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Survival tips from “I Love Lucy”

I Love Lucy - TV History

Sometimes it’s just not your day. That’s how I felt a while back when I was overseas and learned my flight to the States was delayed. Yes, the desk agent told me, you will miss your connection. No, he said, there’s not another flight out of JFK tonight. Yes, there’s a flight out of La Guardia. Well, I suppose you could take a taxi. You’ll have about half an hour to clear customs, get across town, and make your flight. No, that’s not a lot of time, but … excuse me? You want a what??

A helicopter. After being stranded thanks to other delayed flights with this carrier, I thought it only fair that this time the airline should comp me a helicopter to La Guardia. And I wanted transportation from customs to the helicopter pad at JFK and then from the helicopter pad to the gate at La Guardia. It took a lot of polite persistent persuasion, but the airline finally granted the requests. Not bad maneuvering for a nearly broke recent college grad. But, hey, I was just channeling Lucy Ricardo.

People worldwide have grown up watching comedienne Lucille Ball’s alter ego in the television classic I Love Lucy. Yes, Lucy Ricardo was a schemer whose plots usually created more problems than they solved. But she was also the most determined character in television history. Here are some survival tips based on Lucy’s wild adventures:  

• Try something out of the ordinary.   I’m not sure where I got the idea to push for a helicopter, but it might have been from the episode “Bon Voyage.” The Ricardos were setting sail for Europe, but Lucy lingered too long over her good-byes, snagged her skirt on a bicycle, and missed the boat. She wound up taking a helicopter that dropped her onto the ship’s deck via hook and cable. Was there an easier way? Sure. She could have taken another ship—but she wouldn’t have been able to sail with her husband and friends.

If I’d given up on my helicopter, I could have saved myself an hour of dickering with airline agents and perhaps still made that connection out of La Guardia. In fact, some people on my original flight did manage to clear customs, hire taxis, get to La Guardia, and catch that connection. But I made it with my luggage. They didn’t.

So the next time you’re trying to navigate your way out of a difficult situation, don’t be afraid to suggest an off-the-wall solution. Yes, people may roll their eyes and look at you as though you’ve lost your mind. But … what if they don’t? What if they go along with your crazy idea?

• Boldly go where most wouldn’t dare.   When I was in college, I needed a quote from a powerful state senator who had a longstanding policy of not talking to student reporters. Once again, I channeled Lucy. In “The Dancing Star” episode, while in Hollywood, Lucy bragged to a visiting friend from New York that she often rehearsed dance numbers with film star Van Johnson. When she had to make good on the claim, she marched up to the star, boldly asked for his help, and—because she refused to take no for an answer—got it.

After the senator rudely dismissed me, I screwed up my nerve—and followed him into a public men’s room in the state capital building. Fortunately for me, it was unoccupied, and I didn’t venture more than a couple of steps beyond the doorway. That was far enough to convince him I wouldn’t be put off so easily.

At first the senator was speechless (just as well, given the circumstances). After a few seconds’ standoff, he shrilled, “Do you mind?!?” I didn’t budge, stubbornly insisting I needed a quote for my story. Finally, he threw up his hands and asked me to wait outside. I got my quote (yes, it was printable)—and he graciously granted all my interview requests from then on.

Are you trying to get a promotion? Make a sale? Secure an elusive opportunity? Sometimes you have to be a little pushy. Just make sure you can walk the line between being tenacious and being obnoxious. I was lucky the senator admired my chutzpah. Things could easily have turned out differently. Double standards being what they are, if I’d been a male student pursuing a female senator, they would have.

• Think fast, act fast—and don’t look down.   Poor Lucy. In “Lucy and Superman,” she was so sure husband Ricky could get George Reeves—then TV’s Superman—to attend Little Ricky’s birthday party that she said as much to her son and her rival before the appearance was confirmed. When she found out Reeves had a scheduling conflict, rather than disappoint her child, she quickly slipped on a pair of tights and a cape and stepped out onto the window ledge herself.

Like Lucy, I’m well acquainted with Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong will and at the worst possible moment. For instance, I didn’t discover workers had accidentally plastered over the drainage holes in my sliding windows until water started pouring in—during a hurricane. When the water began to overwhelm all the pots in my kitchen, I grabbed a roll of duct tape and ran out into the storm to try and cover the screens and stop the water from filling the window tracks. How I kept my footing and got the tape to stick, I’ll never know. But it worked. After being slammed by those winds, I felt like I’d been in a car wreck, but that stunt prevented a lot of interior storm damage.

Some situations require careful analysis. But if you don’t have time to analyze, you may have to just trust your instincts and jump. Okay, so you’re not really Superman and you can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. At least, like Lucy, you can do something. She may have been a screwball and sometimes a screw-up. But she certainly never gave up.

3 Responses
  • rachel r hickman:

    You are another crazy redhead! And an excellent writer! That’s three things I like about you!

  • You are another crazy redhead! And an excellent writer! That’s three things I like about you!

  • Deborah:

    Thank you so much, Bartolemo!! I’m sorry it took so long to post your comment. It was intercepted by some computer gremlins and I just found it. Hope you’ll keep coming back!

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