I guess a bit more awareness of setting and a smidgen of my usual grumpy suspicion might have been in order. The multi-screen kiosk just a few feet away should have been a clear giveaway. But… it was a nice day, I felt pretty good, and it was sort of pleasant to see a pleasant person.

“Where you folks from?” the tall, nice-looking, forty-something asked, when I made eye contact at the bottom of the steps as Randa and I were coming down from Cabela’s kayak loft. I answered, “A few miles west of Saint Joseph.”

“Oh, where specifically?” he responded, with an expression that he expected to recognize the name of the place.


That got the puzzled look I expected so then I expanded the information slightly, “Between Wathena and Troy.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m from Effingham; went to college at Highland.”

Well, that’s interesting. “I worked at Highland from 2004-2015 but that was probably after you were there. Our Ag teacher, Cliff Hawk, was from Effingham.”

Another blank look but then a quick, possibly misleading, recovery, “Oh, yes, Cliff. Good man.”

Next thing I know, this guy is in full swing on Cabela’s Great Resort Property $199 Deal with multiple options at various places of great interest in spots conveniently located for people with large travel budgets or personal jet craft. While I’m trapped with the dude, Randa keeps smiling to herself and checking out the Cabela’s Great Deals on Discontinued Sportswear Rack several feet away.

After several more minutes of polite but disinterested attention, I tell the guy, “I’m going to walk away from this for now but I’ll think about it.”

“If you come back, be sure to ask for me,” he instructed, using his right hand to tilt up the name badge fastened above his shirt pocket, “we get premiums.”

Roger that, Shawn. If I come back, I will certainly ask for you.

As we were walking away, I told Randa, “I guess I should have been suspicious when the guy seemed so friendly and interested, eh?”

I remember being urged while in grad school to cultivate the practice of networking while at conferences. “It’ll help you make connections and create a list of people who can help you out in your career.” Of course, as a reciprocal arrangement, it seems reasonable and fair.

But I could never get into trying to befriend strangers of a shared profession just on the off chance I could use them some day. I tended to play within a much smaller orbit of people I actually liked. I was afraid I’d turn into Shawn and being genuine and sincere seemed more satisfying than advancing a career. And, for the record, that part seemed to turn out okay anyway.

With a nod of the head to Barbara Streisand and a tiny bit of poetic license, I’d like to say that people who love people are the loveliest people in the world. Let’s be those. Regardless of perceived immediate or future advantage.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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