Back in the day when I worked as a host for a company that supplied staff to corporate boxes in stadiums throughout Sydney, I recall a glossy minuscule moment, a moment I think about often.
A day where I had the pleasure of waiting on the author Thomas Keneally. I get a buzz just thinking about it. Being in that room and watching him enjoy his favorite rugby league team hammer it out on the field below. Yet it was how he treated his friends, acquaintances and the hired help, meaning me, the staff that impressed me the most. What I learned from this man sent me on the path I am walking today.
I could not believe my luck when my manager informed me that Thomas Keneally might be in one of my rooms on that day. My palms began to sweat as I thought about how I would deal with serving one of Australia’s greatest Author’s, the image of my shaky hands pouring his wine, it was enough to make my knees buckle.
Excited and nervous at the same time thinking about this mans achievements. Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, which was later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. There is a long list of awards and novel’s he has written yet Schindler’s Ark left its mark, it haunted me for a long time. At that stage I was only tinkering with the idea of writing a children’s novel. Thinking back I want to slap myself for not having the courage to ask him for a few helpful writing tips.
As the game played out, I realised there was no time for worry. I rushed from one box into the next, making sure all my guests were happy and satisfied with the service and refreshments. What struck me about Thomas was his large genuine smile, a smile he used on every one, a down to earth manner which radiated through the room and left me feeling at ease. Halfway through my busy shift I entered, juggling multiple trays of food, Thomas asked did I need any help? His mood jolly, it was infectious, the other guests cheered and laughed along with him, wrapped in the colours of their team and getting into the spirit of the match. It made my work enjoyable the way a sunday afternoon in the boxes usually played out. The word pretentious did not invade their space even with this famous Author on board. I saved that word for the room next door.
In stark contrast, I waited on a room full of executives who sat like stone garden ornaments covered in ivy and watching the football as if attending a chess game. I imagined crickets chirping, it would have broken the silence at least. I am never good with silence, the nerves crept back into my creaking bones. A young, well dressed woman ushered me over with a flick of her finger and I hurriedly went to her aid. Without a word she dumped her rubbish in my hands, a used napkin. I did not mind, that was my job and I was there to clean up the mess BUT the fact was, the bin was right below her bar stool. She only had to swing to her left and drop the rubbish in the bin. It would have taken more energy to call me over and hand me the rubbish yet she did this without flinching. I could not help feeling a pinch of fire in my veins at her intentions, her wish to remind me that I was here to serve her every whim. It did not last long. I smiled to myself thinking how pathetic her act was, sure she probably was a successful, attractive (if she learned how to smile), wealthy individual. My parents taught me no matter who we think we are, we should treat everybody the same. I brushed the incident aside and went on with my work.
As I raced from room to room, we host’s never stay idle, serving drinks, cleaning tables, carting trays of delectable seafood cocktails. A stubborn wine cork had me flustered. Mr Keneally came forth.
“Can I help?” He asked as the cork gave way we smiled, he grabbed the bottle,
“Would you like me to pour the wine for everyone?” He said this most sincerely, I was amazed by his humble attitude and quickly reassured him that this was my job and took the bottle back. I smiled inwardly at the contrast within these two rooms, this talented, generous soul who offered to help the hired help and went on to ask questions about my background. Even though I was dying to tell him I was writing a novel, I did not have the courage to say it out loud. I know he probably will never remember the kindness he showed this tired worn out mum but I will never forget how he made me feel. Like a valuable human being.
I had the last laugh with the woman next door as I came through to clean up the tables the young woman was trying to stuff a bottle of the house red into her designer label hand bag. Maybe not so well off after all, she smiled an uneven number on me and left the box without thanking me for my services, but I did not care.
Thomas Keneally is a generous and compassionate man. Maybe the gift of understanding the human condition is why he is at the top of his game.
What I learned is not only do I want to write, I want to treat others with respect and with gratitude, I never want to make someone feel less. If I take these qualities …. generosity, humbleness and compassion on my journey surely I can make the everyday person feel valuable.
How about you? Does leaving a memorable impression on others have any value in your world? Has someone famous impressed you?