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A Morning Story of Coffee, Peeps & a Frog

A silly & heartfelt tribute to my 2015 seniors

Note: this story was originally presented as an interactive speech during Senior Sendoff where seniors read quotes within this story I made up for them.

It’s a typical Tuesday morning about 8:30 a.m.

My mind is awake from a 55-minute cruise down not-so-easy street known as U.S. 131. The trip from GR to BR is more important to me than the distance from Grand to Big; it’s ginormous because this is where I get to do what I love, while simultaneously, loving what I do.

As I gather my thoughts for PR 440, my eyes dip into the awesome-sauce of sleepiness, so I saunter down to Starbucks to grab my morning Joe. As it happens, Joe’s on vacation, so I settle for a venerable vastness of Venti Pikes Place to awaken my soul. As a devout disciple of Javaliciousness, I bow and sip to the sumptuousness that is coffee -- otherwise known as, the breakfast of PR champions of the Ferris State PRpeep kind.

Speaking of PRpeeps, I spot an enthusiastic and cheerfully buoyant young lady, seemingly on her tenth cup of coffee, encased by random piles of books and papers, ruminating through a seam-splitting calendar at a nearby table. I stop to say hello; it’s Shelby Austin. Shelby’s a regular at this java joint. We chat about the ongoings of her life. She’s busier than a one-legged woman in a butt-kicking contest of which, I’m glad to be a spectator. She’s the friendly sort, one with a quick smile and even quicker-er-er laugh. She blows off my suggestion to ask Kody out for a date and continues with a litany of lists longer than Santa’s of the things she’ll accomplish in her life, or by the end of next week. As I say goodbye and walk away, she loudly giggles out a reminder, “Enjoy the gift of the moment Dr. B.! That’s why the call it the present!” Clever kid, I think to myself. And deep too. I make a mental note to be here now even if I’m there at a different time because, as it’s said, no matter where you go, there you are.

I take three flights up to my office, pausing to catch my breath at the top of the third flight. Just then, I’m greeted by Betsy Garbe walking through the doors. She says in a loud, breezy, happy sing-song voice, “Good morning Dr. B.!” Betsy is super senior of the fifth, six or seventh year… I’ve lost count. She has the face of an angel and sports some beautifully expressive tattoos that tell stories of her life. I notice a new hairstyle and briefly reminiscence of a time when she publically had her head shaved..? shaven? shorn? sheared? She had someone shave her head in public… It was a breathtakingly courageous way to showcase her love and compassion for others who have suffered from the painful blows of cancer. Betsy carries herself lightly, with a grace and depth as one who knows some suffering and yet consistently chooses to move forward in love. We laugh about the leg-numbing exercise offered several times a day by the third floor stair-stepping workout. She shares a story of her latest escapades with her husband Tom, revolving some crazy road warrior experience where they lose a trailer and hook it back on MacGiver-style using duck tape, bungee cords and paperclips. As we say goodbye, she gives me strength and reminds me that what really matters are the people in our life and the ones we love; and screw the bastards who mess with us.

It’s 8:55 a.m. as I make my way through the third floor doors, heading to my office where I find the confident and strong Carman Plank waiting for me. I mumble a Homer Simpson-esc “doh!” under my breath, remembering we had an 8:45 a.m. appointment. “Sorry Carman!” I say, offering a real, but lame excuse to this sharp young lady whose charitable nature offers me quick forgiveness. She a bright dame; a real go-getter -- someone who dots her “I’s” and crosses her “T’s” with the best of them. She asks me to review her academic checksheet and list of classes for spring, noting in a high-pitch, excessively quick voice blending her run-on sentence together faster than a speeding bullet: “I can’t believe I’ll be graduating soon and I’m heading into my last semester and, oh my goodness, these are the only classes I have left to take and why haven’t we reviewed my transcripts more -- we’ve only looked at it 47 times since September!” “Whoa! It’s all going to be okay young lady.” I say calmly and deeply in my best “father-knows-best” voice. At this, she takes a breath and releases a much-needed sigh of relief. Leaving my office with a lighter load, Carman says, “See you in a few Dr. B.!” as she semi-skips, semi-strides down the hall as a woman with a purpose.

I gather my 440 3-ring and superMac, and make my way to COB 208; the place where ghosts of Christmas-past mishaps become the PR reality of today. And, like Sisyphus forever rolling his stone in the underworld, I begin my own version of hellish-penance by rearranging the furniture for the umpteenth occurrence in no less time with a view to rooms that already have this very setup.

Always ready to help me is the eternally congenial and easy-going Will Harris. As we move tables and chairs, Will excitedly fills me in on the latest and greatest of circumstances in his life. “I’ve mastered the newest, most recently released video game, it’s called: Furious Game of Mindcraft Thrones Theft of Grand Duty.” I chuckle and say, “Cool Will. By the way, you said duty.” He laughs too and then we share a little about some other passions like music and the most-recent sci-fi fantasy book we’ve read. Will always has a way of putting me at ease and I appreciate his peaceful and creative charisma.

By this time, it’s about 9:15 a.m. and the next four peeps stroll in separately, yet within minutes of each other. The first is the bright-eyed and high-spirited Brandy Solberg. In a melodious and all too happy for morning voice she says, “Hey Dr. B., here’s the ‘Rush-stick’ you asked for the other day.” If sweetness and friendliness were combined into one person, it would be Brandy and she would be called Briendly Sweet Soulberg-ness… or something like that. As it is, I just call her “BRANDY!” Don’t ask me why, I just do. The “Rush-stick” she hands me was one of her creative ways to engage her classmates during a PR case inter-activity. And now, thanks to “BRANDY!” it has become my favorite tool to signify peeps to end their presentation. The “Rush-stick.” Very clever “BRANDY!” Very clever, indeed. By the way, I will miss saying your name, “BRANDY!”

Carman, who I already mentioned, is the second person who saunters in just after “BRANDY!” The third person to scoot in, quickly claiming a seat almost unnoticed, is the sprite and athletic Ashley Bradstreet. Ashley is decked out in her soccer shirt, sweatpants, flip-flops, and hair all up in a bun-like-pig-tail thingie. I note to myself, Ashley has this uncanny ability to be both hurried and harried and yet, prim, proper and orderly at the same time. I wonder aloud to myself under my breath at this seeming conundrum wrapped in an enigma posed as a riddle, “How does she do it?” As if this were a signal, she says in a low-key, casual, nonchalant, almost surfer-boarding tribe accent, while shrugging her shoulders, “Hey dudes. It’s my day to present this awesome case about Disney.” Just after stating this, she wistfully whips out some powerfully potent pixie dust from her colossal sports bag that smells of old socks and young lemonade. She sprinkles it over and around herself, and in a loud, strong and victorious voice, says, “V-Wallah!” Somehow, incredibly and incredulously, she transforms before our eyes into a beautiful princess complete with a magic laser pointer wand. And in the palm of her hand is a real frog to be used as a visual prop during her presentation.

As the pixie dust settles, I hear an upbeat giggle and sincere compliment from the other corner of the room, it’s Calsie Penzien. Calsie is taking in the visual effects of Ashley’s transformation and says in a wildly excited voice, “Cute outfit Ashley! Those are the perfect shoes and I love what you’re doing with the whole frog-thing. It’s very Beyonce of you.” Calsie is ALWAYS put together, dressed to the nines -- to the ninety-nines, that is. If Calsie were an animal, she’d be an adorable, pure-white, tiny, miniature… polar bear. You know what I’m talking about, right? Like the little ones you see in gourmet polar bear food commercials with fancy ribbons and bells with their hair all fluffy soft, sporting an awesome scarf. I know what you’re thinking, “Why a scarf?” Because that’s Calsie’s favorite accessory. Scarves are awesome, right Calsie? True dat. Oh! By the way, polar bears are also the kings of persistence. They sit in temperatures of 50 below with winds up to 80 mile per hour waiting for the 70 milliseconds they have to catch their prey which they may not see again for days. These are the same exact skills Calsie used to survive both PR 341 & 440. Like Calsie, Polar bears are awesome, especially the little bitty ones.

It’s now 9:20ish a.m. and suddenly, there’s a flurry of activity at the door. It’s the self-proclaimed Dream Team of Kaitlyn “it’s all about the” Baase, Tarah “don’t call me Burk” Bourke and their adopted team member, Shelby “I already talked about you earlier in the speech” Austin. I make a mental note that they are oddly missing the presence of another member of their sleep-induced dreamy team, Kyle Bergman. Interesting. The energy from Baase is almost palpable as she exclaims with a giddy voice and expressive body, with arms flailing wildly, “Oh my gosh you guys! You won’t believe what happened to me!” Bourke, stoic and with absolutely no body movement sarcastically chims in, “Bet they will, it’s all over Facebook and Twitter.” Baase responds, throwing her arms in the air, “No way!” Standing absolutely still, Bourke says, “Way!” Baase kicks her leg in the air, tilts her head back to the sky and says, “Oh huh!” Bourke, holds up her smartphone in a sassy, statuesque pose saying, “Check it.” Leaping and bounding across the front of the room, Baase sings, “I don’t care! Hey everybody! I got a picture with T-Swizzle! I’m sooooooo excited!” Bourke, with hands on her hips and a what-eva look says, “It’s a cardboard cutout.” Still leaping and bounding, Baase sings, “I don’t care! I’m in love with Tay-Tay!” Bourke turns to Baase and in a friendly way says, “O-M-G. You’re such a dork.” Baase is the optimistic cheerleader who fires up the crowd and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind, even if she just took a bite of her drippy breakfast treat. Bourke is the kindly, self-proclaimed “nerd” who always seems to have her poop in a group, even when she’s secretly shooting from the hip. The good-natured ribbing goes on like this for a few minutes until Baase yells over to me from behind the computer stand with a mouthful of granola, “Dr. B.! Help! I can’t get the USB to work.”

I head over to the computer and kneel down to checkout the ancient tower of power that is the PC’s hard-drive. It’s 9:25 a.m. and as I crouch down to checkout the USB drive, I hear a bustle of busyness coupled with loud, whacking footsteps and a shuffling of papers followed by a “Bam!” as a truckload of items are dropped onto a desk. In a loud voice with an almost country accent I hear Kate McPhee, “Holy crap! I almost missed class today ‘cus I was partying last night with Matt Main. Man was I beeeep-faced!” Suddenly, it’s like one of those movies where someone has the power to freeze time and everyone stops to look at Kate. There’s an awkward pause, followed by Kate’s irritated, “What? Why are you all looking at me like that?” I stand up from behind the computer desk and say, “Good morning Kate! How was your night?” She apologizes. I smile and say in a mocked-shocked tone, exaggerating the covering of the sides of my head, “My ears are bleeding! I’ve never heard those words before.” She blushes, snickers and seems appropriately embarrassed. Kate is great girl, full of life who brings a lot of fun to the classroom. She has a wonderful, outgoing personality and I love how she isn’t afraid to speak her mind… even when it’s sometimes inappropriate.

It’s 9:29 and 59 seconds. I’m about to get class started when a rush of noise like thunder and wind like a tornado blows in from down the hall; it’s Taylor Gould. In a rushed, exhausted voice she gasps, “I’m here! I’m here!” She rushes to her seat at 9:30 a.m. on the dot, give or take a few ticks. Settling in, she continues to explain herself in a hurried and ticked off voice, “The parking out there is terrible! Have you tried to park at 9am? This gillyweed cut me off and stole my spot after I’d been driving around for more than 25 minutes!” Yes. It’s our very own Tay-Go, full of vim and vigor with strong opinions coupled with a quick smile and a good heart. She makes us laugh with her sarcastic wit. I love how Tay-Go is always willing to listen to both sides of every story and yet remain strong and confident. I look at her and say, “You just made it Taylor.” She responds with a happy exclamation of, “Shut the front door and praise little baby Jesus!”

“Alrighty then! Let’s get started.” I look around and ask, “Where’s Kyle?” “He’s sleeping!” says Baase and Bourke in unison from opposite sides of the room. Kyle Bergman, one of the founding members of the self-proclaimed Dream Team. If he were here right now, he’d say in a happily dream-induced sleepy voice, “Hi I’m Kyle. I’m the tall, strong and silent type with a smile that makes you feel good about yourself.” It’s true about his smile. It’s like when you see someone who is genuinely happy; Kyle’s smile comes easy, natural and shines up all over his face, especially around the eyes. Kyle is a good-natured, old soul, the kind that puts you at ease and let’s you know everything’s going to be alright. “Dang!” I say regrettably. “Guess I’m going to have to mark Kyle absent. That’s disappointing.”

At that moment, Ashley Bradstreet jumps up, sprinkles pixie dust on the frog and says in a very loud, mystical, excited and upbeat voice, “Abracadabrah! Vwallah!” The lights in the room flash in and out. Smoke rises from Ashley’s palm and the frog incredibly, amazingly, stupendously, unbelievably, and unexpectedly morphs into none other than Mr. Kyle Bergman!

The room becomes a buzz of activity and people shouting out their amazement.

Kate: “Did you f-ing see that?”

Kyle: “Ribbit! Ribbit!”

Shelby: “Embrace the green nature of your froggy-ness Kyle!”

Carman: “Wow. Didn’t see that coming.”

Calsie: “I wanted the frog to turn into Harry Stiles!”

I ceremoniously turn to Kyle, gladly offering to remove his unexcused absence, since, in fact, he had been in the classroom all the time. I tongue-in-cheek note to the class that time flies when you’re having fun and it’s time to begin. To which, Kyle corrects me in his frog-like voice saying, “No -- times fun when you’re having flies.” Then, before returning to the previously scheduled lecture titled, Benays: A Saucey Man of Good Taste, I write the following note to Ashley as feedback for her presentation, “It was quite the impressive spectacle, turning a frog in Mr. Kyle Bergman, but next time, I’d like to see you create more engagement and an even bigger paradigm shift.”

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