Monday, December 2, 2013

As Plain as the Nos on our Faces

It was Dylan’s first day at his new job. You remember Dylan. He was the young man who had some trouble with the old Past Master at his Lodge. (The Modern Vitruvian, "Perspectives," June, 2013). He was so excited to be here. He had dreamed of landing a job like this from the day he started college. 

This place was the place to work. He had heard stories of how incredible it was there. They had a relaxed dress code, an onsite gym, childcare (not that he needed that yet), and the cafeteria – well, that was legendary. More like a four star restaurant from what he had heard, and the executive chef had been hired away from one of the city’s top restaurants.

He arrived early that morning and began walking across the campus to his building. This really is like a college campus, he thought. He marveled at working for a company this big. There were people everywhere. Business was clearly being conducted by the four people huddled around a laptop on one of the benches by the duck pond. It was even obvious that that the group of runners that passed him was actually in the midst of a strategy session. I’m going to love it here.

He arrived at his office and Sharon showed him to his desk. It was Sharon who had interviewed and hired Dylan. She was Department Manager, whatever that meant, and so far, the only person Dylan knew by name. As she escorted him through the open workspace she cleared her throat. Satisfied that she had everyone’s attention, she said, “Everyone, this is Dylan. He’s the newest member of the team.” He was greeted with an assortment of waves, smiles and hellos, but soon, everyone turned his attention back to his work.

“Here we are,” Sharon said. “Make yourself comfortable. You can take lunch whenever you’d like. The cafeteria is in Building Four. They’ll have veal piccatta today. It’s amazing.” She flashed a smiled as she turned on her heel, and Dylan took his seat.

The morning passed rather quickly, and Dylan’s stomach informed him that it was time to eat. He asked a few of his new office mates if they wanted to join him, but they had other plans. He made his way to Building Four and followed his nose to the cafeteria. Dark oak paneling, crystal glasses, and waitstaff in bowties really did make this feel like a four star experience. The only things that seemed odd to Dylan were that the long tables were covered in linen tablecloths, and that he could sit anywhere he wanted. Well, that, and the fact that he was carrying a tray of veal piccatta, mushroom risotto, and sugar snap peas instead of the requisite club sandwich and chips.

He scanned the room looking for a place to sit. Nearly everyone was massed in groups, laughing and talking. One or two looked up at him for a second before returning to their conversations, but most paid no attention to Dylan as he wandered around, anxious to dig in to his meal. Finally, he spotted a table at the far end that was empty. Well, I guess I’m eating alone until I make some friends here.As he was hurrying to claim the empty table, he saw a man who was sitting alone. The man smiled at Dylan as he passed. The smile was so genuine that it made Dylan forget about the empty table at the far end of the room and stop short. “Mind if I join you,” Dylan asked.

“Please do. I’m Marcus,” the man said, offering his hand. As Dylan took his seat, he sensed nearly every eye had turned his way. As ridiculous as it seemed, all those people who wouldn’t even look up earlier were now focused on him. Only my imagination, he told himself.

“I haven’t seen you here before. What do you do,” Marcus asked.

“Design and Marketing Department. It’s my first day. You?”

“This and that,” Marcus said. “I’m the president.”

Dylan felt his face flush. He suddenly realized why everyone had been watching him so closely. “Marcus? Like Marcus Christensen? I. . .I’m really sorry I bothered you. I had no idea.” Dylan knew who Marcus Christensen was. Everyone did. He was a legend - one of the youngest men ever to make the Forbes 500. Dylan got up to move. He was mortified.

“Stay, please. I could use the company. I almost always eat alone. Everyone is afraid to sit with me.”

Dylan stayed, and had one of the most enjoyable conversations he could remember. Marcus was a great guy – down to earth, easy to talk to. When he finally rose to leave, Marcus asked, “So what was it that made you join me?”

“Well. When I looked around the room, everyone seemed so shut off. Their body language, their faces, everything about them said no. You made eye contact. You smiled.” He paused before adding, “I guess they had NO faces and you had a YES face.”

“Thanks,” Marcus said. “Same time tomorrow?”

“Sure thing,” Dylan replied, certain that it wasn’t really a question.


As Modern Vitruvians, we’ve all been in a situation like that. The fact is that we have probably played all of those parts at one time or another. We’ve been the outsider, the welcoming stranger, and truthfully, we have also been the one wearing the NO face.

The next time you’re at Lodge, there will probably be someone new there. What will you do? Will you be caught up in a conversation with a few of the Officers? Maybe, but you can open the circle and allow the new Brother in. While you’re having dessert after the next meeting at the Valley, will you smile at the unfamiliar Brother, or will you let him walk by without acknowledging him, your indifference as plain as the NO on your face?

I already know what you’ll do. You’re a Modern Vitruvian. You’ll be warm and welcoming. You will treat him the way you would want to be treated.

I’ll see you at the Valley. I’ll be sure to be wearing my best YES face.