(By Ben Trolio)
Brrrrring. Brrring. My ears perked at the distinctive sound of a click. A deep, male voice said “Hello?” I almost pumped my fist in the air. My excitement was restrained by the notebook and cell phone I held. The entire summer was building to this moment. At the other end of the line was Alan Jeffers. Alan was a conscious, breathing, living and feeling(hopefully) person from ExxonMobil. Until this point, I had talked to countless operators and snappy underlings of the world’s largest oil corporation. Good, ol Alan on the other hand had actually called me! After 15 calls and just as many dead ends, I had broken through the corporate telephone labyrinth. I had clawed my way a step closer towards a meeting with Exxon.
I bathed in the sound of progress. Fast forward a week from the small victory of contact with Exxon. We had scored a larger victory, a meeting with ExxonMobil. Four of their minions would be entertaining us at Embassy Suites, a mere 2.5 miles from our home base. We obliged Alan by reluctantly agreeing to leave the video camera and 6 of our riders behind. All that stood between us and our date with Exxon was two weeks and a confirmation email.
The next challenge in our quest for a meeting was to select the face of our program. In a tense, emotion filled room we selected the chosen ones. The four riders destined to shake hands with Alan and his cronies were Fernanda, Ben, Blair and Skye. I found purposeful exclusion for the sake of the meeting to be tough on many levels. Why did I deserve to meet with Exxon over the other riders? We all biked the same quad bursting hills, endured smothering heat and heard stories of pollution that no one should hear. All ten riders could add these items to their life resume and professionally deal with the world’s wealthiest oil company. Ride for the Future would compromise our way towards a meeting with Exxon, no matter how difficult it would be.
Sometimes compromise isn’t enough. Sometimes calling someone 15 times is not enough. Sometimes biking 1,231 isn’t enough to accomplish the goal you set for yourself. At the start of summer, we aimed to get a meeting with Exxon. We had succeeded until victory was cruelly snatched from us and we weren’t the only victims of Exxon’s fickle ways. We hoped to deliver the stories heard this summer to Exxon. Exxon had not only cheated us, but they had cheated all of the people we had worked with over the summer. Exxon had cheated Marylee Orr and Stephanie Anthony of Baton Rouge, a community so polluted that some of our group became sick during our week stay. Imagine if we had stayed longer. Exxon had cheated countless others whose stories needed a greater audience. When compromise and playing nice isn’t enough to get you a meeting with the richest oil company in the world, you need to play the game differently. Next summer’s Ride for the Future team will need to heed the lessons of our rejection. They won’t get cheated by Exxon. Our future depends on it.