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"Chronicle Groupie"
Hyperion February 5, 2001

#23 The Key to Victory

“They don’t know it yet, but they’ve already lost.” The words hung in the air, just sat there for a minute. I was at a restaurant getting ready to play Trivia, sitting with my friend Koz. A table of boisterous twenty-somethings showed up-men and women, evenly matched, good looking, smart, confident. They were talking it up with their server, predicting a smashing victory in the trivia game about to commence. That’s when Koz leaned over and said those words to me. We were just 2 to their 8, we were quiet to their frivolity.

And yet, despite all that, Koz was right. Our brain power-at least as far as this Thursday night trivia game was concerned-outmatched them; their demographic distribution notwithstanding. It was a neat feeling; a Monteclair moment if you will. The next day I am grocery shopping. Years of being income-challenged have taught me to watch prices carefully. As the cashier runs the food through the scanner assembly line, I notice the beef jerky is mispriced. I bring this up. For too many reasons to go into here, stores do not take your word for anything. A clerk is summoned to check the price of the item. This offends her sensibilities, and she makes the command decision to pass off the chore to the meat department-I guess figuring beef jerky is their territory.

The answer comes back against me. Normally, I might acquiesce with a bit of embarrassment for holding up the line-but 70 cents is a lot of money these days and besides-I SAW the price. I lead the annoyed clerk back to the cured meats rack and show her the price. The Meat Manager sees this and comes out for the showdown. My case: There is a price above the items. There is no other price anywhere. His case: The girl he told to change the price did not and the ACTUAL price is 70 cents higher. We go back and forth, each standing our ground. Finally, he blurts out “there is no way I’m gong to give you this for $4.99.”

I read somewhere that those who ignore a shout strain to hear a whisper. In recognition of this, I lower my voice and answer him: “Yes you are. You just don’t know it yet.”

You see, recently I have had some experience with complaining. I finally got sick and tired of being pushed around (maybe I’ll share that story with you someday) I knew that despite all the roadblocks the store puts up, if I was persistent I’d get my way. Even if I was WRONG and persistent I would prevail. And here I was more right than an NRA/Christian Coalition tea party. The Meat Manager saw this in my eyes, and saw the future. If this continued it could only get worse for him. Angrily, he ripped the mispriced tag off the rack and snarled “Just give it to him.”, and stalked off. That is 70 cents for me and a victory for consumers everywhere (or something Neil Armstrong-ish to that effect).

The moral of this story is this-there will be times when have no control over a situation. There will be times when we struggle for equilibrium. But there are times when the keys to victory are in our hands, if we will just open our eyes to realize it. When we have the moral high ground, when our knowledge, skill, or desire is greater, when we are in a position of authority, when the content of our character is the greatest strength in the room; these are some of the times when we control our destiny. Too often, though, we are timid, fearing confrontation. Hey, I HATE confrontation. I turn off the radio when talk show hosts harangue their callers. I cannot look when a sit-com character is about to be embarrassed. But if can suck it up, so can you; all of you. Don’t worry about the arrogance of your opponent, be they your child, your co-worker, or the guy across the net. KNOW that you have already won. The other guy just doesn’t know it yet.

February 5, 2001


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