Know your target audience. That’s the first lesson taught in TV news, and one I learned many times since switching to marketing as a career.
Perhaps that’s why this experience, related to my father fighting lung cancer, stands out clearly six years later.
I stood frustrated in my dad’s living room. The temperature exceeded the outdoor’s heat, 85-plus. My father was chilled.
Sunlight only peaked around the drapes’ edges, pulled close to give him rest anytime of day.
The haze from the last cigarette hung below the ceiling. He hadn’t given up that habit yet.
It felt claustrophobic.
It also represented the third day we’d met with the home-health services’ woman. All three times we expected she’d leave with his new auto-feeder setup and ready to use. But no.
First visit: She introduced herself, left some nutrition pamphlets and informed us the equipment would arrive the next day.
Second visit: She planned to greet the health-equipment installer, but apparently mis-communications prevailed. We’d have to reschedule.
Third visit: Forgive me. On that hot, smoke-filled day, my patience waned.
Concerned about my father, never a big man but who had shriveled to my pint-sized stature, I’d reached my capacity for excuses.
When home-health lady explained that neither she nor the equipment-delivery lady knew how to set up the auto-feeder or train us on how to use it, I wanted to strangle her.
“What in the hell are you here for then?” I wondered. “A UPS driver could have fulfilled your role.”
As equipment-delivery lady busied herself with unpacking and avoiding eye contact, I expressed my dissatisfaction to home-health lady.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man enter the house, box in hand, and exchange pleasantries with my father.
“Forgive me, but this is a bit ridiculous,” I continued to home-health lady. “My dad isn’t getting the nutrients he needs. You and your gaggle of colleagues are simply feeding us a bunch of justifications.”
Then my ears perked up.
“Ribeye, t-bone, tenderloin-cut all delivered to your door monthly.”
Say what?!? Was the man crouched before my father, hunched on his couch, really trying to sell him a steak-of-the-month subscription?
My head exploded!
“You need to leave,” I said as I approached him.
“Get out of this house right now,” I shouted.
“For Pete’s sake! Can’t you see he has a valve sticking out of his stomach? Are you oblivious that this woman is setting up his feeding machine? Or are you such an asshole that you just don’t care?
Get out of this house or I, I, I…”
Sentence unfinished, steak-man grabbed his box and hauled butt.
“Know your freaking audience,” I wanted to scream, fist pumped, as he exited.
The unhelpful health posse soon followed, undoubtedly with a crazy-customer story in tow.
“What in the world were you thinking, Dad?” I laughed. “You don’t even eat steak anymore, since you stopped wearing your dentures.”
“Well, Toot,” he grinned. “He seemed like a nice enough fella. Got a toddler at home and is trying to save up money to go back to college.”
Then, I remembered the stack of electronics in the adjacent room – “collateral” for money “loaned” to lost souls met at a nearby bar. I noticed the charity envelopes, requesting his semi-annual donation, interspersed in the ever-larger tower of medical bills.
Dad had always been a sucker for a hard-times story.
And that’s when it hit me. The steak-man, indeed, knew his audience.
That jerk just didn’t know his audience’s protective, and occasionally explosive, daughter!
March 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm
That’s the unrest of dying. It punctures into us and we hemorrhage unfinished business. I read it as both fury at, and love for your father. And here you lulled me into a piece that I thought was going to be about the technicalities of writing but instead was about the fierce bond and protective instincts between parents and children. Thank you for that.
March 2, 2014 at 2:02 pm
You’re spot on, Dorothy. Man, was I angry in the heat of the moment (at everyone in the room), but Dad and I laughed uncontrollably when we were alone. The sales guy was at least twice my size, but my father swore that guy was probably never more frightened in his life. Thanks for letting me know you liked the story!
March 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm
You grew as big as the sales guy in that moment. I really felt all that in your piece. Your dad is a giver and I wasn’t sure if he was peeved that you’d driven off another recipient of his good intentions, but sounds like he delighted in having you be his champion.
March 4, 2014 at 8:45 am
First, I’m sorry about your dad. It’s so hard to watch someone you love deteriorate. Despite that, this made me chuckle. Poor steak guy!
March 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm
Thanks, Stacie. And yeah, I felt a bit bad about the way I chased him off. 🙂
March 4, 2014 at 11:02 am
For some one who has been explosive themselves at times; I totally understand the situation!
March 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm
Glad I’m not the only one!
March 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm
Oh, you are right. That is both sad and hilarious.
March 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm
March 5, 2014 at 10:52 am
You seem like the perfect mother lion to me! I like your example!
March 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm
Haha! Thanks, Aisha. As a non-procreator, that’s funny on multiple levels. 🙂
March 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm
Sometimes a little explosion is just what you need, especially when the people really deserve it.
March 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm
My thoughts exactly, Kate.
March 5, 2014 at 7:05 pm
I’m sure I would have completely lost my cool with every single one of those people, from the lady who couldn’t show you how to feed your dad to the guy trying to sell him steaks. I don’t deal with frustration well.
March 6, 2014 at 12:15 am
Clearly, I don’t either. Or at least didn’t that day.
March 5, 2014 at 10:06 pm
Hahaha sorry that your health aids are total dunces but at least it sounds like your dad is still himself!
March 5, 2014 at 11:35 pm
He definitely was at the time. He passed away about a year and a half later. But man, did we laugh about that day, both at the time and later, and I like to think that he chuckled again as I was writing about it. 🙂
March 5, 2014 at 11:49 pm
Well I’m sure he has all the steak he wants now, then! 🙂
Unless God’s a vegetarian… Oh my that’s probably not something we should talk about on the Internet, hahaha.
March 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm
Now, that just made me laugh out loud…and not in the LOL shorthand way.
March 6, 2014 at 10:16 am
I love this story! You got my vote! 😀
March 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm
Thank you for both the nice comment and the vote!
March 7, 2014 at 6:39 am
We went through many of the same experiences during my dad’s last days. I still remember how his phone never stopped ringing. I have no idea how many charities had his number on speed-dial – but I do recall telling that sweet old man that he had turned the virtue of generosity into a vice. He just chuckled.
March 9, 2014 at 10:29 am
Virtue into a vice – I like that. Thank you for sharing!