Parents will do almost anything for kids. Not just their own kids, but their siblings’ kids, their best friends’ kids, the kid down the street…sometimes just any kid at all. So, last year, when my friend (who is like a brother to me) asked me to help him figure out how to promote his daughter’s singing career in an online contest, I went all out. I spent hours every day for months on end promoting her in every way I could imagine. First, because she’s THAT good and second, because, well, I’m simply addicted to all things computer related.
Little did I know then how that would become the first step on the road to my making a fool of myself in front of Toby Keith.
For those of you who don’t know Toby Keith (shame on you!), he’s an incredible country music star. He’s got a bit of the rocker in him, plays up his American pride, and throws one heck of a good concert. My middle son, Jeremy (12 years old in two weeks), and I have been huge fans for a long time and I remember having to play Toby’s “How Do You Like Me Now” video on the CMT website for my son over and over when he was younger because it was his absolute favorite. A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to get front row tickets to his concert and one of the guitar players tossed a guitar pick to my son.
As if we were in the middle of an old Coca Cola commercial, the pick had landed perfectly in my son’s hands and he beamed up at the stage as if his whole world had suddenly lit up with fireworks. This son of mine – who I sometimes think couldn’t find his hand in front of his face if you pointed it out to him – still has that pick.
We were thrilled when my friend got tickets to the latest Toby Keith concert for his wife, daughter, myself and my son but this time with an added bonus – passes to the Meet and Greet session so we could actually meet Toby Keith and have our picture taken with him. One favor, he said, was all he needed in return. His daughter was bringing a copy of her CD with her to hand to Toby. My friend knows someone who knows someone (he’s from Chicago and somehow that’s the town of all connections, I swear) who worked with Toby and told us to let Toby know he was recommending her CD – had even sent Toby a copy already. My friend wanted me to relay that message to Toby and make sure the CD got in his hands. Umm….okay.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was barking up the wrong tree. Sure, I speak in front of hundreds of people regularly and never break a sweat. Speaking about my field of expertise and getting Toby Keith to listen to my friend’s daughter’s CD, however, are two completely different animals. Charm and grace and thinking on my feet are not my virtues, those having been parceled to my sweet sister. Not wanting to steal the thunder from his wife, I asked if she wouldn’t prefer to have the honor. No, he assured me she’d crumble in Toby’s presence.
This is how I found myself last Friday night, taking my son to an outdoor Toby Keith concert (in the middle of August in Phoenix, AZ – who plans these things??) and rehearsing a calm, but passionate, plea to Toby. I had a whole spiel worked out, playing on his own efforts to break into the country music scene, his understanding of what parents will do for their kids, the connection we had to the person who had worked with him before. I’d visualized the witty conversation back and forth, him showing an interest in Cali’s CD and me successfully convincing him that, you know, when you have a spare second out of your busy life to please take a listen.
It should come as no surprise that it didn’t quite go like that. I hadn’t foreseen my having to sweat for a solid hour in the evening heat before it was time for the Meet and Greet, making my hair a frazzled nightmare and causing me to literally wipe rivers of liquid off of my forehead and the back of my neck. Nor did I realize that Meet and Greet is a nice way of saying “get your two seconds with a star and move along”.
At the appointed time, we got in a line of 200 people while a group of handlers worked hard to keep us all moving. “Get in line, squeeze up, got to MOVE people – Toby has to be on in 20 minutes!” It became very clear at this point that we were not going to have a lot of chit-chat time with Toby Keith which had me frantically looking for alternatives to my nicely planned script.
Suddenly, I realized Cali was in a bit of a panic because she wanted her mother to meet Toby first, explain about Cali and then Cali could walk up and hand him her CD but her mom has said she just doesn’t think she can do it. (Her husband obviously knows her well. 🙂 ) So I bravely told Cali I’d go before her and pave the way, she could follow me, then Jeremy and Karen last. I put my game face on, wiped the latest glaze of sweat from my face and took a deep breath. As we turned a bend in the line, I had a chance to watch Toby greet those before us. He was pleasant and smiling and charming. While people were rushing through, he was still being awfully gracious and taking a minute or so to talk with each one. I felt a bit relieved. Maybe this would work after all.
Minutes later, it was my turn to rush up, stand next to Toby, and smile at the cameraman. I walked up next to him, completely – too completely – focused on getting Cali’s CD in his hands. Did I say hi to Toby Keith? Did I shake Toby’s hand? Did I say I’m a huge fan? Did I let him know that I had to play his video for my son over and over because HE’s a huge fan? Did I say ANYTHING nice to Toby at all? Nope. Idiot. I said:
“Toby (like we’re best friends), I’ve got one job to do while I’m here. The girl behind me is a singer and has her CD with her. So and so (the person we know through a friend) said he sent you a copy but he hooked us up (yes, I said “hooked us up”! Where did I come up with that????) with passes tonight so she could give you her CD directly. Is it okay if she hands it to you?”
Now, if that wasn’t a stunning sales pitch, I don’t know what is (insert sarcastic shake of the head and rolling of the eyes here).
I have a feeling (by the look on his face) that what he heard was, “Squawk, squawk, quack, quack, bzzz, bzzzz, CD, something, crazy lady”. He kind of nodded at me with this confused look on his face and I walked off. Never turned to the camera. Never stopped to have my picture taken. Never said goodbye. Did what I needed to do – in the most ungraceful way possible – and moved on. I didn’t even wait to see Cali with him. I didn’t even stand there and wait for my own son!! Off I went. When my friend had asked me to do this favor, I knew I’d make a fool of myself. I just know how I am. I just didn’t know EXACTLY how I was going to make a fool of myself. Now I know. I’m such a nerd. 🙂
So, Toby Keith, if you ever stumble across this post in some odd, ironic twist of fate, I’m sorry I was such an idiot. I’m sorry I couldn’t manage to tell you how talented you are or how much enjoyment your music has given my son and I. I ask you to forgive me in the name of parents everywhere who only want to help the children in their lives. And, most of all, I want you to listen to the CD. Listen to First Hate, Cali’s original recording, on her own website.
(Come on, my little gaggle of readers, I didn’t say I was going to STOP trying to help Cali – just that I felt bad I had done it so poorly. 🙂 )