Once Upon a Yeti: Lessons in Community, Awareness, and Finding your Way Home

Just over 18 years ago, a young teacher named Michelle, who recently moved to Florida, introduced her friend, Erika, to her neighbor, Kevin, a sales guy for a brand-new energy drink called Red Bull that at the time no one had heard of.

Several years later, Michelle was giving a toast at Erika and Kevin’s wedding. By that point, her and her husband, Brett, had moved back to Indiana where they bought a house and started a family vowing to always remain in touch with Kevin and Erika.

Fast forward many years of a promise kept to May 2020. Thanksgivings, Spring Breaks, an epic Nashville trip, countless phone calls, texts, emails, Tiktoks, and a few months of a global pandemic later, Michelle and Brett needed a break and looked to their friends for help. Taking a leap of faith, they decided to quarantine in a rental house in Florida.

At this point, I can’t bring myself to speak in third person anymore so forgive this transition. I’m the Erika in this story (duh).

We were thrilled to have our dear friends with us and after all safety precautions were taken, we immediately set about boating as much as possible. If you have lived in Florida, or anywhere on earth for that matter, you know that you rarely travel anywhere without a cup, preferably an insulated one.

The boat is no exception. You need something to keep your beer cold obviously.

Enter the Yeti.

In true form of loving my friends, I made sure Brett had a Yeti to take on the boat. In my haste and trustworthiness of his ability to take care of things, I lent him my favorite Yeti.

The day was awesome. Weather was perfect. Perfect, in fact, for several refills of the Yeti and by the time we got back to the marina and packed up the cars to head home, we were pretty tired and ready for a nap. It was only after we got home, had rested, and started unpacking coolers that we realized the Yeti I had lent Brett was MIA.

It is not unusual to lose things while boating. In fact, it happens frequently which is evident by the lost and found in the ship store at the marina. For weeks, we hunted through the new arrivals hoping against hope the Yeti would magically appear. Alas, it did not.

Brett felt terrible, btw, and bought me a new Yeti and of course he was forgiven, but that Yeti meant something to me. It was not just any Yeti.

At this point in the story, there is another set of characters I need to introduce: Bryan and Cheryl. Bryan and Kevin have known each other since high school.  

Cheryl and I became fast friends and over the years as our families grew closer (our oldest children are just seven days apart), we began several traditions which include Thanksmas (a fantastic made-up holiday we celebrate each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and a yearly vacation to Captiva.

The Yeti Brett lost was one of a set that Bryan and Cheryl had commissioned for each of the adults of the families who vacation in Captiva every year. The tumbler, navy blue, with a tarpon on one side and “Captive 2019” on the other, represented memories that could not be replicated. In 2019, we rented a house on North Captiva Island which is accessible only by boat. This trip required a tremendous amount of planning and execution, and it was a trip we’re not likely to repeat any time soon.

After some sound bowl healing and finding comfort in the cold drinks provided by other less memorable Yetis, I came to grips with my loss.

Fast forward again to a few weeks ago, while hanging out at the House of Beer in downtown Dunedin, Kevin, happened to be chatting with some people he knew from high school. They were with some friends of theirs, and one of them had a navy Yeti, which she had in a koozie for reasons still not clear to me, but whatever.

Peaking out from the koozie was a tarpon head. Kevin did a double take.

Net sales of Yeti in the first nine months of this year are over $700M. The chances of someone else owning a navy-blue Yeti with a tarpon on it are fairly high. But something told Kevin to check it out. He casually reached out his hand, gently pulled down the edge of the koozie with the tip of finger, closed one eye, and held his breath.

Then, he nearly dropped his beer. For there, staring back at him were the words “Captiva 2019”.

“No way,” he said to which this person he had just met responded with serious confusion and slight trepidation over some dude freaking out over her Yeti.

From across the bar, I heard him yelling for me. Thinking someone needed some type of medical assistance (of which I am totally not qualified to provide), I ran over to find him holding this Yeti, my Yeti, which had disappeared months ago never to be seen again and was suddenly there in all its glory having found its way back home to us.

We stood there like idiots for a while, staring at this ridiculous cup as if it were a new baby or a soldier blessing us with a surprise visit home.

Finally, after we came to our senses, we offered to buy the Yeti from its new family. But after we shared pictures from our vacation to prove its origins (thank you Google Photos!), it was gladly passed back to us. We learned that another couple found it at the marina probably within minutes of us losing it. The couple at the bar spotted the Yeti at their house during a recent party. They dug the cool tarpon, so they snagged it. Then on their way out to door to the bar that night, they brought it with them. Only for Kevin to pull up quick to retrieve it. (What song?)

So what are the lessons here? So glad you asked.

Love where you live: communities are driven by the people who make them their home. There is a whole mess of Dunedin Highschool graduates that still live here. Why? Because it’s a freaking awesome place to live. Kevin knows someone everywhere we go and while at times living in a microcosm of high school can be annoying AF, being a part of a tight community is comforting and cool. Know your neighbors, say ‘hi’ to people, be friendly enough to chat up an old friend you’ve kept in touch with so you can steal back your Yeti from his buddy’s wife.

Awareness is key: Would I have seen this Yeti hiding under a koozie in the hand of stranger? Unlikely. But ol’ eagle eye Kevin did. And while his awareness seems to be lacking around anything that involves finding an item in the refrigerator that is right in front of his face, his attention to detail in this case was spot on! Having awareness of your surroundings can save your life, awareness of your audience can propel your career, and awareness of your community can make a material difference in your life.

All good things find their way home: Kevin made me promise not to talk about manifesting or willing goodness to come to you because he doesn’t want everyone to think I am a weirdo, granola hippy chick. (Pssst…I am.) So, I won’t say that is what happened. (Pssst…it’s what happened.) Instead, I’ll say this: In life there are many opportunities that find us, many that slip through our fingers, and many that we might miss entirely. But the ones that matter, will find their way home.

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