Everybody likes a zealous worker, right?

Except maybe, sometimes, his or her customers. This train of thought comes not from research but from a brief trip I took to Atlanta with my sweetheart recently. As our trip’s purpose was winding down, we decided to stop in a neighborhood deli before hitting the road back home. It was a chain I was familiar with, and I wish there was one in Rome.

What I wanted was a grilled zucchini sandwich and a cup of fruit. The order-taker asked what soup I wanted. I said I didn’t want a cup of soup. I wanted a cup of fruit.

She said, “The fruit comes with your order.” I pointed to the menu board and read aloud, “A cup of soup OR a cup of fruit.”

She said, “Yes, you get a cup of fruit. Now, what kind of soup do you want?”

I had eaten a big breakfast and still felt rather full. I didn’t want soup. So I repeated to the order-taker, “I want the sandwich and a cup of fruit.”She said, “Then you’ll have two cups of fruit.” “So be it,” I replied. Because at that point I realized reason was not in the immediate orbit. So, I gave the extra cup of fruit to my sweet-heart. She also shared some of her chips. Isn’t it funny how things can work out if we just put our minds to it?

Wait, there’s more: Among my favorite words in the English language are “free” and “ice cream.” String those words together and you can lead me anywhere.

After we finished our sandwiches and fruit, we left our table to walk back behind the salad bar to get our free ice cream. When we returned to our table, it had already been cleared. Even the paper cup I was going to refill with ice and water for the long, hot drive home was gone.

I started to reach into my pocket to leave a tip; then I realized the futility. Some other customers would seat themselves at the table before the busboy came back and might scoop up the tip for themselves. So we walked out, not leaving a tip, and ate our ice cream in the parking lot before heading back to Rome – me without a cup of ice water for the journey.

Wait, there’s still more: After arriving home without further incident, Jane asked what to do about supper. Recounting all that I’d eaten during the trip, I replied that all I wanted was some ice cream and a glass of wine.

She said that I had already eaten ice cream in Atlanta. That was when I pointed out the obvious:

1. If you eat ice cream in two different cities on the same day, it doesn’t count twice.

2. The first ice cream was free. “Free” also means it doesn’t count.

3. I was deprived of ice cream as a child.

It’s a sad commentary on our society that I had to go all the way to the third point (which isn’t even true) to get more ice cream.

But the pursuit of ice cream is not why we went to Atlanta in the first place. There was a larger purpose.

And a lot of preparation. See, Jane likes to have everything nailed down in advance. “Be prepared” could be her motto, even though I was the Boy Scout. She went on the internet days before to compare hotels and packed a few combinations of outfits to choose from. I just made sure to pack my razor and clean socks.

(As I was writing this, literally, I heard a short report on NPR that women begin preparing for trips two days sooner than men. So, it’s not just Jane and me; it’s a DNA thing.)

Going down I-75, I got out my smart phone and found a hotel I thought we should check into. It was convenient to our ultimate destination, we got a good price break and the amenities were excellent (I stuffed myself at the free breakfast buffet).

Which brings me to my present motto: “It’s better to be lucky than to be prepared.”

I was the first, not the latter, when I strolled into an Atlanta church one Sunday 20 years ago. My personal life was a mess. I was suddenly a single dad. I had legal bills. And I didn’t know things were going to get worse before they got better.

But my life was quietly transformed that Sunday.

I learned weeks ago that the rector at my old church was retiring and delivering his last sermon. There was no way I was going to miss that. And I wanted Jane by my side because my friends down there know the relationships I’ve been through, and they would be happy that I am now with a smart, interesting woman who’s also pretty. (It wouldn’t matter to my friends whether Jane is pretty, but it’s a bonus for me.)

So, that’s why and how we spent a weekend in Atlanta. On Saturday night, we went to a favorite old restaurant of mine. We had brownie a la mode for dessert (that also doesn’t count as ice cream because it doesn’t explicitly say “ice cream”). I left a nice tip, which I usually do – unless an overzealous busboy clears the table before we’re finished.

So, that’s a short lesson in how to have a great weekend without much preparation: Have a purpose; be in the company of a beautiful woman; and … did I mention ice cream already?


Last month, I discussed “religious liberty” laws and how they are bad for business, and why it was smart for Gov. Nathan Deal to veto such a proposed law in Georgia. Now, North Carolina has an even more restrictive law. Its legislature even went into special session in order to override a Charlotte ordinance viewed as too friendly toward people with a sexual orientation different from the majority. It’s jokingly called the “bathroom bill.”

So, what happened next? Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr canceled concerts in the Tar Heel state. PayPal and Deutsche Bank have put on hold expansion that would bring hundreds of jobs. The NCAA may move next year’s men’s basketball Final Four elsewhere. Movie shoots have been canceled. A less economically significant but more poignant cry came from an independent bookseller in Asheville, who published a column in The New York Times lamenting how her business would suffer because of a law she doesn’t even agree with.

This is what happens when religious bigots impose their “beliefs” on the rest of us.

James Madison and his fellow Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves.

I wish the autocorrect “feature” would go to its grave. I texted to someone “I’d like to talk to you.” It 
came out as “I don’t like to talk to you.”

All is OK. It took some ‘splainin.’ but we’re still speaking.

J. Bryant Steele has won awards for business reporting, feature writing and opinion columns, and is based in Rome.

*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine

J. Bryant Steele was first published when he was 14 and has made a living stringing words together for 40 years. But the main reason he writes is to avoid housework. He has won 50 or so writing awards. He is a graduate of the Grady School of Journalism (The University of Georgia) and of Education for Ministry (The University of the South). He also publishes poetry and fiction. He is the proud father of two magnificent adult children. He is also very opinionated.