Almost every Monday morning I can look forward to a series of email messages that say the same thing, “Harold Selby has added a new photo to his Facebook page.”
Since Harold started running to reduce his cholesterol two years ago he has become the master of the marathon.
It was an evolutionary process. When I first noticed the repetitive nature of these emails, he was in the top 10 in his age group then the top two or three in his age group to first in his age group and once, I believe, first overall.
As his waistline got smaller and his smile got bigger, Harold also became the master of Facebook, posting one photo, then two or three then sometimes eight or 10.
This morning he posted two videos, one of an eagle rising from a tree that sets on the bluff between his house and the Meramec River and soaring out over the fields south of Pacific. His note said: “This is the eagle that visits us. What a show for the veterans.” The second video was a powerboat of some sort on the river, which is incredibly blue from the vantage point of Harold’s blufftop site.
I was expecting a marathon video following week-after-week of still-shots showing marathon runners, finish lines and victory banners, in various locations, mostly in Missouri. But the eagle was a good switch.
The reason I’m writing about Harold is not to boast about his perfect cholesterol and trim figure, but to remark on his sense of humor, which may be his most effective management tool.
Harold is funny.
When I see him around the people who work for him, there seems to be a lot of laughter. Harold doesn’t laugh out loud with big guffaws of laughter. In fact sometimes when he is at his funniest, he is absolutely deadpan, displaying not the slightest glimmer of grin.
I was reminded of this at the board of aldermen meeting the other night when my buddy Austin Myers, of Brush Creek Sewer District fame, said Harold had disrespected him.
Austin also has a unique style of delivery. Both he and Harold are masters at resolving conflicts and orchestrating compromises where others throw up their hands. They just have different styles of approaching the problem.
I was actually enjoying Austin’s description of baseball patrons getting parking tickets on residential streets near the PYA ball fields where the signs say “No Ballpark Parking.” Austin thought it was discriminatory and wanted to see the city ordinance that said the people going to the baseball game were expressly forbidden from parking on the street.
He couldn’t believe it, he said. He wanted to see the printed word. Where was the ordinance? He couldn’t believe it even more that no one in city hall was able to locate the ordinance. You mean, maybe, there isn’t an ordinance and the city has been writing all these tickets. He was just tossing out one little jibe after another in a very friendly voice.
He said when he asked Harold, whom he called Mr. Selby, for the ordinance Mr. Selby said, “It’s going to cost you.” When pressed for how much it might cost, Mr. Selby said. “It’s going to cost you a lot.”
Austin thought it was terrible that he should have to pay a lot for a copy of a city ordinance, and, as a matter of fact, he didn’t like Mr. Selby’s attitude.
As soon as I heard the comments, I knew that Harold had said it. He has said those same express words to me on more than one occasion. I could even hear the inflection in his voice. “It’s going to cost you.” But, the thing is, he always said it in jest – deadpan as all get out, but in jest. Humor is Harold’s stock in trade.
I was stunned that Austin didn’t get it. Austin is master at soft sarcasm, throwing out one-liners that cause the listener to stop and think. He is sooooo intelligent. It occurred to me that he might be putting us on. Maybe he knew Mr. Selby was only kidding and he was just trying to get people to think about what was really going on. If you’re going to tell one group of people that they can’t park where everyone else can park, you better have a law.
I happen to agree with Austin on the parking thing, but the mayor said he has been advised that the city can enforce the signs – although he personally would rather police didn’t give out tickets but just leave the ballpark patrons on their honor to refrain from parking there once they read the signs. We’ll have to see how all this works out.
But on the thing about Harold being disrespectful, I have to tell you . . . It just isn’t believable.
There have been dicey situations where others at city hall showed their anger and elected officials have, from time to time, said things to patrons in a public meeting that I wish they hadn’t said. But I’ve never seen Harold do it. Harold is the dealmaker, the grant finder, the guy who tries to make things work for everyone.
But as a technologically challenged computer user, I know where Austin is coming from. This morning I had to download a new flash player to view Harold’s video. In order to do that I had to know my Adobe ID and password and I did not think that was funny.
Pauline Masson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-805-9800.