The Secretary of State of Laughter

Thirteen-year Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is known for many accomplishments. In 2012, he initiated a crackdown on illegally parking in spaces intended for the handicapped that resulted in 187 citations. He has created an Adult Literacy program, providing services to Illinois residents to help them to participate in family and community endeavors. And he also initiated the Jesse White Tumblers in 1959 to provide a positive place for Chicago children to challenge themselves. He can add another feather to his cap, too, one which I am very privileged to have experienced firsthand. The man can make me laugh, even when I am a little overwhelmed.

On a cold February weeknight, Mr. White and four companions wanted to dine privately after a long day of politicking at City Hall. The maitre d’ asked if I would serve them, since there were only two of us manning the dining room at the time. Not knowing who I was being asked to serve, I began wondering how I would be able to split my responsibilities with the constant travel from area to area. But past experiences with regular customers are a great light when I think I may trip in the darkness of my job. When I saw Jesse White at the table, I knew it would be okay.

Once the company was in place and a friend had provided bread, I greeted them and asked for preferred beverages. Most requested iced teas and water, and there was a Diet Coke in Position Four. Jesse White, sitting in Position Five, was last to speak.

“I’d like a glass of merlot,” he said, which was odd to hear, when I was used to seeing him during the daytime hours with a congregation of tee-totalers.

I left the table to visit the soda fountain in the kitchen first, since it was near the fresh-brewed Pekoe tea. Next, Clink! went a shovel of half-moon shaped ice cubes into three tall soda glasses. Fixing one underneath the appropriately marked “Diet Coke” nozzle, I eyed the bubbly cola’s rise to the rim, while alternating the others under the tea spigot. Last, a quick walk to the bar service well, where I uncorked a French merlot, tipped the bottle, and allotted an amount into a Bordeaux glass.

The guests’ table was ten steps away, and I delivered each diner his appropriate drink upon arrival. Finally, I approached Mr. White’s side and leaned over, placing the glass at one o’clock, just east of his dinner setting.

Mr. White pointed at the glass, looked at me, and said something I will never forget.

“You realize that if I get drunk from this,” he dead-panned,” that I’ll take your license away. “

I erupted in laughter.


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