I’ve always watched what people do—not what they say they’re going to do. If the person is filled with resolve and discipline, they deserve the benefit of the doubt until they make the personal sacrifices necessary to achieve their dream. I often wonder what dreams lie within people in this storybook town on the river. I’m not sure Hermann is one of those places where people get wistful over lost opportunity. Do the kids around here watch the Amtrack train pass through town, hurtling over the rails to places where cities call hypnotically with the promise of high-paying jobs and the clink of glasses filled with celebratory cocktails with attractive co-workers?
I’ll never forget taking time off from my own marketing business to take care of my aging parent’s needs on the farm. To fill in the time, I had always been fascinated with the catalog business. The mail order/online innovative product business Brookstone has a large distribution and call center in Mexico, so I took a part-time job to learn more about the business. I was a customer service specialist that handled orders and escalated situations for two catalogs—Brookstone and Gardeners Eden. I talked about wine, landscape design, robotic vacuums, GPS units, outdoor furniture and a zillion other topics to people as varied as actor Timothy Hutton (needed sleepover airbeds for his kids) to Ashley Judd (wine glasses) to Pierce Brosnan’s wife’s personal assistant (shipping outdoor furniture to Hawaii). I even took an order for the daughter-in-law of one of Amway’s founders, Dick DeVoss. She needed a present for her father-in-law, but what do you get a person that has probably one of everything? Sheepskin-lined slippers, of course. It was kind of fun, because you never knew who was on the other end of the line.
Three months later, I took a marketing contract to manage the McDonalds Monopoly Game for France, Germany and Luxembourg, but based in Naples, Italy, so I would have to leave the Brookstone experience behind.
I got a “Good Luck!” card signed by the Brookstone customer service employees and one young woman, whose wedding I attended that spring, came up to me and said with all earnestness, “You just keep running and don’t look back.”
She probably heard the trains at night, blowing their whistles in the inky black, going to exciting places. She only knew she wasn’t on that train and never would be. I didn’t have the heart to tell her where I was headed—she just knew I was “escaping” at the age of 47, not knowing I hadn’t lived in Mexico, much less Mo., for twenty years.
I don’t think Hermann is a town where people feel the need to escape, though a Tuesday afternoon on a cold, river wind-swept 4th Street in January can seem pretty bleak.
But I don’t think the new crop of Hermann High School graduates feel the need to flee, so much as to see what’s “out there.” You can’t blame them. It is an exciting world and these are talented kids. Yet, you still have to ask the stinging question—“What’s here for them, after they’ve kicked big city tires to try life out in the metropolis?” I know there are options for the right kind of work, but It’s a question we should all think about during the summer months. There’s talk of investing in the Midwest from the coastal venture capitalists and Hermann should take some steps to at least eavesdrop on the conversation. Just the sight of the Amtrack train rolling through town should stimulate some thinking and it doesn’t have to be wistful.