Business 1.0 March/April 2023

March 30th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

The Broken Tomato

By Lyle R. Hill

There are nine of them altogether, but no two are alike . . . and for the most part, they’re not even similar. Each is unique—not just physically, but different in attitude, aptitude, appearance and general outlook. Some of this is to be expected, but I couldnever have guessed that their quirks would be so pronounced or the variations so obvious.

The Grandchildren

I don’t have a favorite, of course. Jake, the oldest, is a gifted drummer, while Tucker is athletic—particularly in baseball and wrestling. Sam is also an athlete—his specialty is hockey. Maggie is artistic and plays the violin; Sydney is a gymnast; and David is an expert Lego builder who plays the euphonium. Ryan is our other hockey player, Zachary is the joke-teller and the little one, Jillian, is the girl who loves books and ballet.

They are, as they regularly refer to each other, “the cousins,” and they are also my grandchildren. Six boys . . . three girls. As “the cousins” get older, I try to spend one-on-one time with them. I want them to know their grandfather because I didn’t get to know either of mine.

Zachary, the Joke-Teller

I was alone in the kitchen reading the Sunday paper when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him tiptoeing in my direction. His impish grin gave him away. I knew he had something on his little four-year-old mind and, whatever the something was, it was coming my way.

“Grandpa,” he began as I put the paper down and gave him my attention, “I have a joke for you.”

“Good, Zachamundo. Let me hear your joke.”

“Grandpa, my name is not Zachamundo. It is Zachary Baxter Courage Rush.”

“Oh yes, that’s right, but Grandpa is old, and sometimes he forgets these things. So tell me your joke.”

“Okay, Grandpa. How do you fix a broken tomato?”

As I did my best to give the impression that I was in deep thought trying to come up with an acceptable response, “number eight” rocked back and forth on his little four-year-old heels. “Grandpa, if you don’t have an answer, it’s okay, because I can tell it to you. My dad didn’t know it either.”

“What about your mom, Zach? She’s a lot smarter than your dad.”

“No, my mom didn’t get it, and even Sydney didn’t get it.”

How Do You Fix a Broken Tomato?

Sydney, aka cousin number five, is considered by the younger cousins to know everything there is to know about anything that is important. Sydney is ten.

“Okay,” I replied and leaned forward to get as close as I could to this little bundle of cuteness. “Grandpa gives up. How do you fix a broken tomato?”

As his eyes squinted ever so slightly, he leaned toward me, looking like he was ready to explode.

“With tomato paste!” he replied as he fell to the floor laughing hysterically. This lasted for about 30 to 45 seconds. Then he got back up and faced me
to see what my reaction to all of this might be.

“Zach,” I began, “I think that is a pretty funny joke, but can Grandpa ask you a question?”

“Okay, Grandpa.”

“Well Zach . . . what is tomato paste?”

As he ran out of the room, he looked back at me and said, “I don’t know, Grandpa . . . ask Sydney.”

The Shake-up

Within just a few minutes, Zach repeated his tomato joke to everyone he came in contact with and, as could be expected, he never failed to get a chuckle and a positive comment. Ultimately he returned to me and told me the joke again. Now, because I am a good grandpa, and have been pre-conditioned by the three kids and seven grandkids that have come before him, I naturally acted as if I had never heard the joke and gave him the response he expected.

Over the next few weeks, he continued to tell his joke to me and to all the others who had heard him tell it before, and since we would never want to hurt the feelings of such an adorable little guy, we all continued to laugh and tell him what a wonderful joke it was.

Sometimes we adults can be a bit like my eighth grandchild, especially in some of our business dealings. We use the same old promotional materials, same old sales pitches and same old methods and, maybe because we don’t get negative responses, we take a non-response as a positive one. So, out of habit or laziness, we continue to do and say the same things we’ve always said and done.

As the world continues to change, we need to change with it. I’m as guilty as anyone at sticking with old methodologies for too long. Maybe what some of us need is a good shaking. Maybe it’s time to get some new material. Creativity should be at the heart of our sales and marketing efforts.

If we’re not regularly renewing ourselves with regard to these types of efforts, then we can’t help but become stagnant and at some point maybe become nothing more than an old, withered-up tomato that can’t even be fixed with tomato paste.

A few weeks after the tomato joke was first introduced (and after I had heard it at least a dozen times), I was sitting at the kitchen counter inhaling a box of Girl Scout cookies (Tagalongs, if you must know), when Zachary Baxter Courage Rush plopped himself down next to me and flashed a curious little smile my way.

“You want a cookie, Zach?” I asked.

“No, Grandpa, I don’t like that kind. But I have a joke for you.”

I wasn’t sure if I could handle another telling of the tomato thing, but what’s a grandpa to do?

“Sure, Zach, go ahead and tell me your joke.”

“Okay, Grandpa, why were the eggs laughing?”

“I don’t know, Zach,” I quickly responded, quite pleased that he was expanding his repertoire. “Why were the eggs laughing?”

“Because somebody cracked them up!” You know, maybe there’s hope for number eight after all!

Humor columnist Lyle R. Hill is the former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also serves as president of®, an information portal and job generation company. Hill has more than 50 years of experience in film and glass-related industries and can be reached at

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

Leave Comment