After reading the unusually vehement responses to the column on restaurants’ “background music,” I’m convinced that all some folks want for Christmas is pianissimo, please!
The bottom line is that dining out is a special occasion to many, and they come for the food, not for noise, no matter in what form.
Musicians Ned Gardner and his wife, Susan, who is a cellist in the N.C. Symphony, abandoned their favorite restaurant because of the canned “noises.”
Gardner waxed eloquently over the Eggs Benedict, describing them in great detail.
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“We suffered the music to be able to eat the eggs,” he said. “One Sunday, the music was so egregious we asked the waitress what it was. She consulted the manager and reported back it was a new album entitled, ‘My Bloody Valentine.’ ”
I could go on. And on. But you readers get the drift.
Teachers, kindergarten to grad school, make imprints on the minds of their students. Some linger a lifetime; others are washed away by time.
Rebecca Johnson well remembers Tom Parramore, her history teacher at Meredith College, whom I mentioned in a recent column. She describes an exam during her freshman year.
Parramore gave students a choice of three essay questions.
“I sat there trying to think while everyone else began writing furiously,” Johnson recalled. “An hour passed before I finally selected a question and wrote everything I could think of that we had learned, whether related to the question or not.
“When he returned the graded exams, I looked around and noticed a number of Cs and Bs for folks I had judged extremely bright. I felt a horrible sinking feeling about my grade. After he handed me my exam, I slowly turned to the final page. Much to my surprise, an A- graced the top of the page.
“What stunned me more than the grade was the note he had written. He wrote that while not all of my information was relevant to the question, I obviously had learned the subjects covered. He finished his comments with ‘Such an impressive display of BS is worthy of the grade assigned.’ ”
Everybody is a beggar
It was a cold day that back in my native Surry County would qualify as a “long-underwear day.” Bareheaded, clad in wrinkled khakis and a thin shirt and jacket, the man extended his crumpled felt hat toward the motorists caught by the off-ramp stoplight near Crabtree Valley shopping center.
This is not the season to wonder if he and others like him are the “deserving poor” or the “undeserving poor.” Seeing him reminded me of an incident some years ago when a friend and I were having coffee at a Peace Street fast-food outlet.
A seedy-looking man shuffled over and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Not if you’re going to ask me for money,” said the guy having coffee with me. “There are jobs out there.”
“I’m no bum, sir!” the man said indignantly. “I’m a paint and body man. I’m just outta work. I’ll have you know I served my country! Two years in Vietnam!”
He lurched off to confront a woman in a nearby booth. Ten minutes later, two police cars pulled up outside. The Vietnam vet was hustled out.
As he went, I remembered a truth that a more sophisticated solicitor shared with me as he hit me up for a handout.
“Let me tell you something,” he had said. “Everybody’s a beggar. Everybody begs for something: good health, sex, food, love. Especially love. Everybody in the world is going around begging for love.”
Let’s remember that man’s truism this holiday season.
And as you gather around the tree and pass around the beautifully wrapped gifts, remember the most prized one isn’t even wrapped. Children don’t yet realize it, but we adults do, if we have consulted our hearts lately.
Without love, the tree is as bare as if it were still standing in the forest untouched.
While watching children’s faces on Christmas morning, some of you may remember with nostalgia the opening lines of Elizabeth Akers Allen’s poem:
Backward, turn backward
O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again
just for tonight.