Thursday, June 21st, 2012

No Free Lunch

I grew up in a rural place and had to walk through the village to and from the schoolhouse every day unless it was teeming rain.

One day when I was in the 2nd grade, the little grocery store/butcher shop that was on the side of the village closest to my house had a new sign, one of the kind that stands on its own next to the road.

It said “Sandwiches to Take-Out”.

I always thought the Odells, who owned the place were really nice people, especially the grandma, who seemed to like me pretty well.

But now they outdid themselves, offering sandwiches, just like that. I thought that sign was made for me and I was, as usual after school, possessed of a growling stomach.

So I entered through the wooden framed screen door (it was a warm spring day) and asked Mrs. Odell (the wife, not the grandma) for a liverwurst sandwich. To take-out, I said. Just like the sign.

She asked me if I thought it would be all right with my mother….and I couldn’t understand why she would ask me that. What mother would want her kid to go hungry. I had a reflex reaction and said, “No!” So she made me the sandwich. Just liverwurst on white bread with mayonnaise, same as at home.

About two weeks later, as I was coming in the front door at home after school, my mother was pissed.

She snapped at me: “Did you buy a sandwich at Odell’s a while back?”

“No,” I said; then suddenly realizing what may have happened, “the sign said ‘sandwiches to take-out’ so I took one”.

She made sure I understood she had to pay 25 cents for that sandwich, and never to do it again. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be getting the usual quarter next time I mowed the lawn.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Also, payback is a bitch; especially when it’s served hot, like it was when I had to mow the lawn.

So since then, I’ve learned that in the marine insurance business it can cost you when you make assumptions, and not just a free mow of the lawn is at stake these days.



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