January 22 '05
Volume 451


Albania Albania You Border On The Adriatic

For three days of this past week, I attended the winter meeting of the combined Retail Technology Departments for the Southeast and Midwest regions of SUPERVALU. While the purpose of the meeting was to discuss business opportunities, become better informed of developments in new cash register systems and electronic payments, review achievements for the present fiscal year, and establish goals for the new fiscal year that begins in March, it was also an opportunity to renew acquaintances and enjoy the fellowship of old friends.

A certain amount of stress is always present during our business meetings, but we had plenty of time to relax each evening in a dinner situation. But, wouldn’t you know, the three major international foods that I least enjoy, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian were served in three of the five meals we ate as a group. I realize my tastes aren’t typical, so I tried not to complain about the restaurant choices made for me and ate only those foods I selected in extreme moderation.

Seated at a long table in a busy restaurant with a party of sixteen to twenty individuals makes for difficult conversation except for those in ones immediate vicinity. Most members of our group are beer drinkers, and I’ve noted that as bellies grow fuller, tongues grow looser, and laughter grows louder. But, it’s in such an environment that old times are remembered, and oft-told tales are retold. Among the more interesting tales shared, all true of course, was a somewhat recent happening recalled by Carl Kaercher, one of our guests from SUPERVALU headquarters in Minneapolis.

Carl’s son, Mark, an architectural major, attended career day during his senior year and was impressed with what guest Bob Villa had to say. It seems Bob Villa (one-time host of the TV program, This Old House) was once in the Peace Corps, and Villa spent much of his allotted time sharing how his experience with the Peace Corps completely changed his life. Mark was inspired to join the Peace Corps upon graduation and is now working in his second year of volunteer service in Albania, a small country bordering the Adriatic Sea.

Carl shared that soon after his son began his first year of service, he noted the teens played soccer using a makeshift soccer ball formed of bundled rags bound together with tape.

"Dad, could you send over a few soccer balls?" the son asked during one of his calls home after explaining the need.

Carl complied with his son’s request and boxed up a half-dozen deflated soccer balls, to enable them to fit into a smaller container, and packed an air pump with a couple of extra needles. When his son received the shipment he excitedly took the package to the playground area, and several teens gathered around to watch him open the box from America.

"I started pumping air into the new soccer balls, and after a few minutes I noticed all the teens had disappeared," his son later told him. "But, later they came back, and they all had a deflated soccer ball."

The players had plenty of soccer balls, but, living in a country of want, they lacked the device to keep them inflated, namely an air pump. As I reflected on the story, I found more than just a touch of irony in the incident. There seemed to be a lesson for all of us bent on helping others. Sometimes, to be aware of a need and to be willing to help is not enough. It may prove beneficial to know what factors contributed to the need.

Two nights later, I was seated directly across the table from Carl Kaercher. To refresh my memory, I asked him how his son became interested in the Peace Corps. That’s when he shared the information regarding Bob Villa. It was also the night that Bob McGehee and Carl shared a bit of trivia from the Cheers’ TV program.

One of them commented that the location of Albania came up during a Cheers’ episode and asked, "Remember the song about Albania?"

I didn’t know what they were talking about, but right away Carl broke into song and was quickly joined by Bob, "Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic…"

Apparently, I missed that Cheers’ episode, but for some fans, it held a memorable lesson in geography.

Wayne Hunter, like me, is a Retail Technology specialist in our department, and, as such, is assigned to a large group of SUPERVALU accounts. Wayne lives in Cape Girardeau, MO and services retail stores in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. Since we were asked to drive to Champaign, I contacted Wayne and asked about our riding together from Cape Girardeau. I wasn’t too keen on driving north of the Mason Dixon line in the middle of January and was thrilled when Wayne agreed to drive us to Champaign.

Wayne grew up in northern Arkansas and is one of those guys who makes friends easily, is liked by just about everyone, and when it comes to parties, laughs the loudest and tells the most tales.

SUPERVALU acquired the services of Wayne Hunter when SUPERVALU bought the Wetterau Corporation in the 1990s. Wayne held several positions for Wetterau prior to settling down in Retail Technology. In fact, he hired my boss, Bob McGehee. He’s proud of that, but I’d say he’s prouder of having hired a tall blonde named Diana Gorton. Diana was a part of our group until recently when she accepted a position in Retail Pricing, and our recent winter meeting was poorer for it, due to the absence of her good looks and great smile.

As Wayne tells it, he hired a number of folks when he headed up Retail Operations for the Wetterau office in Bloomington, IN. He explained that whenever an applicant came into his office for an interview, the applicant had to make his or her way through a maze of desks, occupied largely by males, to get to his door. And, it wasn’t uncommon for male onlookers to rate female applicants using scoring cards like judges at an Olympic event.

"After the interview was over and the applicant had left my office, I’d look out and see cards in the air, 6.5, 7.0, 6.0 etc," Wayne shared. "But on the day I interviewed Diana, there were lots of 9.5s and 10s."

Needless to say, Wayne rated her a ten.

Of the several tales Wayne Hunter retold during our trip to Champaign, my favorite follows:

"Do y’all remember the time we all met in Minneapolis after SUPERVALU bought us [Wetterau]?" Wayne quizzed.

Personally, I remember the day quite well and recall that I shared with everyone at our introductory meeting how I had been insulted by a cab driver who made fun of my pronunciation of the name of the motel I asked about. And now, I’ve forgotten how the locals pronounce "Sofitel," but I didn’t interrupt Wayne’s story.

"Everybody had arrived there that evening except the new guy from the Eastern Division. Somebody said the new guy needed a ride from the airport. I must have been the only one with a rental car, so I volunteered to go pick him up. His name was Dan…can’t remember his last name." Wayne continued.

"Well, I get to the airport, go to the baggage claim area associated with his airline, and there’s only one guy in the whole place. He’s wearing blue jeans and holding a suitcase. We all wore suits back then, but I figured he had on his traveling clothes."

"I holler, ‘Dan!’ and he yells back, ‘Yeah!’"

"‘Come on!’ I yelled, waving him over, ‘We’ve got plenty of beer and women!’ Then we got into the car and started to the motel."

Wayne was joking about the women but dead serious about the beer.

"We were almost to the motel when Dan said, ‘You got beer? Man, this is gonna’ be great, I just got out of the pen.’"

"You are Dan aren’t you?" Wayne asked, incredulously.

"Yeah."

"Dan with Wetterau?"

"No, but I’m Dan. I’m here to attend a drug-rehabilitation program. I just got out of prison."

"I started looking for a way to cross the median, in a hurry," Wayne laughed. "I braked hard, slid across the median, squealed tires, drove back to the airport as fast as I could, and got him out of my car.

Our Dan still wasn’t there, so I drove back to the motel. His plane arrived later than expected, and he had already phoned the motel to let them know he was taking a cab, so everyone was asking me what happened when I got back. I had to tell them. There was no keeping it from them."

To me, it’s funnier to hear Wayne tell the story and get to watch his facial expressions and animations. Watching him, one can almost see him going through his airport ordeal.

I don’t look forward to traveling to another meeting in Champaign, but I’ll happily do so as long as I can carpool with Wayne Hunter and later enjoy the fellowship of other friends, even if everyone but me likes Chinese, Mexican, and Italian foods. Plus, I might learn some more Cheers’ trivia.


Saturday Lunch Seasons At The White Church

It seems we can’t get done with Christmas. There are too many relatives with too many families for everyone to get together at the same time or even during the same week.

Sarah’s son and his wife live in Pearl, MS. But, Brett and Kathy couldn’t be in Pontotoc for Christmas, because they spent Christmas in El Paso, and while they were there became snow bound during a trip to see Carlsbad Caverns. Additionally, Brett and Kathy closed on the purchase of a house on December 29 and were to move into it shortly thereafter.

Barbara’s grandniece (the one I’m in the habit of calling our "new niece," because she previously laid claim to being kinfolk by discovering on my website that her biological mother, Carol O’Kelley, was Barbara’s niece), Rhea Palmer, wanted to spend some time with us, her newly found family, but found it’s easier said than done. However, her aunts, Cheryl and Barbara, decided a meeting could happen on the Saturday after New Years Day.

Since Rhea and her family live in Oakland, TN, Cheryl suggested we could all meet in Collierville, TN, which is a somewhat central location for Oakland, Southaven, Pontotoc, and Belmont.

"I know this neat restaurant in Collierville," Cheryl explained. "It’s in an old church and has a unique atmosphere. I’ve eaten there, and I like the food, plus, I can make our reservations."

First of all, let me say that I love Cheryl dearly, but whenever I hear women discussing a place to eat and the word, "neat," is a key word describing the restaurant, I can safely bet it’s a place where I’ll have trouble finding something to order. Cheryl emailed Barbara a copy of the restaurant’s menu, and sure enough, most selections didn’t appeal to my "meat and potatoes" mindset. But, it’s like eating in a Chinese restaurant, in that if I don’t have to do it more than once a year, I can cope.

Barbara and I had no trouble locating the Collierville restaurant, Season’s At The White Church, and, shortly before noon, the two of us were the first of our group to arrive, followed by Cheryl, then Rhea and Little Tommy, and finally Rayanne’s family. (Barbara’s mounting a campaign to nickname Little Tommy, T.J., because it’s not likely he’ll stay little much longer.)

We were shown to a private dining room that offered us plenty of privacy, which came in handy once the children’s period of good behavior wore thin. I think everyone enjoyed the food, except the children, but then perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect a "high end" restaurant to offer much variety for a child’s plate.

After lunch, presents were opened, and we later toured the dining area in the former sanctuary, where no one was eating, and, for all I know, is a room reserved for special occasions. The owner of the restaurant made a picture of our group in the sanctuary, and is shown here. (Additional photos for a limited time are found at http://www.rrnews.org/Lunch)

It was after two o’clock when we left the restaurant. Barbara and I headed toward Pontotoc, but Rayanne’s folks and Cheryl wanted to shop at the nearby Kohl’s before leaving.

All in all, we had a good time, and while the food didn’t appeal to me, I doubt we could have found a better place to meet for a Saturday lunch.


Back To School Jason Enrolls At ICC

Barbara and I are thrilled to report that Jason enrolled for the spring semester at Itawamba Community College in Fulton. Jason spent two years there after graduating high school. This time, with him being responsible for tuition and books, we are expecting him to take his education more seriously, plus, he’s been in the workforce long enough to realize the value of a college education.

He hopes to get a degree in Computer Science at a University. Unfortunately, Mississippi State has the edge on Ole Miss in computer science, so he may be the first of my family to break the Ole Miss tradition. I’ve promised Barbara I won’t disinherit him until after he graduates. (Don’t take me too seriously.)


Bodock Beau Being Southern

We who are privileged to live in the South are often the object of ridicule by persons ignorant of our good fortune. Thus it is with no small amount of pride that we share the following observations on being Southern:

  • Only a Southerner knows the difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit, and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.
  • Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."
  • Only a Southerner can show or point out to you the general direction of "yonder."
  • All Southerners know exactly when "by and by" is. They might not use the term, but they know the concept well.
  • Only a Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who's got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor's trouble is a real crisis, they also know to add a large banana puddin!
  • Only Southerners grow up knowing the difference between "right near" and "a right far piece." They also know that "just down the road" can be 1 mile or 20.
  • Only a Southerner, both knows and understands, the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash.
  • No true Southerner would ever assume that the car with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn.
  • A Southerner knows that "fixin" can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adverb.
  • Only Southerners make friends while standing in lines. We don't do "queues," we do "lines"; and when we're "in line," we talk to everybody!
  • Put 100 Southerners in a room and half of them will discover they're related, even if only by marriage.
  • Southerners never refer to one person as "y’all."
  • Southerners know grits come from corn and how to eat them.
  • Every Southerner knows tomatoes with eggs, bacon, grits, and coffee are perfectly wonderful; that red eye gravy is also a breakfast food; and that fried green tomatoes are not a breakfast food.
  • When you hear someone say, "Well, I caught myself lookin'," you know you are in the presence of a genuine Southerner!
  • Only true Southerners say "sweet tea" and "sweet milk." Sweet tea indicates the need for sugar and lots of it -- we do not like our tea unsweetened. "Sweet milk" means you don't want buttermilk.

Submitted by Ken Gaillard

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