Have you ever seen a person working a room and turned to someone who might know and asked, "Who is that?"
Just such an occasion occurred when I first got to know my old friend Joe Arciniega. Joe was one of those guys who seemed to know everyone in the room and if you didn't know him it wouldn't be long before you would. He always seemed to have a smile on his face. He exuded happiness. He was kind of like a Labrador retriever nuzzling everyone he encountered.
We have been discussing the finer points of condiments recently such as salt and mayonnaise (versus salad dressing). So I thought it appropriate in light of the recently announced merger of Heinz and Kraft to turn our focus to ketchup.
What brought Joe to mind was a story he once told that involved a key figure from his youth and yes, ketchup. Joe and I served on a committee tasked with raising money and developing consensus. One day at a gathering, he shared a story with a group of teachers about his elementary school days in his hometown of Los Angeles.
It was around his fifth- grade year when he encountered a teacher who took an important stand. You see, the cafeteria served ketchup from a large can, brand X if you please. The teacher had a fondness for ketchup with his meals and kept his own bottle of Heinz ketchup in his room to ensure his meals would have every appropriate element.
He went into great detail with the boys about not settling for anything less than the best and for him it meant it was Heinz or nothing. Can't you just see a bunch of 10-year-old boys taking in such teaching as gospel from a guy in a short-sleeve button down shirt and horn-rimmed glasses? He wasn't just teaching the three R's — he was teaching standards of excellence. Wonder if he knew it would be the lesson of a lifetime?
For my part, he had it right. It's Heinz for me or mediocrity.
In fact, if you were with me last week, if a restaurant has any brand other than Heinz, when it's time to eat some fries it creates an immediate search for mayo.
My old friend Joe moved away from Tyler a few years back. It was Tyler's loss and Fort Worth's gain. I feel certain he is spreading the same smiles, love and excellence everywhere he goes in Cowtown.