The Adventures of Little Lord Fitz and Little Pea: The Furniture Store Capers

On Tuesday I happened upon this tweet declaring a new “mission” from one Amy Krouse Rosenthal, via her blog Mission Amy KR. Her mission was simple: she commisioned “agents” at twenty locations throughout the country to hide copies of her picture book Little Pea under random mattresses in random furniture stores; a play on the whole Princess and the Pea fairy tale. She posted the following youtube video, which gave clues as to the locations of the hidden little peas:

I actually sat and watched through all five minutes of this video, which was strange behavior for me. Perhaps I could sense that destiny had called me on this day. Or perhaps I just like it when people do goofy things like this in stores and public places. I was just a little curious to see if there was going to be one planted somewhere in Utah. Whatever the reason that held my attention for the duration, my hope beyond hope was confirmed as I watched some lady on the video place a copy of this book under a mattress of a “rustic mountain home” bed display in the R.C. Willey furniture store only a couple of miles from my house. I knew not only where this store was located, but, having visited it once a couple of years ago, I even had a general idea of where this type of furniture was located within the store, unless they had changed everything around. Further, I was on vacation from work for the day, and would be willingly aided and accompanied by a picture book-loving wife and little Lord Fitz himself, who would be our go-to man to find the book. And as a final motivation, I myself am currently on a professional and personal quest to explore the world of children’s picture books and discover new titles; what better way to enact my quest than by rummaging through the bed displays of a furniture store as a prank to get a free book? And so it was decided that we would assay that very afternoon to retrieve the Little Pea.

Before I proceed with the recounting of our adventures, there is something you should know about the nature of my relationship with R.C. Willey stores: they frighten and irritate me to no end. Each R.C. Willey location, in addition to being filled with furniture of varying stylishness, is also crawling with salespersons on commission. They will follow you around, and if you tell one to bug off it does no good, because no sooner will he or she leave you alone than another salesperson will find you un-chaperoned and start tailing you. If you are in any way paranoid or unsocial it is not a good place for you. So, I was glad to have my two cohorts with me on the trek.

We arrived at the store parking lot, strapped the lad into his stroller, and entered. There were people all about, which seemed encouraging for our Tuesday afternoon quest, until I realized that virtually all of them were employees. There must have been a 3-to-1 salesperson-to-customer ratio, which meant that we had no chance of being inconspicuous, and also that the salespeople would be extra hungry for business. We proceeded into the store with caution, browsed some furniture, and then made our way to the goal area. I had remembered the mountain cabin type furniture, such as was shown in the video, being in a strange basement showroom of the store. I was unsure whether this would give us more privacy to search for the book, or would leave us to be cornered by a salesperson as the only shoppers in the area.

I made one great error in preparing for our quest for the little pea: I failed to a get a screenshot of the placement of the book. I had remembered it was a rustic looking bed with a TV next to it, and I thought that would be good enough to find it. As it turns out, I was both right and wrong. As we reached the area, I quickly found a bed that matched my memory, with a TV next to it playing at that very moment a ridiculous scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in which a bunch of guys are shot and fall down a hillside in slow motion. Really put me in the mood to buy some rustic furniture right then. I pulled up the mattress from the foot of the bed on both sides, but found nothing. We then wandered around the area for a while, but could not find another bed that matched what we had seen in the video. I wondered if they had already re-arranged their showroom since the book had been hidden. I hoped they hadn’t put it on display on a nightstand in the children’s section or something, thus making our retrieval of the book appear as stealing.

During this time, a salesperson approached us, offering to help us find something, and to my horror my wife straightly told her we were looking for a book that was hidden under a mattress in the store, according to a video that we had seen at a website. Our subtlety gone, now the vast and mysterious mechanizations of the R.C. Willey superstore would be set into motion to thwart us. The salesperson told us that the floor designers would surely have found anything like what we were looking for, and we should check with Customer Service to see if they had our lost book. She then quickly went away, I assumed to inform security that strange persons were in the basement trying to mess up and steal display items. I’m the paranoid one in the family, if you haven’t noticed.

We then came up with the wise idea to try to pull the video up on our phone, but the reception down in the basement was too poor. We went upstairs, I found an obscure couch to sit on where I could attempt to search for and load the video on my phone, and my wife checked with Customer Service and continued to talk to salespeople, who all seemed to be somewhat confused and nervous by what she was asking them. Ten minutes later, after being solicited for sales assistance by three different individuals, I finally had the video cued up and paused on the shot of the bed under which the book had been placed. We showed it to the salesperson, the first one who had helped us. To her credit, she immediately recognized the bed and knew exactly where it was. She led us back downstairs and directly to the very first bed I had checked, with Butch and Sundance playing next to it. My wife pulled up the mattress, and there was the book, in a plastic bag, at the very head of the bed. I had not checked thoroughly enough. Roosevelt Fitzwallace himself pulled the book out (see photo above). We found the note inside the book and showed it to the salesperson, and she, although still somewhat confused, let us take it.

So, the pea was not found by a princess or a prince, but it was found by a little lord, certainly on his way to greatness.

As we made our way to exit of the store, we ran back into other employees that my wife had talked with. She informed them that we had found the book, and tried to relieve them. Apparently they had commenced searching the R.C. Willey website and called the corporate offices to try to find out about this secret book giveaway promotion that they hadn’t known about. Tomorrow they had a “Walk-Through” scheduled, and they were extremely concerned about mobs of people coming in and tearing apart their displays looking for hidden stuff. We tried to comfort them, saying that we were probably the only people who would come in looking for the book.

So, thank you, Mission Amy KR!!! Lord Fitz has deigned to lend me his copy of Little Pea, and so it shall be added to the collection of books I need to read and review for my massive picture book project:

*It should perhaps again be mentioned that, for the purposes of this web site, the boy’s name is Roosevelt FitzWallace, a.k.a. Fitz, Fitzy, or Little Lord Fitz. The original goal was also to avoid the accurate rendering of his facial image at all costs, but once again I have failed in that obfuscation. I could not bear to put a black box over his eyes; he is just too cute.


The Froz-T-Freez staff is growing! We are currenly on-site at the Intermountain Medical Center, recruiting and training our newest member. Due to contractual restrictions, we cannot yet reveal his or her identity. However, I am prepared to admit that he is but a young, little lad.

For some time I’ve been debating whether to write about or show images of my new child publicly on the Internet. I know a lot of other people publicly post photos and anecdotes of their children, including numerous of my own relatives and friends, and I don’t know that there is anything wrong with it. At the same time, I am very cognizant of the fact that he currently has no say on whether I make any and every facet of his young life public or not, and yet it will potentially remain available and accessible for his entire life. Fourth grade bullies, potential employers, and future authoritarian dictators alike will all potentially be able to judge him not only on his own thoughts and merits but also by what I may write about his potty training experiences.

And yet, at not quite a week into this whole parenthood thing, I already have the urge to share some things. So, inspired by some comments I heard once from an unremembered celebrity guest on a talk show, I have arrived at a compromise. (Indeed, I make most of my major life decisions based on advice from celebrities on talk shows, so this one should be no exception.) This is the compromise I offer to the world:

I shall at times mention or write about my child in the text of this website, which does indeed constitute a public forum, with the following exemptions:

  1. I will not be sharing his true name, but shall create a pseudonym for him.
  2. I will not show pictures of his face.

The picture part will be the hardest to remain true to, because he’s a cute little baby, but it will also be a fun challenge.

So, without further ado, I present to the world the name of Roosevelt FitzWallace, affectionately referred to as Fitz, and perhaps occasionally as Little Lord Fitz.

Inconspicuous Consumption


Is it really weird that I use a number of social media sites more for some sort of personal record keeping than for actual socializing and networking?  Am I alone in engaging in this type of activity?  Are you not sure what I am asking?  Here are two examples that I feel are pertinent:

1. I have only one friend on Gowalla, one of several location-based social networking apps that are battling it out for user adoption right now.  This one friend of mine lives two states away from me, so it is not likely that we will see that we are in the same neighborhood at the same time and meet up for lunch or something.  Nevertheless, for a few weeks now I’ve been checking in my locations with that service semi-faithfully.   I like how it gives me a fun little icon “stamp” on my “passport” whenever I visit a new location, and I like to look back over all the locations I’ve been recently and think about places I might go soon.  I’ve even added several new venues to the Gowalla system, and I recently reported a problem to their customer service when I discovered that some of their venues in Provo, UT were labeled as being in Springville, UT.

2. I don’t know a single soul in my real life that uses, a music-based social networking app that pulls played tracks from iTunes and other digital music players.  Using the stats of those pays, it compiles charts showing what you and everyone else on the system listen to most, creates recommendations and custom listening streams for you, shows you how much you have musically in common with any other user, etc.   I watch the charts of my own weekly listening with fascination. I ensure that all of my iPod and iTunes plays are faithfully transmitted to the site, even if, and perhaps especially if, I listened to an album on vinyl or CD (in which case some quick tracking-through in iTunes or on my iPod is afterward required to “get credit” for my listening.)  I have no clue if anyone else has ever looked at these charts, and yet I think about them a great deal.

Of course I would love to have more friends (or any friends) involved in these sites, but they just aren’t there.  (Please feel free to join any of them and there declare your friendship for me.)  But even without friends to share my info with, I think I will happily continue to use these sites.  With or without a sharing audience, one may of course describe this as geeky behavior, and I would for the most part agree with you.  However, I am going to argue that this geeky element of social networking extends far and wide, even in places that on the surface seem much more social, and that it is simply the latest manifestation of a very old and renowned geek activity.

On social media services in which I do have a number of friends, I still find that, more often than not, we end up sharing most of our information with each other through conversations rather than through the interface of the site.  While using the site, although sharing with each other, we are all basically talking to ourselves when we don’t pay attention to what our friends are sharing with us.  I have many work friends on Goodreads.  Even though I rather faithfully update my account with what I am currently reading, what I have read, and what I want to read, and so do several of my friends, I find that more often than not this information tends to be shared while visiting someone’s cubicle to discuss a work issue, or during a telephone call with a librarian in a school.  They don’t seem to know that I put that book up on my Goodreads already,  or I am oblivious to what book they just put on their Goodreads.  Many of us do spend time on Goodreads, but it is usually to organize, explore, and read reviews by strangers, apparently not so much to interact with and look at what our friends are reading.

And now let’s be honest with ourselves; in certain cases this same lack of sociality goes for the juggernaut, that most social of media, even the dread Facebook.  Stop and ask yourself these questions, if you haven’t before:

1. Have you ever logged into Facebook and not actually interacted directly with another person?

Perhaps you are there to play a game, or perhaps you updated your status but didn’t make any response or comment to anyone else.  It’s okay to admit it.  I know I’ve done it.

2.How many people have you friended on Facebook and never yet had a conversation with on Facebook?

I know I’m not the only one that does this, because a lot of people have done it to me, too.  I’m quite okay with it, but I find it an interesting phenomenon.  Uncles, old roommates, cousins-in-law, work colleagues, and kids we sat by in classes in high school: we friend them and then they only sit there in our little box of friends.  Perhaps we look at their photos and see if they ever got married or had kids or whatever, and maybe they pop up in our news feeds every once in a while asking us for help planting Enchanted Kumquat Bushes on their DesertIslandVille, but in many cases we never really interact with each other until the next extended family get-together, or when we run into each other randomly at a store, or never really at all.

So if my theory is correct and we are often not all that interested in interacting with people on social media sites, and we engage in these activities and games whether or not anyone else is actually paying attention to what we are doing, what is going on with all this “sharing” on social networking sites and why do we do it?

Here’s one reason I’ve come up with.  I’ve determined that one of the underlying compulsions that motivates my continued usage of social networking sites is a longstanding propensity to collect.   Many of these sites and services allow us to collect and quantify and share things that have previously not been collectable.  Actions, relationships, feelings, almost anything ephemeral or abstract can be commoditized or can be made into an item that can kept, recorded, or transferred, shown to others forever after. Here is my collection of friends, family, and acquaintances.  Here is my collection of places I’ve been.  Here are my favorite restaurants.  Here are all the books I have read in the past year.  Here is the music I listen to the most.  Here are all the jobs and skills I have collected in the past five years.  Here are the games I play and how well I do at them.  Here are the movies I watched last month.  Here are the people and organizations that I admire.  Here is what I read in the newspaper today.  Lookit!

Instead of rocks, stamps or Precious Moments figurines, we can now collect all these little icons that represent little pieces of our lives.  We then use and share all these things in an attempt to define ourselves, or to attempt to dictate how we should be defined or perceived by others.  And now people don’t even need to come over to our house to see what books we have, or wait for us to go get that special shoebox out from under our beds.  It’s all out there for them to look at if they are interested.

Another aspect of this collecting that I’ve been thinking about is to what extent this desire to share or the anticipation of sharing something effects what choices we make on where we go, what we do, what we eat, what we read, etc, even if we are not quite consciously thinking about whether anyone else is paying attention to our collections.  In my case I think it does sometimes affect what I do, but not necessarily in a bad way.  When I get involved in these services regularly there follows a self-consciousness and an accountability that I think is mostly positive in forcing me to not get too habitual, to try new things, to finish reading that book, to not eat lunch at Wendy’s or in the cafeteria every day, etc.  It seems to work regardless of whether anyone is actually paying attention or not.

Of course if these activities were only about showing other people then I could just as easily be tempted to start lying about things.  But collections have never been entirely about sharing or showing off.  Many of our collections are entirely for our own benefit, and never get shared with much of anyone.  And that’s why we keep doing these things online, even if no one is watching.  We collect mainly for ourselves, because our collections please us.  However, I think even the most private of collectors with the most obscure of items has that small hope or daydream that one day the collection will someday be seen by someone else who will truly appreciate it.  Our collections, like journals and photographs, always have some audience in mind, even if entirely theoretical.  When we put our collections online, that audience may be out there somewhere right now.

I know there are also other reasons and desires that lead us to engage in social media networks, but I think this desire to collect, consume and display people, actions, places, words and feelings, now transmuted into electronic trading cards, is a definite reality.

So, what do you think?  Are you collecting your friends?  Did you go somewhere just to be able to say you went there?  I want to hear about it.

I am going to close with a link to a nice little song by Here We Go Magic, off their recent album Pigeons.  The song is called “Collector,” and seemed quite appropriate.

Here We Go Magic – Collector (link to download MP3)

Some people collect pigeons, you know.