Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Do Your Job Like Nora

This is a message for all you kids out there. And also all you adults who act like kids. And really, also you adults who act like adults. This is a message for everyone, I guess.

This is a story about having pride in your work. This is a story about “Nora.”

Nora is in quotes there because I’m old and I didn’t write it down, so I’m only about sixty-five percent sure her name was actually Nora, but I’m rolling with it because calling her Hostess X makes this sound like a story about sci-fi or street drugs, which it is not.

You see, all three of our boys were out of the country over spring break last week, and my wife’s school district was holding spring break at the exact same time, so we were forced by parental law and basic common sense to escape by ourselves on vacation. We went to Tennessee and visited Memphis and Nashville. I would highly recommend both.

We have two good friends who have spent time in Memphis, so we got restaurant recommendations galore for the birthplace of rock and roll. We ate at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. We ate at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. We ate at Central BBQ. We ate at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous. We had to unbutton the top of our pants a couple times. Totally worth it.

All of those places were amazing in their own right, but one place shined above all others – because of Nora.

Nora is the hostess at a little place called Itta Bena. It sits above B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street, and if you didn’t know it was there, you would never know, because it doesn’t have any signs. Literally none. We had to ask the bouncer at the door of B.B. King’s how to get there, and he told us to go around the corner to Second Street and go up the stairs with the blue awning.

The stairs looked shady at best, and when we got to the top, we were greeted by a blank door that looked equally shady. Thankfully, everything on the other side of the door was amazing.

Backing up to earlier that day, we were at the National Civil Rights Museum, in between chicken breakfast and rib lunch, when I got a phone call. I answered and a young lady asked, “Is this Mr. Schmatjen?” Now, you have to understand, with a last name like Schmatjen, we have a built-in BS detector when it comes to telemarketing. You automatically know if the person on the other end of the phone knows you or not.

If they try to pronounce it like any normal human would, I say, “What is this regarding?” If they pronounce it how my insane ancestors decided they would, I say, “Yes, it is.”

“Yes it is,” I said.

“Hello, this is Nora calling from Itta Bena. Just confirming your reservation with us tonight.”

“Umm… yes. Uh… we will be there. Thank you.”

I hung up the phone with a puzzled look on my face. I didn’t know Nora, and she didn’t know me, but she pronounced my last name flawlessly. My wife, who had been scowling at me for answering my phone in the National Civil Rights Museum, saw the look on my face and asked what was wrong.

“That was Itta Bena calling about our reservation, and she knew how to pronounce our name.”

“Didn’t you make the reservation online?”

“Yes I did.”

“Wow,” my wife agreed. “That is weird.”

When we navigated the speakeasy-type entrance later that evening and made it to the hostess desk, I had almost forgotten about it. But when I said, “Marc for two,” to the young lady that turned out to be Nora, she said, “Ah, yes. Mr. Schmatjen.”

“All right, time out. How do you know how to pronounce our name?”

Nora almost seemed to get a little embarrassed as she explained, “Well, before I make calls in the morning, I do a little internet research to see if I can figure out the hard names, because… well, it matters to me.”

My wife and I both complimented her on that, and then she showed us to our table. We then proceeded to have a phenomenal dinner in the little upstairs hidden restaurant. Itta Bena comes with my highest recommendation, even if your last name is Smith. The food was insanely good.

A few days later, after thinking about how strangely above and beyond Nora did her job, I called Itta Bena and spoke to her manager. I told him how impressed I was that she would take the time to do something that, most certainly, the world would never expect a restaurant hostess to do.

The norm would be for someone on the other end of the phone to ask for me by my first name and then apologize for not knowing how to pronounce the last name. I would then joke with them about how it’s a sight word, or that we should have bought a few more vowels from Pat and Vanna, and then we’d go on about our business.

No one, including myself, would ever expect you to know how to pronounce it when you see it. But Nora made the effort. It is a seemingly small thing, but when you live your life with a last name like Schmatjen, it turns out it’s a big deal.

It was a big deal to her manager, too, because he didn’t know she did that, and he was thrilled to hear about one of his employees shining at their job.

So, my challenge for you folks out there is to attack your job like Nora does. Don’t just show up and do your job. Show up early, stay late, and do your job exceptionally well.

And I said it before, but I’ll say it again – great job, Nora!

By the way, I never did catch your full name... Probably something like Nora Wegrzynkiewicz.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2024 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite book is from SmidgeBooks

Your new favorite humor columnist is on Facebook Just a Smidge

No comments:

Post a Comment