I once saw a customer go through a change almost as amazing as a caterpillar’s metamorphosis. It happened the first time he saw a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis.
This man did not want to be a customer, and he did not want to be here at the nursery. This was back when they were working on Centerville Road and just making the effort to get here was a declaration of loyalty from our customers. He was a very angry business man in a very expensive suit, barking about ‘THE WIFE!’ who wanted him to get a butterfly kit for ‘THE KID!’ He did not have time for ‘THIS NONSENSE!’ “JUST SELL ME THE KIT AND LET ME GET OUT OF HERE!”
I should explain something here. I like our customers and I have never (with this one exception) gone out of my way to annoy one. But a funny thing happened to my attitude as I listened to this man rant and rage. I so lost control of my good sense I decided it might be fun to push him the rest of the way around the bend.
“What kind of butterfly?” I smiled, beginning my attack.
“You’ll need to know which butterfly so you’ll know which larval food to buy.”
“WHAT’S LARVAL FOOD?!”
“That’s what the caterpillar eats.”
“I DON’T WANT CATERPILLARS! I WANT A BUTTERFLY SET-UP!”
“Butterflies come from pupae, which come from caterpillars, which come from eggs laid on larval food.”
“OKAY ALREADY! YOU CHOOSE!” I swear I could see steam coming from his ears, and I just know he wanted to yell, “QUIT SMILING!”
“Okay—Monarchs.” I led him out the front door, stopped and pointed left. “Native milkweed?”— pointed right, “or non-native milkweed?”
He just stared at me, his face turning a deeper shade of red by the moment; and I considered asking him if it didn’t hurt – grinding his teeth like that. Instead I decided to be an adult and quit teasing the grouch. So I grabbed some milkweed and said, “Okay then. Come back inside, I’ll explain the process and get you out of here.”
“Where can I buy some caterpillars?” he asked on the way inside. “Do you sell them?”
“Oh we don’t sell caterpillars. We give them away. I’ll send you home with a couple Monarchs.”
He did not say it out loud but his thoughts could not have been more clear in three-foot neon. What kind of idiot would give something away when she could sell it? He literally took a couple steps away from me—worried about catching ‘nice’ I suppose.
So I took him over to the butterfly cage and was explaining the process when I noticed his eyes bugging out. “What’s happening?!” he gasped.
Looked a bit like a heart attack, but then I glanced into the cage. “Oh look, one of the caterpillars is becoming a chrysalis.”
“Oh my Gosh!” (not his exact words . . . those I can’t use here) “I can’t believe it! That looks like something Stephen Spielberg would come up with! That’s unbelievable! OH MY GOSH!!”
It really is amazing to watch a caterpillar become a chrysalis, but the more drastic change occurred outside the cage that day. Within a matter of minutes, a very angry man became a very nice man who was fascinated by butterflies. He could not wait to get home and share the experience with his wife and daughter, but first he took the time to buy everything they would need for their new hobby. He asked lots of questions, signed up for our newsletter and noted the date of our next butterfly workshop on his calendar. He smiled and talked nonstop as I helped him carry his purchases to the car. And before he left, he shook my hand and grinning from ear to ear said, “This is the best day I’ve had in a long time. Thank you.” I was grinning too as I watched him drive away, and I wondered if his wife and daughter would recognize him. When I met them (they all came to the workshop), his daughter complained (with a grin) that no one but dad ever saw the caterpillars change because “mom and I can’t get near the cage because dad’s always in the way!”