The Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce’s Awards and Installation Dinner on Saturday, first, allowed us to welcome Alicia Booker as the local business advocate’s new president.
Second, it allowed us to celebrate true leaders whose extraordinary community involvement ensures the Crestview area prospers.
Third, it offered a rare moment for business leaders to gather, network and enjoy a meal with lively entertainment – thanks to Jones & Company and Saundra Daggs and Friends – in a completely transformed Crestview Community Center that related the swanky “Lights! Camera! Action!” theme.
But it’s funny how some people — yours truly included — can dwell on the smallest things.
The day before the big event, our ad department and I looked at photos from last year’s dinner, wondering what to wear.
In good faith, I traveled to Mary Esther that night to shop: head to toe would be all new; it was too important an occasion.
Yet, somehow, despite good faith efforts, I failed. This realization came immediately upon entering the Community Center. Noticing the sea of black and white, head to toe, and feeling half-right: black and white, waist up and ankles down, but shameful, unspeakable khakis in between.
In my defense, there were plenty of khakis in the photos from last year’s event. However, I should have known better: with a different theme comes different attire.
Then, I heard Mom’s voice in my head: “You look like a hobo.” (Not the good, Laurel Hill kind, either!) It’s an expression I took exception to; I’ve always believed no one should be slighted for things they can’t change. (In this case, hobos.)
Still, I thought, “You couldn’t even follow simple instructions. The invitation clearly said black and white affair. Photos from last year’s Mardi Gras themed event do not negate that."
“You own black pants. Why didn’t you just put on black pants? They would have looked great with the new jacket.”
Yours truly, usually etiquette conscious (to a fault), was internally anxious while smiling and saying hello to Mayor David Cadle and past chamber president Dennis Mitchell, among others.
While more people arrived, I was bolted to the chair.
Suddenly, a voice: “Thomas, aren’t you having anything to drink?” a co-worker asks.
I confessed the faux pas to seven other News Bulletin associates at our table. For me, it wasn’t about the fashion. It was about an egregious blunder. In such social situations, a lack of conformity signals possibility of anarchy. Not following attire to the letter suggests being up to no good — at least, that’s the mindset with which I was raised, yet that certainly was not the intended message.
So no, I wasn't going to rise from the chair and reveal the awful truth — even if my life depended on that glass of water.
Of course, this crisis was anything but, and there was at least one other guest in khakis. (I counted.) And the chamber staffers smiled and were kind as usual.
However, we all have idiosyncrasies, and keeping a low profile — not standing out — is mine. This column has never been about me; it's always been more about life lessons or advice that can benefit the greater good. Writing it is part of my job description, and it has been a therapeutic experience. Still, working behind the scenes — like the Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” — also would suit me just fine.
Well, the idiosyncrasies kicked into overdrive Saturday night.
“Maybe they’ll think I’m trying to stand out.” (That would be the biggest poker face ever.)
“Maybe I’ll be a trend setter.” (Not likely. I'm really fond of buttoning the top button on golf shirts, but friends have given me the side eye for it.)
“Maybe they’ll think the black pants were accidentally ruined just before the event.” (That’s realistic...)
Of course, none of that mattered. I’m a stickler for business and personal etiquette, but also can put things into perspective. The anxiety lasted a long 15 minutes. But with the awards presentations and Booker’s installation, it melted away. I happily stood up to applaud Citizen of the Year Rae Schwartz — who serves the community in countless ways with the Boy Scouts, Friends of the Library, arts and culture activities and in the knitting and crocheting group, to name just a few — and other inspiring people I’ve grown to know and admire.
Standing up to applaud them was all that mattered. This was their time to shine. It's like a familiar prayer, "Let me decrease, Lord, so that you will increase."
We must never lose focus of what really matters in life.
On that note, it's nice to see residents help raise funds to revive the Crestview Police Department's K-9 unit, and to read about how Disney's "Frozen" inspired Troop 676 Girl Scouts to help the Waterfront Rescue Mission.
It reminds me of another saying of Mom's: "The world doesn’t revolve around you.”