Not being into sports, I go to the Super Bowl parties for the food, the commercials, and this year, the Schuyler Sisters.
I was not disappointed on any of those fronts. My mother-in-law made curry chicken and roti. The Sisterhood brought it. I didn’t have incredibly high expectations for the commercials, so I wasn’t too let down by the pistachio elephant or the ghost dog. There were a few notable gems. I was touched by Honda’s yearbook, though I’m a sucker for any kind of “follow your dreams” narrative. Overall, they were pretty standard: uplifting and dotted with celebrities, which is always a win. But nobody was expecting 84 Lumber’s arrival.
I watched the ad intrigued. Where were they going with this? Where could they go? Did it mean what I thought it meant?
I grew up going to 84 Lumber with my ever-handy dad. I never paid much attention as a kid. Nor as an adult if we’re opening up, here—a writer has little need for lumber, unless you’re Thoreau.
I am paying attention now.
A smallish company based in Pennsylvania, their investment in a Super Bowl ad was surprising in itself. Of course their website crashed. By the end of the full-length ad/short film, I was in tears. I shared on Facebook and went to investigate.
Something immediately struck me: probably half of their customer base is conservative. The ad was a huge risk. On their Facebook page, people were losing their minds. 84 Lumber had smartly dispatched an employee or 12 to field the comments, issuing a thoughtful reply to each angry customer: Trump had suggested the door, himself. And that was beside the point, anyway. This was a story about courage and tenacity.
Curiously, according to an article in Ad Week, owner and founder Maggie Hardy Magerko voted for Trump. So, what does it all mean?
Working toward my associate degree 10 years ago, I took a Spanish class. One of our assignments was to watch the movie, El Norte. It was the story of an indigenous Mayan family from Guatemala, a teenage brother and sister risking everything to cross the U.S. border and change their stars. Not being well-versed in politics, it didn’t strike me as leaning in a particular direction. It was a human story. And for the first time, I understood why people would go to great and terrible lengths to enter our country illegally. If they were willing to crawl through miles of underground rat-infested sewage pipes to get here, as far as I was concerned, they’d earned it.
Not everyone agrees with me, of course. And I am not advocating for undocumented immigration. I understand why we have laws. But as I sat in a cozy oversized chair positioned next to a big screen watching a story about a mother and daughter hungry and determined, I could not help but think of El Norte.
Some liberals will likely write off Magerko because she voted for Trump. And some conservatives have written off 84 Lumber because of the ad. But there are others on both sides who might see this open door as an opportunity to find common ground. That’s the power of story, at the heart of it: Courage, tenacity, and a door. Maybe that’s enough.