a track meet that the majority of St. Louis had no idea was even taking place.

The event was the 2013 Gateway Games, put on by the Disabled Athlete Sports Association. (http://www.dasasports.org)

My reason for attending was that I volunteered my time as a mentor for a group called Ready & Willing that pairs St. Louis advertising and marketing talent with local charities in need of advertising and marketing support. I chose DASA and our client contacts told us that the Gateway Games would be a great way to see what the organization is all about.

So while most of St. Louis was still waking up in the morning, I headed out to St. Charles West High School, not knowing exactly what to expect.

I met up with another member of our group who brought along her mother to see the activities and we arrived just as a 100-yard dash was getting ready to begin for the 18-and-under age group.

There were a range of participants, mostly way younger than 18. I immediately noticed a little girl who looked to be about 7 who was all excited about the race. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe she was an amputee below the knee with an artificial leg and foot. Off to the side, I saw a girl who I think had Cerebral Palsy struggling to figure out how to adjust her starting block. Then I noticed another girl who looked extremely fit, helping a girl line up and get in a starting position for the race. A few seconds later, I realized the one girl was blind and the other would be her guide.

The starter was totally professional, explaining the rules and how the race would be run. Then they were all in their starting blocks and they were off – at a wide variety of speeds. The blind girl won and the times varied – but they all crossed the finish line and the day was underway.

We decided to head down to the finish line to get a better view of the races as they unfolded. There were wheel chair races and a variety of foot races – from the 60-yard dash to 800 meters.

I was amazed at the speed of some of the wheel chair racers, most of whom have specially made racing chairs that I have no idea what they might cost. One guy was clearly in a class of his own and when I inquired about him, I was told that he had won several national competitions.

Then there was this guy named John – who appeared to be about 70 – he wore a jersey proclaiming he was a disabled Veteran and he had this pointy-looking racing helmet that I’m sure could have taken seconds off his time with the aerodynamics – but he was in an ordinary wheelchair and struggled to keep it rolling. He didn’t care. His head was down and determination fueled him across the finish line and you could see the triumph and sense of accomplishment in his eyes upon completing the race. You could also tell that John was quite the character and thrilled to be in on the games.

One kid got to me, though.

His name was Jackson and he absolutely made my heart melt and brought on a wave of emotion that completely took me by surprise. One second I was watching these kids race and all of a sudden all these thoughts came flooding into my head. I thanked the Lord for all I’ve been blessed with – my own health and the health of my family, all while hearing the cheering of the fans in the stands as I watched this young boy who struggled with every step he took – but there was just some inner resolve in him that made him go on. And I thought, here I am standing on the sidelines of a racetrack in St. Charles on a Sunday morning and most people have absolutely no idea this is even happening and all the struggles this child will face and the many obstacles his family will have to overcome to guide him into adulthood were all right there in front of me – and when he crossed that finish line, I was crying.

He got me again later in the morning.

Jackson had run almost all the races, and was in the back of the pack in most of them. Then they announced they were having the 800 meter race. Two laps around the track. Before the race began, I overheard his mother mention that he had never run 800 meters before but wanted to give it a shot. And he did. One determined little boy, running the best he could. As he was on the far side of the track, he looked so small. I could hear the shouts of encouragement pushing him on and then that wave of emotion hit me again.

In the grand scheme of things, that race means nothing. But it meant everything to him. He finished. He triumphed. And I was thrilled I got to see that little victory.

I’ll be writing more about the Disabled Athlete Sports Association over the next few months. What they do is bring out the abilities in those with disabilities.

And they reminded me that just because someone is disabled, they are still absolutely able – to compete, to struggle and to enjoy the satisfaction of finishing.

Count your blessings. Overcome the obstacles that lay before you. Never give up.

I’ll cut the cliches now and I wish you all a great work week ahead.

Ready and willing to help Ready and Willing

Wednesday night I was happy to be invited to the Ready and Willing Mentor Match where those of us in attendance got to hear a little more about some extremely worthy non-profits here in the St. Louis area that are looking for marketing and advertising support.

I’m truly excited to serve as a mentor for Ready and Willing – which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide pro bono marketing and advertising assistance to other nonprofits here in the St. Louis area.

I actually volunteered to be a mentor for R & W last year but a variety of circumstances kept that from happening. Now, I’m good to go. I’ll get to be the creative leader of a team consisting of mostly young talent who are willing to give their time to help make a difference as well as work with an account coordinator who will bring his or her own talents to planning, organizing and helping us put together a coordinated marketing effort.

It’ll be a team of individuals who I have yet to meet and that in itself has me jazzed up. They said their will be an event in the near future where we’ll meet and eventually pick our team through almost a kind of speed-dating type of interview process.

So last night, there were representatives from six different non-profit organizations, all who have a variety of needs that they’re looking for help, guidance and in the end, results.

The moment I walked in the door, I spotted John Carney. John and I go way back to the days when radio commercials were cut on tape and engineers used to sometimes have to find tossed aside takes on the ground and splice them into the mix. We first met at a Clayton Studios Christmas party and that was back in the day when Christmas Parties were legendary. Needless to say, we hit it off and though I don’t see John all that often, it’s always a pleasure when I do.

He was there on behalf of Carney’s kids Foundation (http://www.carneyskids.org – currently the site is under construction but I’m listing it anyway!). John was the first to speak and got things rolling as he outlined what they do, what they’re about and what they’re hoping Ready and Willing can help out with.

I was impressed.

But that was just for starters. Next up came a presentation by the Disabled Athletes Sports Association (http://www.dasasports.org/). A few of the stories I heard in a very brief amount of time reminded me of how lucky I am to have the ability to walk, swing a golf club (questionable), ride a bike or go swimming. They do all sorts of activities for people of all ages with all sorts of different disabilities. But the focus is much more on abilities and helping people overcome odds and triumph and they need help and support in their efforts.

That was followed by a presentation for Magdalene St. Louis (http://magdalenestl.org/) and when I heard more about their mission I was struck by how little I know about the trials and tribulations that some people go through in life. They help women who have survived lives of abuse, prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets by providing a community where they can recover and rebuild their lives. There are similar homes in other cities and they’re trying to get this one rolling here and they said that the need is strong.

Next I heard about Mission: St. Louis! (http://www.missionstl.org/) where they’re doing everything they can to promote building personal relationships with individuals, families, churches, and schools throughout the core of St. Louis. Again, they need help in getting the word out about what they do and raising funds to help them do more in helping make St. Louis a better place.

Two more presentations followed – one by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Metro St. Louis (http://www.facebook.com/pages/NCCJSTL-National-Conference-for-Community-and-Justice-of-Metro-St-Louis/64570186847?group_id=0) and the other by the St. Louis Track Club (http://www.stlouistrackclub.com/). I don’t mean to short change either organization by not telling more about their mission but attention spans get short after this much copy so if you want to learn more about them, please visit their site (even though both mentioned that they would be thrilled to get a website overhaul).

Bottom line, there are some great organizations in need of help and Ready and Willing seems to be doing a great job in assembling teams that are ready to provide time, energy and creative talent to get things done.

Stay tuned as this adventure is just beginning!

Smoke gets in your eyes

Today’s the day that councilman Mike O’Mara put forward his new proposal to end all the exemptions to the St. Louis county smoking ban.

If approved by the county council, that would knock out the exemptions that more than 130 different establishments have permitting smoking – with the two biggest exemptions currently in place being the Hollywood Casino and River City Casino. Meanwhile, Ameristar and Lumiere are drooling at the prospect of more smokers flocking through their entryways, ready to smoke and gamble the night away.

Is this fair?

Smokers have become true outcasts in society, forced to stand out in the rain or in garages at work to get their nicotine fix. The price of cigarettes to me is extraordinary. I just can’t see how people continue to buy when a pack of cigs costs you $5.58 here in the great state of Missouri. In New York, it’s more than $11 a pack.

Missouri always seems to be near the top of the wrong lists. We’re #3 in the number of adult smokers, trailing only Kentucky and Nevada (maybe there’s some correlation to smoking and gambling). I was glad to see that at least we’re not in the top ten with regards to meth use. Still, we’re a state filled with smokers and a lot of those smokers who reside in St. Louis county are not going to be happy if their few remaining options to smoke and drink and maybe eat a bite or two or pull a few slot handles are taken away.

Is this fair?

During my college days, it seemed like everybody smoked. When I started my first job, the president of our agency was notorious for having a Salem always lit and burning down to the end while he talked. I can remember a few meetings where I would completely forget whatever it was that was being discussed as I would be focusing on his increasingly long grey ash that would dangle from the end of his cigarette, yet he never seemed to let it fall, always flicking it just in time to have the ashes drop into the nearest ashtray.

But that was long ago. These days, I actually detest the smell of cigarettes. I don’t mind people who smoke. That’s their decision. But I don’t like to be around them when I’m eating. And I’ve got to admit, I’m not a big fan of pulling up a seat at a video poker machine that’s right next to a smoker. (Though I have had a few cigars on occasion which I’d be more than happy to give up.)

I’ll always remember my last visit to the Alton Belle where it seemed like it was Senior Citizen night and everywhere I went, I was surrounded by smokers, many of them in their little wheeled contraptions with an oxygen tank attached and a cigarette dangling from their lips. It was not a pretty sight.

I’m sure some of the eating establishments that allow smoking (you have to have food sales total 25% or less of your combined food/beverage sales) will complain that they’ve put in expensive smoke eliminating systems that will now go to waste if smoking is banned. And perhaps fewer people will eat out if they can’t have that after dinner smoke to wipe away the taste of their meal. Then again, perhaps more people will eat out if they know they won’t have to breathe in second-hand smoke. I know we returned to Ice & Fuel after it became smoke free – we were literally smoked out a few years back and returned once the smoke cleared due to the new ordinance.

I certainly wouldn’t be against private smoking clubs where you have to be a dues-paying member to get in. That way, the smokers could be among their fellow smokers and everyone could smoke to their heart’s content. And if one of the casinos wanted to open a smokers only off-shoot where you had to pay to belong but you could go there and gamble and smoke ’til your lips fell off it would be fine by me. But both of those examples would be very hard to regulate – and if you’re allowed to open your own smokers club, who knows what type of other specialty clubs might suddenly spring up?

So I guess it really is time to kick the smokers out of public restaurants and casinos.

Is that fair?

Maybe not.

But who ever said life was fair?