Save me from uniquity

OUR other Maine senator was on the TV one evening to find fault with the administration, and he said President Reagan is in a most unique situation. I do hope somebody calls this to the attention of the President, as I doubt if he watches our Channel 2 regularly and he might like to know about this exceptional preferment that has elevated him to a grammatical superfluity. I was in a hobby store a while back looking for a bunch of raffia (which I didn't find) and I overheard a salesman trying to work off some postage stamps on what I suppose was an avid collector. ``This one,'' he said, ``is in perfect condition -- but these two here are even better.'' There is a story from away back about an auctioneer who offered two pewter candlesticks which were, in pattern and definition, a pair. These were very old, made by a craftsman with exceptional skill, designed to sit opposite each other on a mantel. This auctioneer made a big mistake -- instead of bringing up both candlesticks and offering them together, he brought up one and offered it as ``unique.'' People who had come to buy looked at each other and wondered. Since this was one of a pair, where was the other? This disturbed them, and, like Brer Fox, they lay low. The auctioneer begged and teased, but silence prevailed and he couldn't find a bid.

Then a young man up back who was not a dealer in precious antiques but chanced to be present from idle curiosity and had a head on his shoulders put two and two together and figured things out. Since one candlestick would be worthless without its mate, why not take a wild and inexpensive fling at a possibility? He called out, ``Fifty dollars!''

Ha, and ha! A flurry of hilarity ran through the bidders, and they turned to look at the foolish person who would waste that money on a single candlestick of an acknowledged pair. The young man handed up his $50 and took his candlestick. He retired to wait for Chapter 2. Chapter 2

Now the auctioneer brings up the second candlestick and asks, ``How much am I bid?'' At this, those who had tittered turned again to look at the young man, who sat serenely on his stool with his unique candlestick in his hand, and he seemed smug. It was understood that should anybody bid on the second candlestick, it would be worthless until he came to terms with the young man. The auctioneer pleaded, but nobody bid. Then the young man roused, and in a charitable voice mentioned $50 again. All at once everybody, including the sorrowful auctioneer, could see that an investment of a mere hundred dollars for two unique candlesticks had brought on the great truth that the pair was worth $75,000.

The moral is simply that sometimes it doesn't pay to be more unique.

In pursuit of this thought, I can explain that I was never unique enough to be a Rotarian. This is true. In my youth, membership in Rotary International was limited to one man from each business and profession. Since the editor of the weekly paper that exploited me was a Rotarian, the club couldn't take on another journalist. This caused me remorse which remained imperceptible. One time I was in the kitchen of the hotel where the Rotary Club dined, and I saw the waitresses going in with the chicken patty shells, and all envy was dissipated. I never felt squelched because I couldn't become a Rotarian, and I used to write the weekly report of the Rotary meetings faithfully and in good spirit. I wrote it because the editor, even though he was at the meeting, lacked any great flair for writing, and if we'd waited for him we'd have locked up late. He used to tell me what he could remember, and I'd check with the club secretary, and we always had a bang-up good Rotary story.

Then one day I was writing the speech that would be given when they dedicated the new Spanish War veterans' home, and I looked up from my typewriter to see a dapper gentleman who introduced himself as the membership representative for Rotary. He explained that until now Rotarians were unique, each to his own. But recently this uniquity had been relaxed, and now they had categories for each pursuit. That is, we could have an editor, and also a reporter. The bars, he said, had been let down. He invited me to become a Rotarian. I thanked him and declined, and that explains why I never Rotated. But I have taken some satisfaction during the years at being more unique than some and less unique than others.

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