Walking up Nebraska Valley Road today at dusk, the nip in the air invigorated me to my core. Once, on a similar autumn day, a friend commented, “You can divide people into two groups, the ones who feel happiest with cold air striking the cheek and the ones who are energized by the warm air.”
“Then I know where I fit, at last,” I said. Ever since, when there is a nip in the air, I think pleasantly of my group, although I know only a few of you by name.
Another time, at registration for a conference, I walked past a card table with blank nametags and a marker, but I didn’t stop. Someone beside me mumbled, “There are two groups of people in this world, those who wear name tags and those who don’t.” I nodded. Nothing could get me back to that table.
One year, the members of a committee I served on took a personality test. We were instructed to respond off the top of our heads. One of the questions was: When you make a phone call, do you plan ahead what you will say? We could choose among five degrees of yes or no, from Always to Never. I checked the Never box: I never plan what I will say while the phone rings or while waiting for voice mail.
Now I had three ways of knowing who my people were: They loved cold air, they didn’t wear nametags, and they’d wing it when making a phone call.
One day in April, feeling blue from a sugar season cold, I pulled a chair into the driveway and basked in the warmth of the sun. Hey, I’m not supposed to enjoy this, I thought.
At a meeting of piano teachers, I stopped on impulse at the nametag table, printed my name on the peel-back label. and stuck it on my shirt. A self-of-the-selves within me said, What are you doing? This isn’t you, but another self said, So what? Go ahead and try out the nametag way of being in the world today.
More disturbing is the matter of phone calls. I know I’m not supposed to plan ahead, but it’s a burden to stay true to form. I’ll catch myself thinking when I call Topnotch, for example, Shall I phrase it, “This is_____from Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm, could you please connect me with Mason in the kitchen?” or how about this, “Hi, I want to leave a message for someone in the kitchen, I wonder if it’s possible to get their answering machine.”
I am reminded of a song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore.
Captain (sings): And I’m Never Ever sick at sea.
Chorus (sings): What, Never?
Captain: No, Never.
Chorus: What, Never?
Captain: Well…Hardly Ever.
Chorus: He’s hardly ever sick at sea!!! Then give three cheers and one cheer more for the hardy captain of the Pinafore….