Bursting through the front door of our house I peppered my startled mother about the rules for telephone pole signs. The street light poles had been steel so I had not been able to post any of my signs on them, but I had a lot of signs on the rugged wooden telephone poles. Did she know if we would go to jail? My mother did not think so but also did not know if one needed permission to post anything on a telephone pole. She had been born and raised in a country far away and had only been in America for about twelve years. Those kinds of laws were never a part of anything she needed to know. I would have to wait for my father to get home from work to ask him. But, could I take the chance that Tommy was right? Daddy would not get home until after 4:30 and, by then, we could really be in big trouble.
I ran as fast as my little legs would go, ripping down sign after sign up and down the street. I kept a close watch out for any cars to be sure that no one saw who it was that had posted the sign. If I heard a car coming, I just stood, motionless, and stared at the sign as though I were reading it, an “innocent bystander”.” I just didn’t want to take any chances. Finally I was back at the Kool-Aid stand, weary but relieved to have recovered all of the signs before anyone else had noticed them. All the while my stressful drama was playing out, the Kool-Aid was being sold in the usual way and to the usual customers. It is great to have partners!
About the time my heart rate had returned to normal and I could laugh with Suzie and Glenda about the possibility of the three of us going to jail, a black and white car, sporting a bar of red and blue lights on the roof, turned the corner. Since it was a dead-end street, there was nowhere else that they could be going; they were coming to our stand! Suzie was lucky because the stand was right in front of her house. She was inside in a flash. When the car doors opened I begged Glenda not to run and I prepared my defense with every possible explanation my mind could conjure up. By the time the two men were in front of me, though, I knew that there was no better explanation than to just admit that it was me who had done it; the little girls were innocent. I would explain that my mother was from Australia and did not know the rules about the telephone poles so she could not teach them to me. I would explain, further, that my father also wore a uniform, was a Company Commander in the Army and, though he probably, did know the rules he had not known I was going to do the stand today so did not teach me about the telephone poles either. I would promise not to ever do it again and ask them not to take me to jail. My heart was beating so hard and fast that I was certain that the men who wore those badges and guns saw my guilt before I opened my mouth. Imagine my relief when Glenda spoke first.
“Hello! Want some Kool-Aid? A nickel for a small glass and a dime for a big glass.” Such a sweet smile on this innocent five-year-old accomplice.
“Well, I do believe that I am thirsty enough for that big glass.” I saw his handcuffs move as he reached into his front pocket to retrieve the coin.
“Me, too. That looks mighty good. Bet you have had a lot of business today with that hot sun.” As for me, I was still too frozen to respond but the little salesperson next to me was grinning and enthusiastically nodding like her older sister sitting there was not about to leave in handcuffs.
When the police officers set down their empty glasses, voiced their thanks and turned to head back to the car, I realized two very important things: 1. They were not going to arrest me so maybe they had not seen the signs and I had retrieved them in time; and 2. I had a chance to find out from people who should know about the telephone poles! Marketing, you know. What about next time? I quickly left my chair and called after them as I followed their retreat.
“Glad you liked the Kool-Aid. Can I ask you something before you go?” The window on the passenger side of the car was rolled down and the kind face of the uniformed officer presented a gentle smile as he answered in the affirmative.
“If a person had a Kool-Aid stand but wanted people to know about it who did not live right near them, could the person make a sign and stick it on a telephone pole a few blocks away so people could read about it?” The two men talked together a short while and offered a reply, admitting that they were not lawyers so could not be completely sure of the answer off the top of their heads.
“Well, the telephone poles are private property so it is usually the case that someone would have to get permission to do anything with something that belongs to a company or to another person; but, I would think that a person who wanted to let thirsty people know that there was Kool-Aid to be had on a hot summer day should, in principal, not get in trouble for posting such a sign on the telephone pole.” Uh huh, what exactly does all that mean? I needed a more direct question.
“So a person would not go to jail, say, for posting a sign on a telephone pole, would they?” Now there was a big smile looking right at me and who would have thought that a policeman could have a twinkle in his eye?
“I can assure you that a person would not go to jail for putting up such a sign. The person might be asked to remove it by the company who owns the telephone pole but that’s about it.” I offered my relieved and very grateful thanks, waving goodbye as the police car slowly moved away from the curb.
****Marketing 101: Reflections… Coming Tomorrow