Never Look a gift horse in the mouth
Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
The meaning of that phrase came to mind one day when we were standing in line at the Panera Bread Company, waiting to order a coffee and bagel. With each purchase, the company records your expenditure and frequently offers you a bagel, pastry, coffee or some other food product as a reward for being a good customer. In that we are regular patrons of this estimable establishment, we are frequent recipients of this reward program and are very appreciative of the company’s largesse.
On this particular morning, a gentleman in his mid seventies was standing in front of us. His suspenders marked him as a spiffy dresser or one who likes to be noticed. When the staffer asked if he wanted too use his Panera Card to qualify for these inducements, he uttered the following.
“Why would I ever even use the card, you never give me any of the free stud that I want.” The clerk, nonplussed, took his order and completed the transaction. Like all people who work in retail, she was long inured to boobs and rude behavior. We, who did not, were appalled.
"You don’t give me any of the free stuff I want,” I repeated to myself. Was this guy for real? A company this generous isn’t even appreciated by a boob who wants more?
There is an expression, which dates back to antiquity, that best characterizes this situation, “Don’t Look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Various references works explain the meaning of the phrase thusly:
" Never look a gift horse in the mouth! Wait, why would I not want to do that? Well, think of it this way: if someone was polite enough to give you your very own horse as a gift, would you then inspect the animal to see if it's of good quality, especially when the person who gave the horse to you is standing right there next to you? Probably not, because that might be seen as very rude behavior."
Well, this banana had just taken a very big look at the horse’s teeth and not even realized he was being a boob in doing so. Some people are just like that I guess.
Years back, I had a very good friend and political ally in Buffalo’s City Hall. Carl Perla, a West Side political baron and the son of Sicilian immigrants, was possessed of that earthy wisdom acquired by people who for centuries had worked the soil to scratch our a hard living.
"Some people are never happy," he often opined. "They travel through the banquet of life with a chicken under one arm, a ham under the other and both hands filled with veal cutlets. And instead of enjoying the blessings showered upon them, they are extremely unhappy that they don’t have two hands free to grab two more steaks off of the table in the banquet of life."
I have often thought of Carl’s earthy wisdom and remembered it this day while watching the rude dufus in that line “looking into the horse’s mouth.”
Life, as Carl suggested, is truly a banquet where the blessings of the good Lord have been showered upon us. And when a company,or any kind soul, in their wisdom, decided to add to that banquet with customer loyalty rewards or just a random act of kindness, we should be appreciative of any additional bounty that we are given and enjoy what life has given us.
Looking into a horse’s mouth, when a gift is given, is only going to bring you a warped view of that bounty and mark you as one of the unfortunate and unhappy people that Carl always mentioned. So, say Thanks when someone does something nice for you. It doesn’t happen all that often and generous people deserve to be acknowledged.
Joseph Xavier Martin