Crossing the line of convention
Original post made by Llib Brunyar on Dec 20, 2006
On a hot summer's day, late in August, I sought shade and a cool drink under the canvas awning of a waterfront cafe in the old harbor of the town of Chania, on the Greek island of Crete. More than 100 degrees in still air. Crowded. Tempers of both the tourists and waiters had risen to meet the circumstances, creating a tensely quarrelsome environment.
At the table next to mine sat an attractive young couple. Well dressed in summer fashions of rumpled linen and fine leather sandals. The man: stocky, olive-complexioned, black hair, and mustache. The woman: lanky, fair, blond. Waiting for service, they held hands, whispered affections, kissed, giggled, and laughed.
Suddenly, they stood, picked up their metal table, and, carrying it with them, stepped together off the edge of the quay to place the table in the shallow water of the harbor. The man waded back for two chairs. He gallantly seated his lady in the waist-high water and sat down himself.
The onlookers laughed, applauded, and cheered.
A sour-faced waiter appeared. He paused for the briefest moment. Raised his eyebrows. Picked up a table cloth, napkins and silverware. Waded into the water to set the table and take their order. Waded back ashore to the ongoing cheers and applause of the rest of his customers. Minutes later he returned with a tray carrying a bucket of iced champagne and two glasses. Without pausing, he waded once more into the water to serve the champagne. The couple toasted each other, the waiter, and the crowd. And the crowd replied by cheering and throwing flowers from the table decorations.
Three other tables joined in to have lunch in the sea.
The atmosphere shifted from frustration to festival.
One does not wade into the water in one's best summer outfit. Why not?
Customers are not served in the sea. Why not?
Sometimes one should consider crossing the line of convention.
on Dec 20, 2006 at 4:50 pm
A fine and charming story. Thanks for posting it, Llib. I don't know if Fulghum's story is true or merely a parable, but it rings with fundamental truth. I think part of its attraction is that it reminds us how destructive conventionality is to the human spirit and imagination.
Curtis White wrote "The Middle Mind" a few years ago, and I'd recommend it to anyone who is up for a good, vigorous analysis of a culture (our culture) gasping for air. (You'll have to overlook some less-than-sterling writing, but it's worth the effort.) He attributes much of the lock-step march of our conventional mentality to a lack of imagination -- a march that leads to mediocrity, disengagement, or worse. White defines the imagination's "most basic social functions" as follows: "to critique and to imagine alternatives to the social status quo." I'll wade out into the water and drink to that.