`I second that!'

MERLIN, longtime member of our local chapter of Birdfeeders International, deemed it his right to second all motions from the floor. Over the years, Merlin had seconded perhaps a hundred-thousand motions, an enviable record by anybody's standard. Merlin simply started out seconding motions from the floor and liked it so much he refused to stop. Since the rest of us didn't particularly care who seconded our motions, Merlin got a permanent job. When asked when he was going to retire from seconding motions (I believe by Penworthy), Merlin replied: ``Let somebody try and stop me!''

In our eyes, Merlin had raised motion-seconding from utility to art. You don't spend that much of your life seconding motions and not make a contribution to quality. Somebody (McDuel, or Fontonsby, or Grimmett, it really doesn't matter who) will make a motion,say, to ``promulgate and maximize the utilization of the Frank Lloyd Wright design in birdhouse construction,'' and before the motion-maker's words have fallen to the floor, while they are still hanging in the air, Merlin will rise and second it. P otential motion-seconders are left with the inchoate beginnings of a second to a motion rumbling in their throats.

When Fender joined the club, trouble got its foot in the door. Fender was summa cum laude in seconding motions in college, but of course he lacked the years of practical experience Merlin had. Fender immediately began to try to second motions at the next business meeting. He was all tweedy, with leather patches at the elbows, and when he stood to second a motion made by Horwath (something to the effect that all birdhouses built before 1975 should be remodeled or condemned), we gasped at his display of e rudition. But while Fender was assuming his posture, Merlin seconded the motion.

It was a long time before Fender was any real competition for Merlin, illustrating, I suppose some of the advantages of experience over book learning. This condition gave rise to Merlin's latent sense of humor. At business meetings, Merlin waited much longer than usual before rising to say, ``I second that!'' Fender, in the interim, supposing in his naivet'e he actually had a chance to win, would jump up excitedly and prepare his mouth to second the motion. But before Fender could say the words, Merlin would, like lightning, his boastful laugh filling the place. Sometimes Merlin would pretend to not be at a business meeting. He would hide under a seat, or behind a potted fern. Fender, now full of confidence, would rise proudly to second a motion, only to have Merlin jump up at the last millisecond and best him.

Fender got slowly faster, and came the day when he was almost as fast as Merlin. Each motion from the floor, seconded by Merlin, drew Fender's echo. Competition became fierce as Fender closed the gap on Merlin. Our meetings were a battleground. Finally, the membership became loath to initiate motions from the floor, because of the commotion it set up. I, as chairman, told Merlin, and Fender, that the only way I could see to solve the problem was to alternate the job of seconding motions, take turns. The re seemed no other way. Fender agreed to it with academic dignity, of course, but Merlin, the fire gone from his eyes, was crushed. Merlin, from that day hence, never seconded another motion.

Fender became champion at motion-seconding, and things went well for a while -- until a brand-new member, Greenbaum, began to challenge him. And so forth and so on. D'ej`a vu, I guess you could call it.

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