How To Make Your 14 Year Old’s Vote Count (An Eye-Cubed Special Edition)

4 11 2013

Its 11:15 on a Sunday and his stomach is rumbling.  Of course!  His body is a temple and works like a clock.  He is hungry and we just moved the time back an hour due to daylight savings.   A typical Sunday was ahead of him.  He has a two-hour basketball workout, JETS Football and tons of homework.  In light of what is in store, I welcome the suggestion:

“Dad, while we’re out getting fitted for tuxedo’s for Talia’s wedding next week, can we stop for a burger?  I am not in the mood for leftovers all day long.”  Not a problem at all.  I obliged.

So the question is “Five Guys or Shake Shack?  What’s your vote Max?”

Five Guys

“I’m not sure Dad…That is a tough question.”  Herein lies the teachable moment.  And I could not resist.

“Well, voting could be easy Max, lets do this like 90% of American voters…One place is to the left of us and one is to the right of us.  That is all I am going to tell you…Ok Max, Where do we eat?”

“Dad, I know what your trying to do with that analogy.  And that is stupid.  I can’t tell which one I will vote for until I taste a burger at each place.  I need to know a lot more.”  Lesson learned.

With a smile and a nudge that only a son could give his father, we continued.

As we drove up to Five Guys at 12:15, we realized that there was no line.  Was this a sign?  Are American consumers speaking?  Should that fact influence Max’s vote?  I assured Max that he should never vote based on the “popularity” of a candidate or issue.  People follow people. But he has an independent mind and needs to exercise it. Lesson learned.  And within a few minutes, there was a substantial line behind us waiting at the register. 

Max ordered a customized burger…with jalapeños and a large fries (I wanted to share the fries with him).  He then turned to two amazing digital soda dispensers that were technologically advanced.  He was mesmerized by them.  This was a big plus for him.  While I did not feel the same way about soda, obviously this was important to Max. Five Guys must be targeting his demographic. And it worked. Lesson learned.

As we waited, we ate a few free peanuts.  Not a bad way to pass some time.  It is always good to hand out some free benefits to the “voters”.  While Max pointed this out, I assured him that we were still paying for those peanuts as part of the cost for lunch.  Five Guys would never give them away if they lost money in the process.  Lesson learned.

shake shack

Max ate as we drove to Shake Shack.  On the way, he commented about how amazing the burger tasted.  He mentioned that we spoke a lot so far about insignificant things that could influence his vote.  But the most important issue was the taste of the burger.  He was committed to keeping an open mind as we drove into the very busy parking lot at Shake Shack.

The line was long as the throngs of people sat and ate.  Max had tons of choices and of course, whatever he chose would culminate with their signature shake.  He was psyched.  They handed us a vibrating indicator as we waited for the order to be prepared. 

This gave us a chance to look around.  Clearly, Shake Shack had a different agenda compared to Five Guys. There were two guys sitting at a table with about six children, all under 7 years old.  Their table was full of burgers, fries and more.  There was a pitcher of beer smack in between the two men.  I checked my watch and was glad that it was 1:00 (2:00 if it was not for the time change).  At that very moment, I understood why I was particularly thirsty and was glad this was all happening after noon!  This option was a far cry from the space-aged soda machines positioned at Five Guys.  But I get it.  So did Max. “Demographics”

They called our number and there it was, the Shake Shack burger and signature shake.  As Max raised the burger to his mouth, I sat motionless, wiping the drool away from my lower lip, waiting for his reaction.  After one bite, he looked at me and said: “This burger is cold!  That is right.  The burger is cold!”  Game over!

Max was not swayed by the multitude of choices on the menu, the crowd of people pushing to get in or the incredible reputation of Shake Shack.  He was focused on the most important issue as defined by him at that time; taste.  And on this one given Sunday, Five Guys and the New York Jets had something in common.  They both won.  Five Guys got Max’s vote. Lesson learned

As I threw out the Shake Shack bag with half of a burger left in it and took the final sip of Max’s delicious leftover vanilla shake, I felt my job as a parent was both fulfilling and rewarding.  And the lessons learned about Democracy were memorable.  Only in America!

I wish that all candidates reap the benefits of the American political process and I offer thanks to them for putting it all on the line and giving us amazing choices.  Hoping that everyone voted with his/her heart and mind.


You Are My Inspiration!

30 04 2013

My son Max was seven years old when he was first diagnosed with scoliosis.  Ever since, the treatment modality has been to contain his curves until he stops growing.  Our collective goals have been to avoid surgery since that presents a multitude of unwanted issues and challenges.  18-20 hours a day in a full torso brace has been all he has known for the past seven years.  As a thirteen year old, he is now over six feet tall and has goals to play basketball in college.  He still has scoliosis and will for his entire life.

Nearly immediately following his diagnosis, I did some research and found a professional athlete who has overcome scoliosis and risen to the highest ranks in his sport.  His name is James Blake, a professional tennis player who was ranked as high as #4 in the world.  James became Max’s role model as he developed and lived by the mantra:


“My brace holds MY back, not ME back”

James Blake’s signed jersey hangs on a wall in a frame in Max’s room.  It is there as a reminder to Max that he can do anything, overcome anything and reach his goals, just like James did.  James Blake was and is a true inspiration, in a very special way.

Last Saturday night, as I was walking out of a crowded restaurant with my wife and another couple, we passed a table.  There was James Blake, enjoying the evening and eating sushi.  We walked outside having said nothing to him.  And then it hit me.  We needed to go back in and speak to him.  I needed to tell him about Max and how he has inspired my son over the past seven years.  I could not miss this opportunity. So we went back inside and spoke to him at the table.

This was an important moment for me.  Maybe it was even more important for James Blake.  Sometimes, we do not realize the inspiration we leave in our wake.  There are many people who we touch along the way and it is quite possible that we forget who they are.  We typically do not dwell on such things.  However, it is something we must never forget.

The many lives who we inspire may go unnoticed to us and may pass like a fleeting and mundane day.  However, he/she who has been forever inspired will neither forget you nor the moment that you changed their perspective forever.

Thank you James Blake!