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June 09, 2009

Chesterton, Anyone?

28thlogo2 Fittingly, while I was contemplating starving men, I received an invitation to the American Chesterton Society's 28th annual conference. It’s being held in Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium, and includes intriguing topics like “Chesterton and Alfred Hitchcock” and “The Dangers of Trifling with Chesterton.”

I’m sure, if you go, you will be ingesting ideas of meaty substance.

(Image © American Chesterton Society)

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Rolley Haggard

Speaking of “tremendous trifles”, had G. K. Chesterton lived in the 21st Century, had he been slightly (no, make that “greatly”) demented, had he nothing better to do than record and embellish anecdotes from real life, had his philosophical proclivities been vastly subdued, had he been much more like Dave Barry and much less like G. K. Chesterton, and had his name been Rolley Haggard, it is possible, but only with herculean effort, to imagine him writing something like this simply to amuse his bewildered but infinitely patient friends –

* * *

I used to work in the produce department of a grocery store. One day as I was putting out cabbage and rutabagas, I paid especial attention to an announcement the store manager made over the loudspeaker in his customary Southern twang.

Turning to my colleague, I said, “Hey Herb. What did Martin just say over the P.A.?”

Herb was building a large display of exotic fruits and vegetables. Without looking up he replied, “‘Meat department, line one.’ Why?”

“Oh, nothing”, I said. “It’s just that it sounded to me like he said, ‘Beepity boppity, lan one.’ “That’s all.”

Herb cocked an eyebrow in a way that suggested he was thinking, “Yep, I work with all kinds of fruits.” But he said nothing.

Less than 30 minutes later, I heard Martin make the same announcement, only this time he said “lan two”, not “lan one”.

“There! He did it again!” I exclaimed, grabbing Herb by the arm. Herb looked down to see if I’d wiped something nasty on his smock, then turned to me and said, with no small measure of irritation, “WHAT??”

“’Beepity boppity, lan two.’ Martin just said “beepity boppity, lan two’”.

Herb stared at me as if he’d just swallowed a rotten peanut with a live worm in it. My arm shot up defensively in case he decided to hit me. He didn’t, but the scowl was still on his face as he returned to his kumquats.

With my feelings slightly bruised, I returned to my work. “I’m going to show him”, I said to myself as I violently dumped a gunny sack of potatoes onto a display. “But how?”

Then it hit me like a divine revelation. A hasty surreptitious conversation with Theresa, the head cashier, and then back to my veggies like nothing had happened. “Herb”, I thought to myself with no small measure of impish delight, “you are about to be hoodooed.”

Theresa thought it was a goofy idea, but after duly considering who it came from, concluded resistance was futile and agreed to become my negligibly-willing accomplice.

Herb was wheeling out a couple of cartloads of produce as I resumed my work among the tangelos.

“Hey, Herb,” I said, feigning nonchalance.

No answer. He was trying to ignore me, but I knew by the quickened pace at which he spread kohlrabi on the ice that he was fervently praying I’d give up and leave him alone. Not a chance, I thought. I will have satisfaction on this.

“Hey, Herb!” I persisted. “I need to talk to you.”

“So talk”, he said, viciously pinching an unsightly twig off a batch of fresh dill.

“It’s private. I was thinking maybe we could use Martin’s office.”

He kept working, but I have no doubt he was silently searching for a way to make me disappear. Finally, he shrugged, straightened a stalk of Romaine lettuce, plucked a shriveled leaf off a bunch of radishes, and started off towards the store manager’s office. I followed behind so he couldn’t see my mischievous grin.

Martin was busy talking with an ice cream vendor over on the frozen aisle. His office was open and empty.

Closing the door behind us, I turned to Herb and said, “Now, let me show you what I mean.”

“Mean by what?” he said, clueless as a frozen head of cabbage. I was grinning like a slice of watermelon.

“You’ll see”, I said.

The phone rang, right on cue. I picked it up, listened for a couple of seconds, then said to my aide de camp, Theresa, who was on the other end, “Yes, ma’am, one moment.” I punched the appropriate button on the phone set and hung up. Instantly, line one lit up, a nice, strawberry red. “Thank you, Theresa”, I whispered under my breath.

Herb opened his mouth to say something, but I held up my hand. “Shh!” I hissed. With a deliberate flourish, I picked up the intercom microphone and announced, loudly and plainly, so the whole store could hear, “Beepity boppity, lan one.” Then, as I plopped down in Martin’s chair, I hit the “conferencing” feature on the phone set.

Aware now of what this was all about, Herb started to leave.

“Herb, wait. We haven’t had our talk yet.”

“You’re nuttier than a bag of pistachios,” he growled.

“Bear with me, Herb. This’ll only take a minute.” I pushed the phone set to the edge of the desk and turned it around so that it faced Herb. Herb looked down, and suddenly, the light for Line One went dark. A voice came over the conference speaker. It was the store butcher, Joe:

“Meat Department”, he droned.

Martin, the store manager, never did figure out why someone mashed banana into his phone receiver. Or why I transferred to the deli the next day. Or why Herb to this day walks off whenever anyone so much as mentions be-bop music.

* * *

Moral of the story –

Number One – Never upstage your boss.

Number Two -- If you find yourself out of step with others, forget the drum. You may be marching to the thump of an overripe melon.

Kim Moreland

Rolley, I love it! Thank God that some people march to different drums. K-

LeeQuod

There are those of us who see a chain on someone and want to dive into deep, serious, melancholy discussions of slavery.

And then there are those of us who see a chain on someone and holler with unrestrained glee "I'm gonna yank it!!" (Cue the Nancy Sinatra hit as remixed by Rolley Haggard, "Those Chains Are Made For Yankin'", that's been looping in my head all morning.)

Rolley Haggard

And then there are those who do both according to the paradox that, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (1 Corinthians 4:8-10)

LeeQuod

I wrote: "deep, serious, melancholy"

The word I was looking for was "morose". Rolley, your humor is always a welcome change of perspective, whenever I'm (as usual) feeling excessively grim. I smile just at the thought of your name; seems to me it would be a fitting root for the derivation of "rollicking". Yet you've proven that you can also go far deeper than the bulk of us. A paradox indeed that there is joy in the journey of carryng our cross daily.

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