Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Stump Speech

There's an expression "dining out on" which means pumping something notable that you did and reaping the rewards of acknowledgment or adulation. This can be in the form of a free dinner, drinks at the bar, or some other form of congratulatory gift bestowed on you, even if it is only interest in someone listening to your story.

Athletes, typically baseball players, used to hit what was known as the 'rubber chicken circuit" in the off-season, speaking at perhaps a dinner in their honor for some milestone feat they might have accomplished in the just completed season.

But you don't have to be a professional athlete to enjoy dining out on something. I know a salesman at Saks that used to love to tell people that he worked with a guy who was in the children's chorus at the Metropolitan Opera. They both were now selling suits. Expensive suits. The point is that the teller of the story was living a bit vicariously through his colleague.

Years and years ago I read a Russell Baker piece that talked of his working with a reporter at a Baltimore newspaper, who when asked to do a story on the weather filed a short one: "we had some weather yesterday, and we're going to have some tomorrow." He was fired.

I've dined out on that story about John L. Carr's weather observation whenever I make fun of the attention given to the weather by the televised news, especially when they're quoting rain in tenths of inches.

I once wrote to Mr. Baker and told him of my continued appreciation of Mr. Carr's succinct accuracy about the weather. Mr. Baker wrote back that he got a kick out of someone remembering the story, and that John L. Carr left the newspaper business and became a public relations executive for General Motors.

Mr. Baker further supplied the information that this showed how bad off General Motors was, because Mr. Carr was the least likely person to add anything to being a public relations man. He couldn't puff up a narrative. In fact, he was given access to a company plane, but couldn't bring himself to figure out where to send himself on company business. Eventually, G.M. made that decision for him.

I have no way of knowing if Mr. Baker has dined out often on the Carr story, but I know I have, just a bit. But I do know someone who has "dined out" a great deal and over a long period of time on something that happened to them in their young adulthood. New York's senior senator, Charles (Chuck) Schumer.

It was 2004 and Senator Schumer gave the commencement address at my daughter Susan's graduation from Geneseo college. Somewhere in his speech he worked in the story of pursuing a girl, and not getting the girl, and being consoled by his mother.

It was such a cute story that my wife became a huge Chuck Schumer fan. Chuck was Charlie Brown: he didn't get the red headed girl. But he didn't let it ruin his life.

It is commencement address time again, and I suspect Chuck has been asked to give an address somewhere. It turns out that my daughter knows friends who have heard Chuck tell the exact story, even 10 years apart, at different commencement exercises.

Chuck's life may have moved on, but he's still telling the world about not getting the girl. He's been dining out.

1 comment:

  1. I have been guilty of dining out on occasion particularly a blog post titled "A Matter of taste" which I dust off every election day.