The Third Cheif

November 25, 2008
By Eve Sampson, Gainesville, FL

Words have always been important to me. Particularly the words I communicate with and the way I use them. Words seem to define me and help me separate myself from everyone else. This has been the case ever since I can remember.

A long time ago when I was four or five, I lived in a small duplex with my mommy, my daddy and my brother in Alexandria Louisiana. We conveniently lived right across the street from the hospital where my daddy worked. I loved where daddy worked. He was the Chief of Medicine and he had his very own parking space just for his car. It even had his name on it. It was the very respectable third parking space from the big, shiny front doors. So, to show are pride and enthusiasm, my brother and I called him “The Third Chief.” We thought it to be a very fitting name.

There was never much for a child to do in our small parish, so going to work with your parent was not uncommon or unexpected. It was actually all good fun for the soft-spoken and well behaved child. There were adult stories to here, new words to learn, and lots and lots of peppermints in the bowl at the receptionist’s desk. I loved sitting with the big people at meetings and office parties. I loved showing them around the spacious building from atop my daddy’s shoulders. I loved hearing their deep, mature voices talk about things my small mind could only imagine the meaning or significance of. I desperately yearned to contribute to their conversations. I wanted them to notice me -- to listen.

My chance for attention came rather unexpectedly. It was actually just another hot, August Saturday in the office with daddy, when he was called to show some new interns around the hospital’s campus. That news was agreeable and welcome -- a tour around the grounds meant a piggyback ride for me. I was hoisted up, and positioned on the back of my sturdy mount before we set off.

We met the sizable young men on the first floor, and showed them around the main buildings. We traveled from one wing to another, up one flight of stairs then down another, basically trekking through the entire clean, organized wilderness of the hospital.

As our tour winded down to a tasty stop inside the cafeteria, my opportunity to declare myself and contribute arose. As my daddy was turned around filling up his cup by the soda fountain, he said something to the interns, probably without meaning to, under his breath. The continued to talk to each other, without even realizing they had been addressed. I was furious! How could someone possibly ignore my daddy! My big, strong, “chiefly,” daddy! This was a capital offense! This had to be made right. Aha! My chance had arrived -- people were going to hear what I had to say! Never again would I be in the shadows! The time to speak up had come! For the first time ever, I opened my mouth not just to get what I needed, but to be heard! To be paid attention to! This was only the beginning of the rest of my expressive life! I had so many things to say, so many opinions to declare. As my mouth opened a whole new world opened!

In my flash of fury and realization, all I could exclaim was, “Listen up you chickens! The Third Chief is speaking!”

They were speechless for a whole moment before they burst into laughter! A whole moment! Victory never tasted so sweet! That world had opened, and neither it nor my mouth has ever closed since.

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