Making Memories

Last week was the 4th of July. It was the first 4th of July that I had off from work in 12 years. That’s not a joke, seriously, 12 years. I didn’t really know exactly how I was going to spend it, but I did sleep in. When I checked my email on the morning of the 4th of July, I had the following message waiting for me:

For Cole:

Last year I was moved to write an email to the staff at ‘This American Life’ after hearing a rerun of their ‘Amusement Park’ episode. In honor of the Fourth of July, I’m forwarding an excerpt of it to you:

“Six years ago, my wife became fed up with all of the things that were wrong with America, and moved us from our California home to the UK. Though politically I have always agreed with her views, I have always felt that there was more to my country than the negative things she saw. But while it has always been very easy for her to point out shootings, urban sprawl and the crassness of pop culture as examples of America gone wrong, I have had a difficult time pinpointing what’s right or great about America, and the reasons I miss my homeland as much as I do. I had always loved This American Life, and listened to it every week while we lived in California, but it was only recently that I discovered I could get the program on a podcast. In the months since I made this discovery, I have been able to hear for myself every week concrete examples of the things I miss.

Last week, the news of the cinema killing in Aurora, Colorado, gave my wife just one more perfect example of the horrors we had fled, and I found myself in despair that perhaps I had been deluding myself that there was anything left back home that was worthwhile anymore. After all, how does one counter a negative as big as mass murder?

But then I listened to your recent podcast about amusement parks. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but the story of Cole Lindbergh and his antics at the Worlds of Fun park were like a shining beacon from across the ocean. Britain isn’t all that different from the US, but I have never met anyone here at all like Cole, and hearing his story, I could point to him and say to myself, “THAT’s what the rest of the world is missing!” The concept of a man making his living doing exactly what he wants to do, loving life and finding success while making people happy — there is something profoundly American about that, and I loved hearing about it. In his own small, ridiculously silly way, Cole Lindbergh is helping to keep America great. Please don’t laugh when I tell you that I got the same lump in my throat listening to Ira’s description of him singing and dancing with his teen-aged staff as I do when I watch the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. I hope Cole finds a way to keep his dream going, and I thank you for letting me hear his story.”

Again, happy Fourth, Cole. Rock that Uncle Sam hat for me.

Tom M.

I’ve read this message multiple times, and I’m still rather speechless about it. There is one part that sticks out to me though, one thing that I immediately think about, and anyone who truly knows me might be able to pick it out as well. It’s something that I pride myself on; making people happy. To know that this little Games Department in Kansas City could bring joy into someone’s life thousands of miles away is for me both heartwarming and overwhelming.

Each year, I tried to train my staff that we were never really in the business of getting people to play games; we were in the business of creating memories. I pushed my staff to make an impression. Make it so that ten years after that guest wins the prize, when they find it sitting in the bottom of their closet, they can pull that prize out, look at it, smile, and immediately be flooded with the memories of the time they won it at the amusement park.

I’ve been faulted for having such a romantic point of view about winning prizes and making memories. But, when I get messages like the one above, I get that romantic feeling all over again. It’s a great feeling.

Thank you Tom, for not only making my day, but the day of all those games employees who still believe in making memories.