Moving along the serving line at the K&W Cafeteria recently, I thought the fruit salad looked especially appetizing and asked for it.
The server scooped up a generous serving. But, alas, a third of it tumbled off her serving spoon. I thought about asking her for more, but, remembering an incident from long ago, I restrained myself.
On a beach outing with newspaper buddies we stopped at a fast-food restaurant near Warsaw.
The men’s room door was blocked by an employee pushing a mop bucket out the door with her foot. “You can’t go in there!” she snapped. “I’m cleaning.”
Ignoring the expression of desperate urgency on our faces, she said firmly, “It’s closed!”
With coffee to go, we jumped back in the car and sped on down the highway toward another relief station.
“She could have let us in for just a minute,” groused one of the group.
“Yeah, she could have,” I said. “But don’t you understand? It was her way of saying, ‘I’m in charge here!’ ”
No matter how powerful or how menial a person’s job, anyone with any sense of self worth needs to occasionally give vent to that “I’m in charge” feeling.
You run into it everywhere: the guy who speeds up so you can’t change lanes in traffic, the cafeteria employee who dishes out the small or generous serving of fruit salad, the bureaucratic secretary who says her boss is busy when he isn’t. All are saying, “I’m in charge here!”
Years ago, at a newspaper meeting in Chapel Hill, a certain governor who was to address us later, was moving along the lunch line. After being served a piece of chicken, he asked whether he could have a second piece.
“Sorry, sir,” said the server, “we’re running low on chicken. My instructions are: one piece per person.”
The state’s first citizen explained that he’d had a busy morning and just had to have a second piece of chicken. If only a wing.
When the young woman again refused, he said irritably: “Do you know who I am? I’m the governor of North Carolina!”
“And do you know who I am?” the server snapped. “I’m Clarice and I’m in charge of chicken!”
There is a lesson here. Almost every adult we meet in life is in charge of something and deserves our respect, no matter how menial the person’s job may seem to us. Instead of throwing our weight around, we should be handing out compliments whenever possible.
Compliments cost nothing, but are pearls of great price to the recipients, especially to the Clarices we encounter along life’s trajectory.
During the recent political conventions, TV commentators have made much of the dissension among Republicans that kept some party leaders away from the event.
Actually, both parties have stressed the importance of coming together in unity, while downplaying their internal differences.
I recently came across a comment from the late Dr. M.A. Huggins, longtime general secretary of the Baptist State Convention, that may apply to today’s in-party differences.
When asked about the then frequent infighting among Southern Baptists some years ago, Dr. Huggins chuckled, “Oh, we don’t worry about that. How many times have you awakened at 2 a.m. to hear cats fighting under your bedroom window?
“You never heard such screams, such caterwauling in your whole life. You get up next morning expecting to find the lawn strewn with dead cats. But you don’t find a one. You just keep getting more cats!”
Nevertheless, I can’t remember a presidential campaign when partisan feelings ran so high. When breaking bread together, even long-standing friends of different political persuasions might do well to leave politics off their agendas between now and November.
Responding to a recent item about my wife’s gift of dish cloths, Jon Larsen of Chocowinity weighed in on a matter of matrimonial communication.
“In our early years of marriage, I enjoyed buying and giving my wife clothes,” he wrote. “It was the better part of a decade before she commented, ‘It would be ever so much more flattering if everything you bought me wasn’t too big.’ ”
It comes from Raleigh’s Gene Hafer: Atheism is a non-prophet organization.