Perspicacious intact tact

Published 9:37 am Saturday, April 6, 2019

Diplomacy is the word, the act, the very key to all of us getting along together.  Still, diplomacy is not always easy to accomplish as it requires a command of our actions and words.  For example: even simple eye rolling is not an appropriate response, particularly if it is visible to others and the eye roller is intentionally letting everyone know that he deems the eye roller a loser.  You want to avoid doing this.

I will demonstrate with a true story.  Some years ago I met a woman who in every way was the very soul of diplomacy.  Indeed, it was her mission in life to always ALWAYS conduct herself with the utmost of judiciousness and perspicacity.  Above all, she molded her three children into the same mindset by gently indoctrinating their young psyches with the assurance that diplomacy was everything; that it was the key to universal harmony and happiness and can’t-we-all-just-get-alongness.

My friend was, I dare say, a mousy sort of self-deprecating girl whose movements, thoughts and words were unfailingly precise and polished and perfect.  Her deepest fear was that any of her actions might become the public target for ridicule or accusations.

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Her name was Jane.  As in plain.  Her hair was the color of faded burlap and she wore it pulled tightly back into an unadorned doughnut from which no hair ever escaped. Her shoes were remarkably sensible, usually with laces, and when she sat, her ankles commendably crossed one over the other and off to the side as she had once witnessed Marian the Librarian doing.  Jane’s favorite fashions were unfailingly gray.

Jane’s controlled life went along smoothly until one event—of her own making—brought a test of her diplomatic skills to a screeching reality.  She, in a moment of recklessness and wild abandon, invited a visiting preacher to share Sunday dinner with her family.  After all, it was, she figured, the Christian thing to do—and Jane was all about doing the Christian thing.

Now, Jane had never met Pastor Westmore.  She only knew what the Ladies Guild had whispered about him.  To be sure it wasn’t his wardrobe that they had gossiped about for they all agreed he was an impeccable dresser.  Additionally his nails were clipped and clean, he always had a pleasant-though-heady aura of Old Spice about him, and his shoes were as polished as twin bowling balls.  No, it wasn’t what he put on his body that drew attention, but rather his body itself. You see, it was that one particular appurtenance.  To be exact, his nose.  It was a proboscis of monumental proportions, causing passersby to gasp at its length and fullness. They simply could not avert their stares.

When Jane heard this, she immediately knew such unconscionable behavior would never usher forth from her family.  Never!  Diplomacy was the name of their game.  Without question, this nose test would demand from her three offspring their fullest measure of deportment.

“Now, children,” Jane began as she seated them across the davenport, “we are going to have a guest for Sunday dinner.  I expect each one of you to be on his very best behavior.  In no way will you stare at him, but instead treat him with complete dignity no matter how difficult this may be.

Well, this got the kids’ attention right off the bat.  “Stare at what, Mom?” they demanded to know. “What’s so difficult about him?”

“Well, it seems that Pastor Westmore has a somewhat large nose, but you will not comment on it.  Neither will titters or winks be acceptable.  As is our custom, we will treat him with consummate kindness and courtesy.  And if you really feel you cannot ignore his nose (they were, after all, young children), then simply look at something else … like his eyes … or his mouth … or his Adam’s apple.  Anything but his nose, do you hear me?”

Sunday arrived.  Through monumental effort, Jane had outdone herself in the meal department.  The dining table looked like a page out of Home and Gardens and the food was scrumptious.  Still, she knew these were things all under her control; her children were another matter.  Could she trust them to behave with sterling composure in the presence of the nose?  To be diplomatic?  To, heaven forbid, not embarrass her?

They would each soon to be tested.

Much to Jane’s relief, the meal went off without a hitch.  Her youngsters had prevailed; they had proven their mettle—indeed, who would not agree that they were anything less than the very poster children for good deportment. Not even once had they let the word “nose” slip from off their little tongues. Oh, how she luxuriated in their splendidness!

And wasn’t it as clear as the nose on you-know-whose face, (her play on words causing her to silently giggle to herself), how superbly the afternoon had gone?

With glowing confidence Jane cleared away the dishes and brought out the dessert plates. She was about to crown her success—as if it were possible for things to go any better—with her very special apple pie ala mode.

To Jane’s delight, she saw that within moments the preacher—with great gusto—quickly finished his pie and was giving indications of desiring a refill.  Oh! The final star in her crown.  There simply was no way this meal could have been more excellent.  And, just think, in only moments this would all be over and Pastor Westmore would be on his way.  Success was certainly hers, she once again reminded herself as she sliced another piece of pie.  I’ve done it!

Then leaning towards Pastor Westmore in a final grand gesture of gracious gentility, Jane spoke to him, “Would you care for another piece of pie, Mr. Nose?”