Written for WTAD.COM 9.29.16
My first, big-girl job after college was Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, FL. I was like a golf pro, except with more water and less money. My responsibilities included pool maintenance, lifeguard supervision, concessionaire, coach, swim lessons, and concierge to the pool guests. Oh, and janitor. That was yucky. The funny thing about that first job is that we could enjoy and do a much better job of it, decades later.
Every day, my personal goal was to park next to Arnie’s limo. It just seemed cool. Whenever the valets polished his black Caddy, it was exciting. I’d inquire about his arrival. “Yes Ma’am, he’s coming today,” as they continued polishing like crazy. Arnie visited occasionally, spending most of his time split between his home course in Latrobe, PA and gobs of golf events, as you know. His wife, Winnie, and daughters, Amy and Peggy, spent more time at Bay Hill. In fact, Winnie actually hired me. Nice lady, that one was. Sidebar: the club pro’s name was Dick Tiddy. That always got a giggle…
One day, the king came to my pool, not to swim, just to look. Unbelievable! This is where you ask, “Did you get to meet him?” “Was he nice?” “What did he say?” And I would gush, “Oh, yes, he shook my hand, we chatted for an hour, he asked if I liked working at Bay Hill and complimented me on the pool area. He asked about my golf game, invited me to play sometime and THEN gave me a big hug as he left. And, he insisted that I call him Arnie, not Mr. Palmer.”
Except none of this would be true, except for the part, where he did come to the pool. No handshake, conversation, compliments, golf invitations or hugs. He didn’t even see me. I remained in the concession hut, doing probably nothing, when I looked out and spotted him. Sadly, though, at 22 years old, I was not very assertive at times like this. Any brainiac would’ve gone out to meet him, extend a hand, chat for a moment and thank him for the opportunity to work at Bay Hill. But, not Bobbe. I just stared, from afar. Then, he was gone. An opportunity of a lifetime, lost. Jeesh. As celebrities go, he was one of the least scary, because that’s what Arnie did best; he simply loved people. He was everybody’s pal. I liked his Dad-like face. I told myself, “Self, NEXT TIME, GET YOUR FLIPPERS OUT THERE!” Except there wasn’t a next time. Sniff, sniff. Snooze, lose. He’d be thankful he didn’t encounter me today! Nothing, short of a hurricane, would stop me now, because, as I’ve aged, I recognize cool opportunities, when I see one. Don’t miss cool opportunities. You may only get one shot. FORE!