Another childhood goal Pausch had was to be the coolest guy at any amusement park or carnival he visited. The coolest guy was easy to spot—he was the one walking around with the largest stuffed animal. It never mattered to him if the guy behind the huge stuffed toy was a muscle man or a nerd; if he had the largest animal, he was the coolest guy in the place.
Pausch’s dad agreed, and the family competitiveness showed itself in the midway games. He and his father would routinely do battle for the “largest beast in Stuffed Animal Kingdom.” Pausch loved the feeling of being the object of envy as he walked through the venue, and he used a giant stuffed animal to woo his wife.
When Pausch and his sister were young, their father promised them any toy in the store if they could agree to share it. After much looking, they spied a huge stuffed rabbit perched on the top shelf. It was undoubtedly one of the most expensive toys in the store, but their father was a man of his word, and he bought them the oversized rabbit.
Over time, Pausch would come home with more and bigger stuffed animals. His father suspected he was purchasing them from winners who did not value their huge animals or recognize the amount of “cool” they would be missing if they sold their prizes. But Pausch never paid for a stuffed animal.
He is not a cheater. He does lean in the ring toss, but that is the only way to win. It was much easier to perform and win without the pressure of his family watching him, so they rarely saw him actually win anything. He also did not want them to see how long it took him to be successful. Tenacity is a virtue but it is not always necessary for everyone to see how hard one works at something. Two keys to success in winning giant stuffed animals are long arms and plenty of money to spare.
In his lecture, Pausch shows pictures of some of his oversized animals, and he is sure some members of his audience are convinced he somehow doctored the photos. To silence the skeptics, he has several of his students bring some of his stuffed animals onto the stage to prove his claim. While his wife loves the idea of them, he knows she would rather they be gone from their house. He does not need to impress anyone anymore, so he offers these to anyone who wants to claim them at the end of his lecture. The animals find their new homes quickly. He finds out later that a student who also has cancer grabbed the giant stuffed elephant. He feels it is fitting that she got the elephant in the room.