You Want Take Out? No Problem!

I was not built to last in the food service industry. It was fun during college, and I made tons of friends, but I am not programmed to spend long hours worrying about whether other people ordered 1000 Island or Ranch salad dressing. But that doesn’t mean I look down on the industry, and I actually think every citizen should have to spend some time doing something in a restaurant just to make us more empathetic as a nation. Call it my own National Service plan for niceness. I never send my food back to the kitchen, and I very rarely, if ever, take out my day’s frustrations on my food server. Continue reading “You Want Take Out? No Problem!”

Is This What They Mean by Customer Service?

Ask any successful person in the service industry and they will tell you the key to long term success is, and always has been, superior customer service. Quality products help, but a business going out of its way to put its clientele’s needs first will almost always succeed. People want to be treated in a certain way, the experts say, and are willing to pay handsome sums for that type of treatment. The best salespeople are always the ones who eliminate walls and build a certain rapport with their customer. As my Dad used to say, successful people tend to be the ones who “feign sincerity the best.” I guess that’s one definition of customer service. But not all customer service is good customer service. Consider this case with my mother. Continue reading “Is This What They Mean by Customer Service?”

The Coach and the Kid

The Coach only knew one of the forty-eight kids in the park commission summer baseball draft. With his first pick, he drafted that one kid, and then started drafting by shirt size because that’s what he was told to do by another coach in the room. A couple rounds later, the Coach drafted a Kid (shirt size Large) when all of the other coaches in the room started hooting and hollering.

“That’s the best kid in the league,” they said. “He was absolutely dominant two years ago in Boo Boys,” they said. Great, the Coach thought. Why didn’t you draft him? How good was this Kid?

Two weeks later, every player had been to practice except for the Kid. Night after night, the Coach would call the Kid, and after a few minutes, the Kid would promise to be at practice the next day. But nothing ever changed. No Kid. The Coach asked the team about him every day, and they just shook their heads. Continue reading “The Coach and the Kid”

Just Look for The Lights

“Well, there’s a feeling in the air/Just like a Friday afternoon

You can go there if you want/though it fades too soon.”

— Better Than Ezra, “This Time of Year.”

In every community, there are The Lights. It is The Lights, quite literally, that rise above our flat land that symbolize Fridays in the fall. Buzz Bissinger may have been writing about Texas high school football when he coined the phrase “Friday Night Lights,” but he could have been talking about the Mississippi Delta. Drive into any Delta community on a Friday evening, and if you can find The Lights, then you will almost certainly find that week’s main event. Sure, I guess you could try to follow the cars but the real giveaway is to find that familiar hazy downward glow cutting through the humidity, insect spray, and of course, smoke from the concession stand revealing 100 yards of excitement.

In full disclosure, I must admit that sometimes the search for The Lights can go astray. In 1985, my parents and I drove to the annual Winona Shrine Bowl. Honestly, I did not know there was an annual Winona Shrine Bowl then, and I do not know whether this creature is still in existence. But on that brisk November evening, we set forth in my father’s small Cadillac toward Winona to watch the mighty Bayou Academy Colts. (It is important to note at this time that Winona is not technically in the Delta. It is actually at the foot of “the hills.”) As we drove into Montgomery County, I asked Dad if he knew where we were going. Dad looked back at me like I had asked him for ketchup for an expertly-cooked steak. Continue reading “Just Look for The Lights”

Do You Know How Hard It Is To Be Perfect?

Do you know how hard it is to be perfect?

Notice I didn’t say “good.” I didn’t say “above-average.” I said “perfect.” Both of my wonderful parents cared about me, my siblings, and all of our friends. But Do you know how hard it is to be perfect?

It wasn’t always easy to be the child of Ancil L. Cox, Jr. In fact, there were plenty of times when it was damn hard. I spent many a day in my youth trying to gain our father’s approval in one way or another.

If you knew him, then you knew that whether it was in everyday life or in the practice of law, Dad was a perfectionist. Our home endured story after story about his days as the valedictorian of Shaw High School, and how high his grades were in school.

“Daunting” does not even begin to describe what it was like to be his child. I mentioned that Dad reminded us all his academic success at Shaw High and in college. Naturally, anything less than all “A’s” on my own report card led to some comment about me “not trying,” and I was generally then treated to a lecture about how I was not living up to my potential. His nightly newspaper reading would invariably give him the opportunity to point out some other student who was, in his mind, excelling at something or another in the academic field while I was still not applying myself. I swear to you– because of Dad, I knew my friends’ grades better than my own. At the age of 45, I am now ashamed to admit that the result of this behavior was a resentment/competitiveness in me as a kid and as an early adult toward Dad that is hard to describe with words.

It can’t be that bad, you say. Your father loved you. Of course, he did. I never doubted that fact for one second. But that didn’t mean that it couldn’t be difficult to be his son. Continue reading “Do You Know How Hard It Is To Be Perfect?”