Commentary

Snow: Weighing in on toilet paper and chickens

November 17, 2012 

The tsunami of political rhetoric that has inundated the country for more than a year is receding – slowly, but faster than the tidal wave of misery and destruction still lingering along our East Coast cities to the north.

For months, air-wave and newspaper discourse has been devoted to such issues as budget deficits, foreign policy, taxing the rich, immigration, the “fiscal cliff,” and more.

As a panacea, let’s consider a couple of light-hearted issues that nevertheless are important to some folks.

My friend was late for coffee.

“Sorry,” he apologized, “The cleaning lady comes today and I had to get ready for her.”

His comment sounded familiar. When our beloved friend and housekeeper for more than 30 years came every Wednesday, my wife would remind the children and me that we had to “get ready for Alean.”

“What do you have to do to get ready?” I asked.

“Oh, the usual,” he said. “Put away my shaving stuff in the bathroom, be sure the clothes closet is in order, get my ‘mess’ off the top of the dresser, and turn the toilet paper.”

“Turn the toilet paper?” I asked.

“You know, turn the roll of toilet paper around so the help can leave it as she likes it. You see I’m an under-the-roll person and she is an over- the-roll advocate who neatly folds the end of the tissue in a little triangle as they do at hotels.”

Until I mentioned this to other friends, I did not realize how many people consider how a roll of toilet paper is installed is important.

The matter is in the same category as the debate over which is tastier and healthier – brown eggs or white eggs. My family raised only Dominicker and Rhode Island Red hens that produced brown eggs. Several neighbors raised only White Leghorns that laid white eggs.

A friend remembers when his wife, scouring the Farmer’s Market for brown eggs, asked one elderly farmer if he sold brown eggs.

“Lady,” he replied, “ an egg is an egg. There ain’t no difference unless you’re planning to eat the shells.”

Prejudice

One of those “Sorry, wrong number” callers rang our house recently and asked to speak to “Yom.”

The name reminded me of the time years ago when The News and Observer advertising department received a call from an advertiser who asked to speak to Ike Swartz, one of our top ad salesman.

“I’m sorry, he’s not here today; this is Yom Kippur,” the employee answering the phone replied, referring to the Jewish holiday.

“Well, Yom, I guess you’ll do. Now about my ad….”

At one time, I could have been just as naïve as that caller. You see, the little foothills town where I spent my youth was neither metropolitan nor cosmopolitan.

Its population included only three African-American families and no Jewish, Hispanic or Catholic residents. We had only one “Yankee,” a spinster who taught typing, secretly smoked cigarettes, and, when provoked, could cuss up a blue streak.

With so little exposure to “minorities,” our prejudices back then were primarily of a political nature: Democrats vs. Republicans.

As the song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from “South Pacific” points out:

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Last word

Many of us are born without good looks, charm or vivacity, but that’s no cause to throw in the towel. We can make the most of what we do have.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, compensated for his lack of good looks with a keen mind, an innate goodness and a quick wit.

He once complimented a woman in his presence by saying, “You’re a very beautiful lady. “

The woman, totally lacking in poise and good manners, said, “You’re the ugliest man I’ve ever seen.”

Lincoln replied, “That may be so, but you could have lied, as I did.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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