It’s the early 1960’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Dad was taking two clients to lunch. They stood in sharp suits with skinny ties, waiting to cross the street. There was a guy digging a great big ditch next to the sidewalk. The three men stood discussing plans for a new building. While they were talking the ditch digger mumbled something derogatory, spit on Dad’s black dress shoe, then threw another shovel of dirt in the opposite direction.
Dad’s first instinct was to jump down in the ditch and beat the guys ass. My dad wasn’t a big man but he had a volcanic temper and was powerful. But he resisted that urge, ignored the spit for a moment, then in front of his clients, said to the guy, “That’s a good looking ditch you’ve got going. You’re lines are straight and it’s nearly perfectly level. How long you been working on it?”
Ditch digger, “Little over a week.”
Dad, “I wish I could get my men to take the time to do a job right like that. It would improve the whole damn project.”
Ditch digger,”Yeah, I try to keep it all pretty tight. I don’t like it when things are uneven.”
“Well keep up the good work Boss.”
“Wait a minute,” the Ditch digger said, as he pulled out his bandana,” I got some dirt there on your shoe,” and he wiped off the spit.
When my son, Sandor hears this story, he focuses on the fact that Dad didn’t jump down in the ditch and fight the guy. Last night he said, “Because then he’d be down low too, and dirty, just like the ditch digger, right?” He’s absolutely right.
But it’s the second half of the story that still blesses me everyday, that reminds me of the never ending power of lifting other up. I can only imagine what Dad’s clients were thinking about their architect.