Who got the best deal?

Jaguar XJ6

The purchase of one of my dream cars, a Jaguar XJ6 sedan, did not work out entirely as anticipated, but in the end, everyone was happy. Buying the nearly ten-year-old Jaguar from a local used car lot was easy. Making it go away was a tad more difficult. The euphoria I felt when it left was nothing compared to the buyer’s side of this tale, which I didn’t learn until later.

Immediately after Ginger was born Maggie began complaining that our daily driver vehicle at the time, the venerable, indestructible and seemingly immortal, Toyota Celica, was not meeting the standard for a good “family car.” Her biggest complaint: it only had two doors. Getting Ginger into and out of the rear-mounted car seat required a multitude of gyrations, including bending the front seats forward and holding them out of the way with your butt as you made all the appropriate adjustments in the back. “Can you just get me something with 4 doors?” she begged. Well, that left me with a lot of options and in less than a week I’d obliged.

Al Cady, John Bonte, Stu Baker, and I frequented a lunch spot a mile or so from Control Data’s headquarters. CDC occupied land near where the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN now sits. Restaurants lined the frontage road along Hwy 494, as did used car dealerships and occasionally we’d see something pretty. One day Al Cady bought a bright-red Jaguar E-type convertible. He loved this long, sleek beauty until we mentioned everyone one assumed a guy his age driving around in that sort of car, was basically announcing to the world he was having pecker problems. He sold the car.

One of the lots had a gorgeous silver 1974 Jaguar XJ6. I returned after work for a more extensive look and was immediately smitten. An early business hero of mine had been Paul Ginther, the VP of Marketing at Schaak Electronics, who drove a gray Jaguar XJ6. I thought Paul was the coolest guy ever. I wanted to be Paul Ginther when I grew up, a VP of Marketing who drove a Jaguar. They were asking $6995 for a car that in 1974 had cost almost $30K. So, a pricey car that had depreciated a great deal and looked perfect to me. I saw no rust, a big issue in Minnesota, and the dealer assured me it had been methodically serviced by the prior owner, an elderly woman who only drove it to church. After some negotiating, I brought it home for a bit over $5k plus Maggie’s Toyota. While not exactly what she was thinking, once she saw the beautiful leather and wood interior and humongous back seat, she pronounced it more than acceptable. It was March, 1984. Our time with the Jaguar began and it was sublime.

As the XJ6 reached its 50th birthday, Octane Magazine editor Glen Waddington wrote a wonderful celebration of the car. In his article, he speculated that the XJ6 may have been the best car in the world. “It rode with a comfort and silence that were alien to other cars of the day, save perhaps the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, yet it also handled with the kind of balance that normally came only with a smaller, harsher sports car.” He goes on to say: “The XJ6 is a breathtakingly refined car. It has an uncommon suppleness, as every movement of wheels and body is kept in deft control by exquisitely judged damping. The steering, often criticized for being over-light, is quick and accurate. The engine feels zingy and surprisingly potent in such a large car and its 0-60mph time of 11 seconds and 117mph top speed don’t tell the whole tale.” British car builders own this niche, and you see elements of it in the Rolls Royce, Aston Martin and Bentley. They build better luxury touring cars than anyone on the planet.

I just loved the car and we spent the summer happily loading it up with miles. We took it to Milwaukee for a wedding and a sight-seeing trip for autumn leaves in northern Minnesota. We frequently drove it to Rochester, Minnesota to display our newly arrived daughter to her grandparents and friends in that part of the state. Sitting behind the wheel was amazing. Once you got over all the wood and leather, the rows of rocker and dip switches were reminiscent of an airplane cockpit. Of great fun was picking up another couple to take them to dinner and hear them wax enviously about how much room and luxury there was in the back seat – it was like riding in a limousine.

That fall, however, I noticed two disturbing things about the Jag. First, when looking closely at the car after washing it one day, I saw nearly every inch of it was covered with small, nearly-microscopic rust pinholes. This told me immediately that the car been the recipient of a quick “Earl Scheib-style,” $99 paint job before it was set out of the dealer’s lot and it was covered with rust underneath. The second issue was that as the fall season arrived and overnight temperatures dropped, the Jaguar (which lived outside) was beginning to experience difficulty starting. The idea of Maggie and Ginger in that car through the winter suddenly seemed like a really bad idea, and so I became determined to sell it quick.

Selling a car then meant listing it in the newspaper’s cars for sale classified ad section. Maggie and I discussed at length the right price to put on it. I wanted to price it for the same $6995 figure it had been on the used car lot when purchased it in the spring. I figured that number would give me plenty of room to negotiate down since we really only had a bit more than $5k into the car. Our ad went live in the paper the following week, followed by zero calls. No responses, no nibbles, nothing for a week. The paper called and offered a renewal for another week for half price. We debated on dropping the price to $5995 but decided to let it ride at $6995 for another week. And then we got the call.

A middle-aged guy called saying he worked at the University of Minnesota and had seen our ad and wanted to know if the car was still available, and if so, would it be possible for him to come and see it and bring his friend, an English car specialist along. We scheduled a time that week after work and they arrived. The car was in our driveway, and I went inside to let them examine it without me hovering. After about 20 minutes they rang the bell. He announced he was indeed interested in the car and would like to return on Saturday. Would I allow him to take the car to a British car mechanic he knew? Might it be possible to have the car for a few hours on Saturday morning? Not having any other prospects, I agreed.

When they left, Maggie and I talked. Who knew what the mechanic would find? The car had worked flawlessly for us, and uncharacteristically for me, I’d never even checked the fluids (other than oil) or taken it to a mechanic. We just drove it. I feared that although I’d put a good coat of wax on the car, the rust pinholes might reappear. And of course, the general condition of the starter, engine, and transmission, were mysteries to me. What might be wrong? It was a British-made car from the ’70s, without a reputation for great reliability.  We were asking $6995 in the paper, but would have been thrilled to $5995, what we’d nearly listed it for. I cautioned Maggie if they found anything substantial, we might have to go well below that. We agreed we didn’t want to take less than $5k for the car if we could help it, but would need to be ready to consider and discuss sub-$5k offers. Then the two guys showed back up with the car and I met them in the driveway.

I liked the two guys and hoped they would end up with the car. They talked carefully about what they’d learned from the mechanic, reading from a list, carefully trying not to say anything that might hurt my feelings. As they showed me small nicks in the paint here and there, pointed to the age of the tires, and some worn carpet, I began to think, “Sheesh, maybe they didn’t find anything wrong,” and it turns out I was right. The mechanic had judged the car to be in good mechanical condition. Then they came to the part when they needed to make me an offer. They’d clearly rehearsed this.

One of the two, with the other one alternating his gaze intently from me to his partner, said, “Okay, we know you are asking $6995 for the car, but after looking it all over and seeing the things we’ll need to fix, we’re prepared to offer you $6500 for it.” He paused briefly as I looked at him and said nothing. Then he continued, “But, we know you were expecting more, so here is what we are thinking. How about if we agree to split the difference, and we’ll give you $6750 for the car? What would you say to that?” I waited a long minute to get my breathing under control and fight the urge to grin and then said, “Well, that is less than what we were hoping, so would you excuse me while I discuss this with my wife, who is in the house?” And I turned and left. I came into the kitchen where Maggie was feeding Ginger a snack. I poured myself some coffee, sat down at the table, and began to read the paper. After a while, Maggie looked out the window and saw the two guys walking around the Jaguar, and asked me what I was doing. I said, “Oh, you and I are having a discussion on how low we’re willing to go to sell the car.” She nodded and went back to feeding Ginger. I finished the funnies and the sports section, and 15 minutes later finally went back outside. While I knew they were more than likely to come up with another $100, it didn’t seem fair. So I told them we’d decided to accept their offer, but not before moaning a bit about it. They provided me the cash, I signed and gave them the title and they were gone. When I came back into the house and showed Maggie the $6750 in cash, she was pleased. But this is not the end of the story.

Two weeks later we attended a dinner party at the home of Dr. Walter Bruning. Bruning had been recruited by Control Data CEO Robert Price from the University of Minnesota where he had been a chemistry professor, to run the division my group reported into. He was a brilliant man and a genuine character. We loved him and his wife, Karen. Toward the end of the evening, Walt regaled the group with a story he’d just heard the night before while having dinner with some University of Minnesota friends. It seems these two professors had found a priceless Jaguar sedan owned by some guy out in Eden Prairie who had no idea what he had. The two of them, over a two-day period, had shrewdly managed to virtually “steal” this car from the unwitting Eden Prairie guy. Walt told how they’d offered far less money than the owner wanted but in the end, they’d stuck to their guns and paid only what they’d set out to pay. The car was now in their possession, and they would spend the winter restoring it.

It took every ounce of restraint not to pipe up and say, “Yeah, I think I know that guy.” But in the end, isn’t this the definition of a great deal – both parties happy with a transaction?

Links: https://subscribe.octane-magazine.com/JaguarXJ6

Macho Hubris Bites Again

To celebrate our first anniversary, Maggie and I planned a trip to the Florida Keys in March of 1983. As recently certified SCUBA divers, we were looking forward to a two-tank dive in the legendary underwater park near Key Largo, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

This park covers over 175 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. It was created to protect and preserve part of the only living coral reef in the continental United States. It’s named after John Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, who helped establish the Everglades National Park. While the park has a wide variety of tropical vegetation, shore birds and marine life, what fascinated me was that a good part of the park is underwater. Yes, an underwater state park with a vast amount of coral formations and marine life. As newly minted divers, this area called to us like fresh sugar water in a feeder calls to hummingbirds.

After spending the night in Key Largo, we arrived early the next morning at the dock to meet our dive captain. Sipping coffee and eating from a box of donuts provided from our captain, we learned we were being joined by two guys, students from MIT, who were in Florida for spring break. Loading duffle bags with our masks, snorkel and fins, Maggie took 4 Dramamine tablets, something she routinely did before venturing out on any large bodies of water. While Dramamine failed to negatively affect her, I avoided them as even one tablet would put me to sleep. After making sure we had an adequate number of full air tanks, inspecting the regulators and completing the paperwork, we were off. The captain was alerted to a weather front moving into the area, and depending on its speed, might cut our trip short. As we headed for the dive spot 4-5 miles from shore, we noticed the wave size increasing and the boat being jostled about. At the dive site our captain lowered the anchor into about 30 feet of water, telling us this was a great spot and he’d see us in 40-45 minutes depending on how our air held.

The boat had begun to rock about a good bit, so we were all anxious to get into and under the water, where we expected to be dashed about a bit less. Descending to the ocean floor, our two new friends went off in one direction, Maggie and I in another. After only diving in Minnesota lakes, this experience was wonderful, with coral and lots of colorful fish. While not relaxed underwater, Maggie did remarkably well and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the boat.

This lack of gravity and ability to move freely in any direction in utter peace and quiet is mesmerizing. Weightless and effortless, divers move through a magical underwater world is magic. We hadn’t gone all that far and I was able to make out the shadow of the boat on the ocean floor 100 yards from us and we slowly swam in that direction. We reached the anchor rope about the same time as our new MIT companions and motioned for them to go up first. Although not all that deep, we still kept to a slow ascent as we’d been trained to prevent possible accumulation of nitrogen which could cause decompression sickness.

We arrived on the surface near the rear of the boat where we knew the ladder was located. While submerged, the wind had picked up a good bit and we noticed we were in 3-4 foot swells. Helping Maggie to the ladder I watched as she attempted to time her climb. It was not easy getting back into this 20-25 foot bouncing dive boat. Imagine you are a rodeo cowboy, attempting to get on (not off) a bucking bronco dancing around the corral. Oh, and by the way, you’re wearing SCUBA gear including flippers. Possible, yes. Easy, no! Inside the boat, the two MIT divers took turns tossing their lunches over the side. Once things had settled down, the boat Captain looked at us and tentatively said, “Well, you all paid for two tanks, and I’ll do whatever you want. Does everyone want to go down again or shall we call it a day? The two MIT guys looked at me, their eyes conveying a desire to quit. Before I could say anything, Maggie exclaimed, “Sure, that was fun, I’ll go down again,” and looked at the three of us with a big smile. In retrospect, swallowing our pride and skipping the second dive would have been the more prudent option. But the gauntlet had been laid down. How could 3 buff (yes, I was buff – sort of – this was 1983!) guys say no? We had no choice; we were doing another dive.

No sooner had we dropped the 30 or so feet to the bottom and our two diving friends had headed off, I had the overwhelming urge to throw up. Remembering my training, I resisted the strong urge to rip my regulator off my face and instead just threw up through my regulator. While not fun, it cleared quickly and I’d suddenly become quite popular with a school of small fish.

Maggie and I explored as before, me feeling much better after taking care of my stomach. When my air gauge showed a bit under a third of the tank left, I gave the appropriate signal to Maggie that we needed to head back to the boat. However, we had a problem. The sun was no longer shining and no shadows on the bottom. My mental map of the boat’s location was seriously messed up. I looked around hoping to spot an anchor rope. But it was gone. I motioned Maggie to remain on the bottom and I rose to the surface to look around. Turning 360 degrees, I could not spot the boat. Just about to panic, I realized with the high waves, I needed to wait until a swell would lift me high enough to give me a better view around. Using this technique, I finally spotted the boat, although not in the direction I’d expected. As soon as I saw it, I ducked my head underwater and memorized the terrain along the bottom between us and the boat. Submerging back to Maggie, I pointed in the direction we should go, and headed that way. After swimming along for about 5 minutes the anchor rope still had not come into view. So, back to the surface I went. This time, the boat was a good bit closer, but again, not where I expected it to be. Underwater currents were moving us around. This time, as I descended from the surface, I kept my eyes on the anchor rope and even though it faded, I had a good idea of what direction it was in and we headed there. Another 5 minutes and we were at the anchor rope with our air gauges close to empty. At the surface we repeated the climbing onto the bronco exercise now even more difficult as the waves were much higher. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to be in a boat. Without the other two guys on the boat, Maggie and I quickly got into our dry street clothes. Five, then ten and fifteen minutes went by with our Captain scanning in all directions, but no sign of our two other divers. I began to feel panic for them. Where were they? I knew it had been difficult for us to find the boat given the choppy conditions so it must have been bad for them, too. While this was going on, the Coast Guard was warning on the radio of an impending storm heading right for us and ordering us to shore. Now!

I knew if these guys had been trained properly they were not at super high risk. It was just a matter of surfacing and inflating your buoyancy vest and waiting to be found. But still, I was in shock when the Captain suddenly announced, “I’ve waited long enough, we need to get off the water now,” and pulled up the anchor and started heading for the shore, five miles away.

Sitting in shock, Maggie and I stared at the Captain in disbelief. After about ten minutes, the radio crackled out our captain’s name and call sign. He replied, “Go ahead,” and we heard the following words: “You missing a couple of divers, JJ?” When he replied yes, the guy on the other radio said, “Don’t worry, we’ve got them, see you at the dock.”

Maggie’s never hesitated to support my passion-du-jour, in this case diving. She never learned to relax during SCUBA outings, so her eyes were always as big as pie plates and she used up her oxygen tank faster than I did, but she’d give it a go – every time. In this case, she was better at it than all the rest of us. Of course, she wasn’t handicapped by a male ego!

Our wedding photo, just over a year before this adventure. From L to R: Jurene Phaneuf, Connie Morris, Maggie, Steve, Chuk Batko and John Gravley.

Never heard it sound like that

Leif playing guitar

My younger brother, Leif Larsen, has made a variety of unorthodox and sometimes unusual choices in his life. One of those decisions resulted in him living in Russia and Lithuania for over 20 years. But no matter where he lives, he’s always on the lookout for “a deal.” When he spots one, it’s nearly impossible for him to resist. On occasion, his attempts to bring me into the process have succeeded.

Leif, along with my youngest sister, inherited all the family musical genes. Leif’s also good with tools and intuitively knows how to fix things. His mind conjures up innovative ways to solve problems. He has an artistic bent, and has spent time as a potter and painter. This creative aesthetic sometimes spills into his handyman tasks. He chose to refinish a wall in my workshop where the drywall had been destroyed by the previous owner. Other craftsman discussing the repair had recommended removing and installing new drywall. Fixing what was there would never work.

But they’d not met my brother. Leif patched the wall, then smoothed on layer after layer of sheetrock drywall compound until it was perfectly smooth and straight. I showed it to one of the men who’d originally bid on the project. He looked at it and said, “Wow, you had an artist do this. It is amazing!”

When Leif was here visiting and patching my drywall, he killed time during drying cycles by browsing Craig’s List. Not for anything in particular, although some categories no doubt interested him more than others. He came across an ad for a used guitar only a few miles away and asked if I would take him to see it. We called to make sure they still had it and headed out.

When we got there, the woman explained the guitar belonged to her husband, who wasn’t home, but had decided to sell it. He bought it years before, taking lessons for a while, but never really mastered the instrument. Seems he was not keen on practice. The woman left us in the garage to give Leif time to examine the guitar. He looked it over carefully and told me he thought it was like new – had probably never been played much at all. He could tell by looking at the frets.

After strumming the strings a bit, he took a few minutes to tune the guitar. Then he launched into a rendition of a guitar classic like Classical Gas or something. After a few minutes, the door to the garage opened and the woman came out of the house, her jaw agape. Less than a minute later she was followed by her two kids, who just stared up at Leif and then back at the guitar. When he finished, he just smiled at her and the kids. The woman took a long breath and said, “Wow! That was amazing. That guitar never sounded like that when my husband played it.”

I counseled Leif to offer her less than the $75 she was asking, but he said no, the asking price was a good deal. Plus, he hadn’t considered the guitar would come with the original Ovation travel case, which on its own he said was worth twice the asking price of the guitar. Later, doing research online, I found out this guitar, in decent used condition, would fetch minimally several hundred dollars and some had asking prices over $800.

Here is a man playing the same model guitar that Leif bought, although this one is older, a 1973 model. It isn’t Leif playing, but you can click here to see the guitar and hear how it sounds.

The Ovation guitar Leif boughtThe guitar Leif bought was in very good shape and appeared lightly used. It did have a crack in the face which Leif believed he could fix and though cosmetically imperfect, would not affect the sound. From the serial number (165322), we knew it had been made in 1979. It has the big acoustic fiberglass roundback that produce its very big sound. From the model number, 1111, we knew the following:

  • First digit
    • 1 – models born before year 2000
  • Second digit is type of guitar:
    • 1 – Acoustic roundbacks (also semi-hollowbody electrics)
  • Third digit denotes bowl depth on acoustic and acoustic electrics:
    • 1 – Standard bowl 5 13/16″ deep
  • Fourth digit denotes model
    • 1 – Balladeer

It has remained in our home in Phoenix, as Leif says, “So I have something to play when I come to Phoenix.” Occasionally I pull it from it’s shelf in the closet, strum it a bit, and briefly consider learning to play. But then I’d have to take lessons and practice.

How Ginger got her name

Penning this story, my first thought for a title was: “When I learned I’d lost and would never win again – ever.” But that is too long. Let me tell you how Ginny became Ginger. When our daughter began school in Pasadena, CA, her first teacher, the villain in this story, would change our world forever.

All parents agonize over naming their children. Although the technology was available, we chose not to take advantage of it, and were unaware of the gender of our soon-to-be-born baby. This meant we’d come up with a list of boy and girl names for our pending new arrival. I can’t recall them all now, but after weeks of discussion, it was down to just a few for each. For girls, although we wanted to wait until we saw him/her to be sure, we’d talked about carrying on family tradition, naming her Virginia Ruth – Virginia after Maggie’s grandmother and Ruth, after my mother. I especially liked this idea because like Maggie’s legal name, Margaret, which can be shortened to Meg, Peg, Maggie, Marge, Margie, etc., Virginia would also allow a variety of nicknames. I was particularly fond of the potential of calling her “Ginny,” as one of my favorite high school classmates had been named Ginny. Everyone loved her. She was in the choir, theatre and worked on the school yearbook. Outgoing and full of energy, I thought Ginny a great nickname.

But first she had to be born and we needed to determine her gender. Maggie’s obstetrician had a long-standing routine of telling each of his patients the gender of the child they were carrying on their very first visit to his office. Now, at this first encounter with him, at around week 4 or 5, the pregnancy is only just being confirmed. Any talk of gender at this point would be considered no more than a wild-ass guess as sex isn’t determined until the first ultrasound, between 18 and 21 weeks, and even then they sometimes get it wrong. But here he was, at week 4, confidently telling Maggie she was going to have a boy. As he picked up her chart he said, “Now, I’m correct 100% of the time, and to prove it, I’m going to write down my prediction in your chart, on this visit date. I’m saying you are going to have a boy baby,” and he wrote in her chart.

Chuk Batko decorated the nursery wall with a painting

Maggie and I got into the child prep big-time. We took prenatal childbirth classes, every Tuesday for several weeks, with other expectant parents. I learned how to be a good coach and we both learned what to expect and how not to be freaked out in the delivery room. We acquired a crib, baby clothes and supplies to care for an infant. Our friend Chuk Batko painted the walls of a small bedroom with a truly awesome kid mural.

Right after dinner on March 13, 1984, Maggie said she was beginning to feel odd and rightfully predicted this might be the night. At around 10:00 pm, as we were starting to get ready for bed, her water broke. We didn’t panic. We were ready even though it was two weeks before her due date. We got to the hospital just before midnight. I’ll not describe the 12 hour labor process, but I’m sure Maggie remembers every minute of it. The important thing was our daughter was born around 1 PM on March 14. And we knew immediately we would call her Virginia.

Before jumping to how her name changed, you must allow me to recount Maggie’s triumphant first post-delivery visit to her obstetrician. She couldn’t wait to tell him he’d been wrong in his gender prediction, perhaps for the first time ever. How sweet! She was quick to bring up his erroneous prediction. He scratched his head and said, “No, no, that doesn’t sound right. I’m sure I said you would have a girl.” When Maggie protested, he said, “Hold on, no need to argue, I think I wrote it down. Let’s check your chart,” and he flipped back a few pages and there, written clearly and indisputably was: Sex = Girl. “I told you, I’m right 100% of the time,” he said. Maggie left his office a bit perplexed.

As she was paying her bill, the woman at the counter asked her what she was shaking her head about. Maggie explained what had just happened. The office manager said, “Oh, he pulled that on you, too?” Maggie looked at her quizzically and she said, “When he predicts the sex of the baby, he always writes down the opposite of what he says. If he guesses correctly, no one ever asks to see the chart. But if he guesses wrong, and the chart is checked, it always proves he’s right, because he records the opposite of what he says.” They both had a good laugh.

The school in Pasadena where Ginny began first grade was only a few miles from our home. But it was an old school, in a neighborhood largely occupied by retired people. The school district had not staffed it with their best and most dedicated teachers. In visits to the classroom, Maggie found the teacher playing cartoon videos to the kids as she napped at her desk in the rear of the room. Complaints from Maggie and other mothers to the principal had not endeared her to the teacher and sometimes, she took it out on Ginny.

Several times Ginny had come home from school complaining when her teacher was angry at her, she would call her Jennifer Larsen. “Get back to your desk and sit down right now Jennifer,” the teacher would yell at her. “Mom,” Ginny complained, “She thinks my full name is Jennifer and I’m Jenny for short. But my name is Virginia and everyone calls me Ginny. How can I stop her from calling me Jennifer?” Always attentive and pragmatic, Maggie explained just like Margaret, Virginia has all sorts of good nicknames. Besides Ginny, she could be Virgie, Gina, Ginger, Geena or Gigi among others. She didn’t get far past “Ginger,” when Ginny said, “Wait, my nickname could be Ginger?” Maggie said, “Yes,” and Ginny beamed. She’d been watching Gilligan’s Island on TV and Ginger clearly was her favorite on the show. “Okay,” she said, “From now on, I want everyone to call me Ginger.”

The next several weeks went by with her politely and patiently correcting people who called her Ginny, telling them her name was now Ginger. One night in bed Maggie mentioned to me our daughter had noticed I was still calling her Ginny, and had asked her mother what to do about it. I explained to Maggie I liked the nickname Ginny. I wasn’t one to ever be confused and call her Jennifer. And besides, it was okay if everyone else called her Ginger and I still called her Ginny. I said, “Lots of Dads have a pet name for their daughter not shared with everyone else. It’s like a special dad-daughter thing, sort of nice, don’t you think?” Maggie said, “Maybe, but I think you’re just not trying.” I shrugged it off.

A week or two later, I was relaxing after work. In my “decompress” time, I would sit down in my easy chair with a cocktail and the newspaper. I’d only been there for a few minutes when Ginny pushed herself under the newspaper, between my legs, and wiggled her way into my lap. She stuck her legs over one of my arms and leaned her shoulders against my other arm as I did my best to ignore her. She just lay in this position, looking up at me, not saying a thing. Finally, I looked down into her face and said, “Y…e…s?” She composed herself slightly and then very clearly uttered two short sentences: “Daddy, by now, everyone else is calling me Ginger, but not you. Dad, I really prefer Ginger.” And she just looked at me with those steady, unblinking eyes. What could I do or say? My mind went totally blank. I just stared at her for a long time and then I said, “OK, I’ll try.” She gave me a big grin, a little squeeze and said, “Thanks, Dad,” and hustled off my lap and was gone.

I sat stunned. Of course, she had won. I never even got to trudge out any of my arguments for continuing to call her Ginny. And perhaps more importantly, for the first time, something else dawned on me. It was her determination and persistence. Maybe even stubbornness? She was just six years old and I had to marvel at her understanding and ability to adapt her tactics to get what she wanted – especially from me.

Years later, when she was a teenager, one night half-way through dinner she announced, “I’ve decided I’m a vegetarian; I am not eating meat anymore.” After Ginger left the table, Maggie wondered out loud, “How long do you think this phase will last?” I said, “Oh, oh, I’ve got some bad news. I’ve heard that voice before. She’s not going to change her mind – you better get out the vegetarian cookbook.” She turned 36 years old this year. She’s still a vegetarian and everyone calls her Ginger.