Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Allan McLaren Day!

Gather round, children, time for a story:

Sometime in the early 80s, my best friend, Lisa, and I were walking the halls of Bancroft Jr. High in Long Beach, California. It must have been the end of February because we were discussing the recent Presidents Day holiday, which seemed too elitist for our tastes. "Seems like there should be a day for people that aren't presidents," Lisa said.

"Yeah, like a day that celebrates the guy that has no desire to be president," I undoubtedly concurred. "A day for the average Joe, y'know? The world needs those guys too."

"Maybe we should start one … ?" she said, eyes wide. Lisa was, once again, ready to co-hatch outrageous plans with me, which is why I love her so.

"Hey .. yeah!"

And we were off. Immediately, we began formulating the outline of the campaign messages and the all-important 'Celebrating the Everyman' gist of our new holiday. Still, we needed a face, a name, a figurehead … somebody to stand up for our new cause. We wanted the guy that just happily exists in life, does his thing, and is perfectly harmless – the guy that merely goes to school/work, does his chores and doesn't spark headlines, bad or good. We needed to pin down the uncelebrated fellow that makes up the bulk of society - the guy that everyone likes but no one really notices.

Lisa and I spotted him at the same time. He was a smallish kid, same age as us (15-ish) and we didn't know his name. He had blonde bushy surfer-kid hair, shy eyes and an infectious sweet smile. We'd never noticed him before which made him ideal. Looking back now, I realized we may have come on a bit strong initially but he played along. After briefly introducing ourselves without revealing our true mission, we conducted the interview on-the-spot:

Belong to any clubs? "Nope."
Play on any sports teams? "No way."
Girlfriend? "Um, not right now."
Grades? "C average."
Home life? "Just normal stuff – my parents are okay, I guess."
Get in to trouble? "No, I try to lay low."
And finally, name? "Allan McLaren."

Lisa's eyes lit up at this, since she was the creative ad agency person and I'm more of the big mouth PR type. The phonetics needed to be ideal to result in a winning slogan. She tried it out, "Hmmmmm. AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren. Yes, yes … YES! That will work perfectly!"

We each squealed, kissed him on the cheek and then ran off, yelling back at Allan, "Thank you!" and maybe even "Get ready!"

In the next few weeks, we created banners, posters, buttons and possibly t-shirts that prepared the student body for the big day, which we'd picked randomly as March 26th – the world's first annual Allan McLaren Day.

Because we were those busybody types that ran everything, we managed to get this in the student newspaper, the school calendar, the daily announcements and, most importantly, on the lips of every student. Anticipation was high. Allan was confused but just kept smiling.

When the big day finally came, I recall sitting in typing class (ha!) and watching the very prim and proper teacher, Mrs. Howard, instruct us on the day's lesson. On her print blouse was a button pin that clearly read: "Have you hugged your Allan McLaren today?" This was victory.

In high school, the tradition continued and Allan became a minor celebrity. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Not only was Allan game for all the attention, but he was consistently appreciative and smiled even more.

Years later, at the 10-year high school reunion, I ran into Allan and he was so excited. He introduced his lovely wife, Kristina, and told her the whole story. He then went on to tell us how we had inadvertently changed his entire school experience. Apparently, he'd show up at parties and people would cheer: "Allan McLaren has arrived!" He noted, with some irony, that the football guys who "would otherwise beat me up" had decided that Allan was the coolest dude ever and was to be revered and protected like a king.

Even several years after graduation, Allan was in a grocery store writing a check when the cashier saw his name: "Allan McLaren? I know that name! Aren't you famous or something?"

Decades later, I was living in San Francisco and received a card in the mail. It was an elaborate beautifully self-designed sentiment from Lisa, dated March 26, 2003, with the words: "Celebrating 20 years of the average man … wishing you the very best Allan McLaren Day!"

So, now, I pass along this tradition to ya'll. Buy the Average Joe a drink tonight, would ya? Whether he knows it or not, it's his special day.


susie said...

This just made me smile so big.
You know this is like my favorite day ever since you told me this story.

Happy Allan McLaren Day Heather!

ClizBiz said...

Hey Susie - yes, I know this is one of your favorites. The timing was just perfect.

Howard said...

That is the bestest story.

Holy crap, you made me very happy after a few days of low-key remembering.

Thank you.

Kath said...

Very very cool. Yet another example where one (or in your case two) people can make a difference!

Anonymous said...

Man, I wish there were a Valerie Liberty Day ~hint, hint~

You are so my hero. I used to want to work for Hallmark, making up cards, but now I want to work for Gregor inventing new calendar days. I mean, every year, there is something just wrong with the calendar (this year, jake explains that March Madness ends in April...) but these are the types of things I would attack: adding more and truly relevant holidays.

Thanks for the career path.

ClizBiz said...

You're welcome, Howard! Hey, I'm thinking we should each have our own day - in Greece, they call it 'The Name Day' where your name is celebrated.

Of course, the name 'Valerie Liberty' should be celebrated EVERY day ...

hotdrwife said...

What a great story, Heather!! I love it!! And I bet Allan shares this story still.

Very cool!

The Hermit said...

This is a truly excellent story... and a great example of how a kindness can change a life... thanks for sharing it, and thanks for sending me here, Howard...

Heidi's heart said...

Heather, if you and Lisa did absolutely nothing else in your life but create Allan McLaren Day, you would have done plenty enough. That's really beautiful. The world, and I, thank you.