As a young boy in boarding school, Thursday mornings were the day to be feared. Of all the days for this to happen, just as the weekend was approaching and there was a possibility of free time, Thursday inspection occurred.
Every hall in every dorm had it’s docent, usually a senior who was dreaded for his authority. Cross him the wrong way and you’d be polishing his shoes for days.
In our small enclosed world, he was the boss, but nothing was as bad as Thursday mornings. Every Thursday immediately following breakfast was room inspections. From every infraction came an hour of hard labor to be performed on the weekend before you could leave campus.
So on every Thursday, Warren Van Deventer, a minister’s son, with no remorse for his cruelty and ruthlessness, would carefully and very deliberately put on his white gloves and with a steel glint in his eyes mosey on down the hall and start his weekly inspection.
If he had chores he wished done he was ever more eager to find failure in this useless brood of no good youth. If he needed his shoes shined, his windows cleaned, his floor polished, this was his chance to find some free slave labor to be at his beck and call.
In he would walk into my tiny cubby hole of a room with revenge in his eyes, his gloves glistening white as he smoothed his finger over each and every surface of the room. After every pass of his finger on a surface he would check his white glove to see if there was even a slight shadow of dust. If he had any doubts off to the window he would go to doubly check his immaculate gloves for any sign of disdain.
Each time a surface was polished with his glove, if he were to find the slightest dust or dirt an hour of hard labor was bestowed upon you. Woe to you if you were sloppy. You’d be working all weekend.
My first few months of school I was never without some hours of labor to fulfill, but after sometime, I learned my lessons well, and I was ready for his onslaught.
I dared him to touch my desk, my closet, my floor, anything and find a sign of dust. I was my mother’s son and cleaning had become one of my few triumphs.
But the real test, that distinguished me from my contemporaries was my bedmaking. I could have been a general in the marines if they advanced you purely on your bedmaking skills. There was not a ripple in the blankets. The sheets were new, very tight and crisp. The hospital corners were immaculate.
So on Thursday I stood proudly by my bed waiting for that fitful moment when Warren Van Deventer took his white gloves off and put his hand deeply into his pocket and pulled out a new shiny American quarter.
He took this quarter and dropped it in the middle of the bed. If it didn’t bounce and flip over, one hour of hard labor was your reward. His quarter always bounced on my bed as I looked gleefully at my small triumph.
So as the years went on I became masterful at cleanliness and bedmaking. I am here today to tell you that these lessons were not in vain.
My house today is immaculate, but more importantly, if you were to bounce a quarter on our bed, it would never retire gracefully but instead would bounce and soar. The Germans have always had it right, except when they had it very wrong, that cleanliness learned through a minister’s son would bring you that much closer to godliness.