(From the chapter "A Scout is Courteous" within "Patches and Pins..." by Mike Walton (c) 1989. All 13 Scout Law points are posted as part of the U.S. Scouting Service Project's MacScouter web
I chose this particular Scout Law point because, well, my eyesight in my left eye is challenging me. Eventually, over time, I was told I would lose much if not all, of the sight from that eye. In the meantime, they are going to relieve the pressure in that eye by inserting a tube close to my top eyelid in a month and a half and giving me drops to use and pills to take. )
It should say that "A Scout is a Gentleman instead of "Courteous." However, courtesy goes beyond that of good manners and proper eating around a table or bench. It runs over into our daily lives and makes it much easier for people to be around each other.
My "final exam" of courtesy came while I was an undergraduate student at Eastern Kentucky (University).
Richmond's Frisch's restaurant is now a video store, located at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and the Eastern By-Pass in the campus town. I do not know when it opened, but during the five years I stayed at Eastern, it has brought me many memories and provided the basis for many of the stories I tell in this book and the speeches I have made over the past few years.
Frisch's -- part of the nationwide "Big Boy Restaurants" chains headquartered in Ohio -- also provided me with many new friends and has helped me to reacquaint myself with many old friends.
A cup of coffee, a piece of pie, some conversation, and on occasion, a newspaper was all I needed to escape the confusion, hustle, and general chaos of campus and personal living. I have talked with girlfriends and friends who are girls; classmates; ROTC "generals" who thought that they and only they hold the keys to future battlefield success (and in one case I know of, was right!); Scouting leaders and junior Scouting leaders and former Scouting leaders.
Jannine and I found the coffee excellent.
She found me -- sitting at a table across from the center of the restaurant. "Hey," she said, looking at me as I picked up my coffee cup. "You're a ---you're Mike Walton, the Scout guy, aren't you?" I grimaced at first, being called "the Scout guy" instead of something else not so revealing.
I guess, though, if one was to wear his Scout shirt across campus on Tuesdays, no matter what, somebody would start calling you "the Scout guy," too.
"Yeah...I'm the guy. Hi. Have a seat, please." She did, right across from me, and then I added, "Who are you?" Jannine Hardiman recognized me as a Student Senate candidate before she knew me as the "Scout guy," she explained. She said that she had been watching me, but I haven't seen her. She was a person I would have noticed in a heartbeat. Everything about her was perfect: she was the perfect height, weight, shape. Her hairstyle and even her coyness was just enough to catch the eyes of any male attracted to beautiful coeds on the campus. Her major did not hurt things, either.
In my day, we called students working on degree programs leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics and Consumer Education, "working on their "Mrs.." "
However, with all of that going for her, she had a slight flaw. I could not keep my eyes from wandering there, which is why I failed my Scout Law "final" on the point of courtesy.
She had a pair of rather beautiful green eyes to match her almost almond-colored hair. One that moved; the other just looked at you without blinking or moving.
As she sipped her coffee and chattered on about New Hampshire (her home state) and the cold weather and the beauty of it all, I was impressed by the way she behaved. I mean, if I was mono-sighted (having the use of one eye) and I was trying to date or make an impression upon a girl, I would tend to be holding my hand up near my eye or at least trying to make some attempt to hide it.
Not this girl.
I finally admitted what I was so rudely doing. "I know," she said, "and at least you had the guts to say it. You've never believed how many guys spend the entire date looking at my eyes, and when I ask what they are looking at, they give me some crap about "nothing,"
I smiled and then took another drink from my giant coffee cup.
I asked her to share with me how did she lose the other eye.
"Not here," she replied, ensuring that I get the "F" I deserve in Courteous. I could have slapped my face for asking such a stupid request, but I was genuinely interested....now that I could admit that I was looking instead of stealing glances at the glass eye. Jannine never did tell me how she lost it and I never asked again.
We never dated. We would somehow meet each other at the Frisch's, sometimes running into each other at dinner time, or during the busy lunch hour, or over a long slow weekend. She just wanted to sit and talk about classes, what's good to eat and what's full of empty calories (like the coffee we both were "addicted" to), and to hear my many stories of Scouting and the guys that share the space on the floor where I lived across and up the hill from the restaurant.
The owners of the Frisch's moved their restaurant to the northern end of the city, away from the campus because amazingly enough, he was not getting enough business there. Two months after they left, a famous video store-bought the building and transformed it into another location of their nationwide video outlet.
Once I started work for the Boy Scouts in Jackson, I seldom ran into her. I did see her, however, on the day of her graduation, since it was mine as well. She was accompanied by a handsome man, stopping to take pictures of the campus and his friend and graduate.
Never let your guard down and try to practice your skills of being a gentleman all of the time. You may never know when you need the skills of good manners, of being understanding and kind, and of being aware of your surroundings. Those are all skills of courtesy.
I hope that when you have to take your final in this Scout Law, that you pass with flying colors. Now, where does that fork and knife go again??