Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Integrity

Pretty Lady is delighted to discover that her Daddy has a fan club! A fan club, moreover, not dominated by aficionados of state-of-the-art fighter planes!

So, to wash a little more Angry Atheist venom out from between her molars, Pretty Lady would like to indulge in a bit of instructive Daddy-worship, if it's all the same to you.

The legend in Pretty Lady's family goes back to her Great-Granddaddy, Pops. Pops owned a hardware store, out in the middle of nowhere. Folks would come into this hardware store, stating their interest in purchasing a new stove.

"What's wrong with the old one?" Pops would inquire.

"Dunno, it just stopped working."

"Have you tried changing the whosamajiggy?" Pops replied.

"Nope, can't say that I have," said the customer.

"Look, I'll make a deal with you. Take this little whosamajiggy, put it in the old stove, and see if that takes care of the problem. If it doesn't, then I'll sell you a new stove."

Well, dad gum if that didn't take care of it.

Perhaps you dears may wonder how Pops stayed in business at all, what with his extreme unwillingness to part with high-ticket items upon explicit request. Well, his attitude bred such unaccountable loyalty in his customers, that along about Great Depression time, Pops stayed in business when nobody else did.

This habit of looking out for the rock-bottom interests of all parties to transactions, and not merely those of self, then, is a multi-generational tradition in Pretty Lady's family. It is part of the air we breathe, and at this point is scarcely subject to conscious consideration. Pretty Lady practices this habit in her own business, unlike her former employer the Wall Street chiropractor, whose business plan entailed corraling a few paralegals and UPS couriers with generous health-insurance plans, and threatening them with crippling disabilities if they didn't come to see him three times a week. Pretty Lady got pretty sick of rubbing down the same hairy-backed UPS guy all the time, she can tell you that.

When Pretty Lady's clients ask her how often they should come in, she invariably replies, "Listen to your body, dear. You're responsible for your own health, and I wouldn't want to bankrupt you. Although if you wait longer than six weeks, we'll be starting again from scratch."

Pretty Lady is thus not rich, but her clients trust her.

Back to Daddy, though--one of the things about Daddy is that Pretty Lady has never, never, never heard him adhering to a legalistic argument in order to weasel out of an implied responsibility. Perish the thought. Once a commitment is made, it is total and unquestioned, no matter if unforeseen and inconvenient circumstances arise. Daddy is the Rock of the extended family; he has shepherded his parents, siblings, cousins, wife's siblings, stray friends and offspring through more sticky and embarrassing and, sometimes, financially draining crises than anyone has bothered to count. Nobody has ever heard Pretty Lady's Daddy utter the words, "Well, I never said I would...". He simply does, and does not hold a grudge afterward.

At the same time, Daddy never pretends to be someone he is not. Early in her parents' marriage, they moved to a new town where some distant cousins were members of High Society. Like good cousins, they invited Pretty Lady's parents to High Society dinner parties. Daddy, a young engineer, was seated next to many expansive oil millionaires who casually discussed the charter jet they'd taken to the party in Baja last weekend, with their twelve best friends. Daddy was rather bored, but polite.

Then the complimentary tickets to the High Society Ball arrived. Daddy returned them, with thanks, and the comment, "Thank you very much, but I am afraid we cannot afford to sustain this kind of lifestyle." Mommy kept a stiff upper lip.

Many times in latter years, particularly in adolescence, Pretty Lady suffered from snide comments and party-invitation-exclusions from Noveau Riche social climbers, who were aspiring to membership in the High Society clan that Pretty Lady's family had voluntarily exited. The knowledge that this sort of thing is gauche, tacky and low-class in the extreme did not entirely make up for her empty social calendar--but really. As Daddy says, and Pretty Lady concurs, those people are boring anyway! Why bother?

(Now, of course, when Pretty Lady goes home, the society ladies who volunteer at the Modern Art Museum are all agog to hear about her latest New York exhibition, but that is all by the way.)

And it goes without saying that cheating on his taxes, or on Mommy, is something so inconceivably beyond the pale in Daddy's universe that it does not bear discussion.

Whenever Pretty Lady has an ethical decision to make, the first question that springs to her mind is "What would Daddy do?" When she once borrowed a friend's five-year-old, factory-second camping tent, and the tent was subsequently stolen out of her trunk, she paid the friend the original cost of the tent without question. Then she received another call. "For another two hundred dollars I can replace it at REI, with a money-back guarantee. The old one had a money-back guarantee. Please give me two hundred dollars more."

At the time, Pretty Lady had not only suffered a robbery, but an assault, and was surfing friends' couches while searching for a home in a safer neighborhood. She was barely making financial ends meet in the ghetto, and needed to come up with the down payment on a new and more expensive place. She was also in a state of shell-shock. Her first inclination was to hang up on this so-called 'friend' and never call back.

But, after much consideration, and discussion with other friends, she sent the girl a two-hundred dollar check. Then she cut the connection.

"I didn't want to worry that I wasn't fair to her," she told Daddy afterward.

"You did the right thing," said Daddy. Which made it all worthwhile.


Judge Well Ye Wolves said...

Sign me up as a member!

k said...

Those basic core values, there.

And Pops, too. Just like my blogdad, my true blogdad who I'll love for the rest of my life.

mitzibel said...

No wonder you couldn't be satisfied with the A.A. and his like, Pretty Lady, you have a *real* male role model to compare them to!

My daddy is teh bomb, too. Even coming back broken from the war, he was a stand-up guy who really lived by his principles. My mom, who can be somewhat more practical at times, used to get *really* frustrated at some of his actions, those that "lost" us money or his time. She's shut up about it, though, now that all the people my dad helped out through the years have shown up to remodel their house to be wheelchair-accesible, and fix up the yard, and build ramps and hold fund-raising auctions to pay for medical bills.
The church my daddy put a roof on for the cost of materials 20 years ago(it wasn't our church, he didn't believe in attending one) auctioned off a half-dozen handmade quilts to pay for my mom's stay in Dallas when he went to the V.A. there last summer; the owner of the hardware store where my dad has shopped exclusively since '71 wrote some letters to guys he'd made campaign contributions to, and magically the V.A. sprung for a Swiss-made electric wheelchair with more features than some Lexuses. The local meat processor, where my dad had taken extra deer for the "community locker" (read-free meat for poor people) every season for two decades has been making deliveries to the house and they haven't gotten a bill yet.
Living by your principles quite obviously has its rewards in this life, too.

Anonymous said...

"A fan club, moreover, not dominated by aficionados of state-of-the-art fighter planes!"

< frosty >

And what exactly is wrong with aficionados of state-of-the-art fighter planes?

< /frosty >


Hmm. DFW area, fighter planes, men of integrity. This is a small world, it may be possible that I have met your dearest Da.

That would be vaguely trippindicular, but stranger things have indeed happened.

In other thoughts, I am happy to see something written by a woman that is *positive* about her father, it is rare to see a glowing review about a father figure in today's blogosphere.

There are lots of good men, and good fathers out there, they just stay beneath the radar a lot of time, or some of them, as I can attest, are stealthed.

Pretty Lady said...

Crom, I'm actually sure you know my Dad, or at least know about him.

Judge Well Ye Wolves said...

Oh, and thanks for this post. Very think-about-able.

Judge Well Ye Wolves said...

mitzibel- as a former member of the thug class, it does my heart good to hear about good men. Mazel tov for the example set in your life.

Anonymous said...

i wouldn't have sent the 200. you've been had.

Pretty Lady said...

On the contrary, Anon, 200 was a small price to pay to get that woman out of my life. She was a Food Blackmailer as well.

k said...

Oh, I certainly agree. It was well worth it, even before the food blackmail issue. She displayed what her character was made of, and who wants to hang with a person like that?

Um...What, exactly, is Food Blackmail, please?

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean you should have not paid the 200 and kept her in your life. I meant you should have told her to go jump in the lake (or whatever) and cut her off before giving her 200.

I'm also curious about food blackmailing. Is it, do this thing for me or i'll tell everyone that you eat cute little baby goats?

Pretty Lady said...

This is Food Blackmail. In fact this selfsame person was the inspiration for the Food Blackmail post.

So lovely and efficient that one's former friends are so variedly horrible, in so many entertaining ways.

And I would tell her to jump in the lake, today. But there was something poetically satisfying about sending the check and disinviting her to my birthday party, as well; something along the lines of, 'Well, if the money is that important to you, here it is...'