Recently we received an email from a parent asking what kind of ‘field testing’ we conducted on our Chipmunk backpack (the Chipmunk is designed for kids between the ages of 3 and 7). Here is a field test story about how a teddy bear helped us improve the Chipmunk backpack.
During a family trip several years ago to the Lake Tahoe area of California, we visited a Gondola ride. The Gondola started near the shore of the blue lake and whisked people up to surrounding gray and white peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The ride was twenty minutes one-way to the station at the summit.
Joining our three-year-old daughter on this adventure was a teddy bear. The teddy bear was affectionately called ‘Bear-Bear.’ Bear-Bear was a gift from Grandma who lives overseas. The fur on Bear-Bear’s face had been worn due to lots of love.
As the Gondola door opened onto the summit our daughter proudly stepped out with Bear-Bear. He had been packed in the backpack’s main compartment so his head displayed from the top. The backpack was a prototype GlyphGuy Chipmunk backpack and our daughter was testing it out.
We had a good day exploring the mountain. On our hike, we met an active elderly couple who commented on the backpack and wanted one for their granddaughter. We exchanged contact information.
As our day of hiking ended we returned to the summit station and waited for a Gondola to zip us back to the lakeshore. Our daughter was obviously tired and hungry from her long day. After a few minutes in line, a red Gondola pod glided up and opened in front of us. We boarded, sat down and relaxed. As the doors started to close our daughter took off her pack and in a fearful cry said the words that still chill my bones to this day, “Where’s Bear-Bear?”
With a soft bump, the doors shut. They might as well have been the harsh sound of a trap closing. Although my wife and I tried to communicate that Bear-Bear is having his own adventure and that we would return to look for him, both of us quietly thought that Bear-Bear might be lost forever.
Our daughter must have sensed this too because the concern on her face intensified and her lower lip began to shake. Soon her eyes watered and then her face quivered. Our tired, hungry and now distraught three-year-old daughter was on the verge of erupting.
Being a father I had the responsibility to say the right thing, to help my daughter in her time of need – to prevent this crisis from going any further. I, dad, would come to the rescue! I clearly thought of the words to say the words were well formed, comforting and wise. But, because of some guy-thing, I will never understand my mouth and brain did not engage and the most untimely words blurted forth, “Bear-bear is living on the mountain now.”
That may not sound bad, but in that instant, I knew what I said was horrible. Several months earlier our beloved cat of 9 years passed away. At that time my wife and I had told our daughter (then 2) that kitty had ‘gone to live on the mountain.’ I had in a sense just told my daughter that Bear-Bear had died! Immediately her watering eyes gushed into a geyser of tears and anguish.
It was a very, very long ride down the mountain.
As we neared the lakeshore station my cell phone rang. What? I had forgotten it was on. I let it roll to voicemail. At the station, I checked the message. Fortunately, the elderly couple we had met at the top of the mountain had found Bear-Bear on the side of the trail. They remembered that my daughter had carried this teddy bear. What good fortune! The elderly couple had left Bear-Bear at the Lost and Found. Soon our three-year-old and Bear-Bear were reunited. All of us were happy – and very relieved that Bear-Bear was not living on the mountain.
In trying to determine what exactly happened we retraced our steps in our minds. At one point we had stopped for a snack. It was here where Bear-Bear was lost. According to our daughter, she was not able to zip close the compartment where Bear-Bear was traveling. When our daughter showed us it was obvious Bear-Bear was not well secured.
Because of this field test, we returned to the drawing board and upgraded the arc of the zipper so it was easier for young hands to open and close the zippers. All because of a teddy bear.