Saturday, September 15, 2012


In college I worked briefly at a better restaurant in Williamsburg.  Most of the waiters were black men in white jackets who at been working the Inn or the Lodge or one of the colonial restaurants for decades.  They were quite skilled at quiet service of rich white men, and knew how to play of their egos to get bigger tips.  The younger black men found this demeaning, wouldn't do it, and made less money.

I can see both sides of this conflict pretty easily.  But one old waiter, Ben, tipped me over to his side by the force of his argument.  Not that he ever spoke to me directly, of course.  He hated white people and wouldn't give me the time of day.  But the other white college busboy and I were at least allowed to listen in.  Ben attempted to explain his reasons, but the younger black men did not merely disagree with the ideas and reject them, they simply wouldn't listen.  They just walked away, leaving the old men shaking their heads.  "If you cain't be told, you cain't be taught," Ben would say.  I didn't follow the meaning of that immediately.  It took some thinking through.  It may not really have sunk in until later that year, long after I had left the place.

Sometimes you just have to be told:  yes is yes, seven is seven, green is green.  If you can't deal with that, then ultimately, you can't be taught very much.  It takes both courage and humility to be told.

Perhaps it appealed to me because I am neither very courageous nor humble, but I at least have the sense to admire those traits and wish I had them.  If you cain't be told, you cain't be taught.


Larry Sheldon said...

Boyhowdy, doesn't that ever nail down the major political problems of the day!

Sam L. said...

Words of wisdom come from all directions, many of which seem unusual. The opportunity for one to attain wisdom comes from recognizing that.

karrde said...

Like the guy said, there's none so blind as those who won't see.