I read an article by a guru who swears by the strategy “under promise and over deliver.”
As I understand it, the idea is to lower your audience’s expectations beforehand so that you can then knock them over with the result.
Couple of ways you can apply it:
1. Tell your family “Dinner will be disappointing tonight.”
2. In bed, turn to your significant other and say “you’re going to wish you had read a book.”
3. When you’ve got a story to share, lead off with:
“This is a lousy story.”
Let’s give this last one a go…Onwards and upwards from here!
The summer of our wedding was a long Christmas morning.
Except for the humidity, of course.
And Santa brought exactly what we asked for.
Annnnd we only asked for housewares.
The postman delivered our packages to our condo’s front door. We didn’t use that door much because it opened into a hallway we shared with a trash room (where everyone from our building took their trash) and a door to our neighbors who we only knew by the smell of their cigarettes seeping into the hall.
By June the gifts started showing up daily. We’d bring the package inside and tear it open to see what our friends and relatives had sent us. I’ve never been so excited about plates…that we picked out.
One afternoon I came home to find my wife-to-be beaming through the patio glass with a look on her face I had seen only once before when she returned from running through town after eyeing a lamp shade made out of vintage photos of cats.
But on this day that glimmer in her eye was even more glimmery.
I slid open the door and she said “which one of your friends sent us a squirrel?”
“A squirrel in a canoe!”
“In a what?”
She lead me to the coffee table where there was a squirrel in a canoe. A real taxidermied squirrel holding an oar in a leather canoe.
It was quite something.
Whoever stuffed this sucker really nailed the eyes. The emotion. The focused, far off gaze. The kind you’d need for a long, treacherous river journey. And the posture was spot-on for thrusting a canoe through the water.
We reveled at it.
We turned it around and awed from every angle.
We burst out laughing.
For a long time.
We just kept looking at it, then each other, and then laughing.
And we kept coming back to the same question:
“Who do we know that would give us such a perfect wedding gift?!”
“Whose name is on the return address?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I just tore it open and left the box in the trash room.”
So we walked out to the hallway into the trash room and retrieved the box.
The return address was from a shop we didn’t recognize in Utah. Strange.
And then Carrie pointed out that the “to” address was not ours. But rather our smoky neighbor.
Our hearts hit the trash room floor.
This was not our squirrel.
This marvelous seafaring squirrel was to live on the other side of our condo wall where we will never see him again.
We took photos.
We said goodbye.
And then we carefully placed him back into the pieces of cardboard that used to be a box and walked it into the hallway to make the delivery.
(“If they’re dead we’re keeping the squirrel”)
There was a rustle. Then the lock clicked and we were greeted by a cigarette plume and our neighbor in his bathrobe and shorts.
His condo looked identical to ours in shape but was decorated like the set of “Sanford and Son.”
“MERIWEATHER!” He exclaimed.
Our squirrel had a name!? Maybe we weren’t the only ones who loved him. Heck, we hadn’t even named him yet.
Perhaps Merriweather should live with our half dressed neighbor? He would be loved and could float on the seas of debris in his new Sanfordian home.
We handed him over and listened to how Merriweather came to arrive on our doorstep:
Mr. Sanford and his wife (she was either not home or had the decency to not answer the door without being fully dressed) had recently vacationed in Utah where she saw the rowing squirrel in a shop and with a look reserved for only this exact situation (and possibly spotting a lampshade made of vintage photos of cats) she let her husband know that it should and would be theirs.
They bought it, named it, and asked the shop owner to ship it to their condo in Virginia to avoid smashing that cute little face in-flight.
And if it weren’t for the postman misreading the address we never would have spent our afternoon with Meriweather.
Nor would we have been treated to this story.
Or you for that matter.
This is Pretty Cool:
1. Y’all wanna see Meriweather? His picture hangs in our son’s bedroom.
2. My pal Jeremy and I had post-college plans to either build furniture or float down the Mississippi Mark Twain style on a raft. Since we had never made furniture the raft seemed plausible. We learned a hard lesson about saying your dreams out loud. Pretty much everyone told us that was a bad idea. So he went to law school and I went to Grad school. They were wrong.
3. That same Jeremy texted me this week saying he imagines this is my inner monologue voice.
5. Here’s 3 great songs about boats:
- If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
- The Trawlerman’s Song by Mark Knopfler
- A Pirate Looks at 40 by Jimmy Buffet
6. Have y’all heard my cover of A Pirate Looks at 40?
7. I started writing my song Anonymity that summer. It was going to be my wedding vow. But something about “I’ll die If I outlive you” seemed like the wrong tone.
I wrote it and rewrote it countless times. Took me 6 years but I finally finished it for my latest album. I knew it had more to say…I just hadn’t lived it yet.
Say hey when you get a sec,