Chicken Salad

The elderly man at the deli counter was undecided. He looked at the lineup of cold salads behind the glass divider with a serious face behind his surgical mask.

It was the kind of face that deep thinkers wear.

“Lemme try a sample of the chicken salad,” he said to the girl behind the counter.

“It’s REALLY good,” said the cheery young woman with the mask and hairnet. “I just made it, it’s world famous chicken salad, at least that’s what my son says. Every time I make it, I just HAVE to take a few pounds home to my son, my son LOVES my world famous chicken salad, he’s the kind of boy who just loves anything with mayo, and I try to tell him, ‘If you keep eating all that mayonnaise, you’re gonna just swell up like a big ole balloon…’”

The man interrupted, “Lemme try the broccoli salad, please.”

“Sure,” said Miss Sunshine, scooping another sample. “Do you know we put CURRY in our broccoli salad? I used to think curry was gross, but I was wrong, curry’s good, I eat it all the time now—the broccoli salad I mean, not the curry by itself. I don’t think anyone would do that, eat curry by itself, but you never know, people do some weird things…”

The grumpy man cut her off. “That’s nice, Miss, I wanna try the Waldorf salad, now.”

“Comin’ right up,” she said. “It’s funny, all the old ladies come in here and get the Waldorf salad, and I just laugh, they’re the cutest things, they used to come in every week to eat and talk, but if you ask my opinion, I hate Waldorf salad because I don’t like fruit and mayonnaise to EVER touch each other, that’s gross, I don’t know why anyone with half a brain would put mayonnaise and fruit together, but you know what I always say? I say, ‘Everybody has their own tastes,’ that’s just what I always say…”

The man was losing patience. “Miss, gimme a half-pound of the chicken salad.”

“It’s world famous.”

“You said that already.”

“You won’t regret it.” She filled his container, and her happy chatter never ended. “Yep, this is world famous chicken salad, that’s what my son calls it. My son likes this stuff better than my sister’s kind, she puts grapes in hers, my son just goes ‘YUK!’ My son doesn’t like grapes, or carrots come to think of it, he’s a picky eater, that’s just how he is…”

While she was speaking, she wandered toward the register to ring the man up.

“Hey!” the man said. “I wasn’t done ordering, I wanted some macaroni, too.”

She slapped her head. “Silly me! Would you look at that? There I was, going straight to the cash register, and there you were, wanting to get macaroni. I get distracted when I’m talking to customers, I start to get all…”

She started scooping macaroni.

“No!” he half shouted. “Not THAT macaroni salad, the MAC AND CHEESE!”

“There I go again, I thought you meant this macaroni salad, but you wanted the macaroni with CHEESE, which I can totally understand because after all who doesn’t like some cheese in their life, right?”

The man sighed a sigh strong enough to tip over an elephant. He rolled his eyes. He looked at his watch. He tapped his foot. He cleared his throat.

This guy was a real day at the beach.

Finally, she rang the man up. He handed over his cash, she handed him a bag of food. And before he left, he had some critical words to impart:

“Young lady,” he said, “you need to learn how to stop running your mouth and serve your customers.”

The girl was noticeably embarrassed. Her face lost its cheer. He yanked the bag from her hands and stormed out.

Next, she was looking over the counter at me, asking what I wanted to order. I could see how tired her eyes were, and how upset she was.

But before I could order, I heard the bell on the door ring.

The front door opened. It was a woman in scrubs, pushing a wheelchair with a young man in it.

The young man looked fourteen, maybe. His head was pressed against a headrest, his body unmoving, his face showing a wide smile. He had tubes coming from beneath his shirt, and an oxygen nosepiece.

The girl forgot all about me. She removed her apron and darted toward the boy.

The boy howled, “Mama!” but he did not move a muscle below his neck.

She kissed the young man. He kissed her. I wish you could’ve seen them.

Soon, the young woman was seated at a table, feeding this boy crackers and some chicken salad. They were lost in their own private world.

“Sir?” A new cashier was behind the counter, talking to me. “Sir, can I help you?”

I turned to see an employee staring. “Sorry,” I said. “I got distracted.”

“It’s okay, what would you like, sir?”

What would I like? Well. It’s simple, really. What I would like is for people to be nice to each other no matter how much it costs. Also, I would like it if someone would give that young woman with the beautiful personality a significant pay raise.

But most of all, I would like a quart of that world famous chicken salad.


  1. Julie - March 10, 2021 6:26 am

    Shame on that grumpy old man for being so mean! I would have followed him out of the store, and raked him over the coals! And if a few bystanders heard me…great!! That would have made it even more embarrassing for the hurtful man!!

    • Jenny Young - March 10, 2021 1:46 pm

      Maybe the hurtful man was dealing with some pretty heavy things himself.
      I’ve been that hurtful man…….I’ve been the lady behind the counter too…..I think the whole point is to be nice despite the load we carry just like this beautiful lady.

    • Lyle - March 11, 2021 2:44 am

      Wouldn’t that be doing the same thing the grumpy old man did!

  2. Verna Montgomery - March 10, 2021 6:46 am

    Thank you for this story Sean…..

  3. christina - March 10, 2021 6:47 am

    Just reading about her gave me all the smiles I needed! Keep preaching kindness, Sean! And I want some of that world famous chicken salad too.

  4. Sandi. - March 10, 2021 7:13 am

    This is a good lesson in not being too hasty to judge someone until we know the facts in a situation.

  5. Joe Dorough - March 10, 2021 10:07 am

    I loved the way she bragged on her son! And when she finished her work day there another would begin at home being a caregiver! She was so joyful. God bless her. We should always be kind to everyone!❤️

  6. Dean - March 10, 2021 11:28 am

    As us southern say bless her heart

  7. Bob Brenner - March 10, 2021 11:56 am

    Nothing better than a smile and chicken salad! Except that sweet young lady and her child being fed her “World Famous Chicken Salad”! I too love my wife’s chicken salad which I consider famous ❤️

  8. elizabeth - March 10, 2021 12:14 pm

    I can’t believe how mean people are these days. Praise her for keeping a smile on her face and her chin up! Now, I need some world famous chicken salad too.

  9. Kate - March 10, 2021 12:15 pm

    Yes, the other man was grumpy and impatient but before we all judge him, maybe he was tired and unhappy for a reason. Maybe he was taking food home to someone he was taking care of or maybe he had lost someone recently or maybe he was just sad and grumpy. Who knows.

  10. Rose - March 10, 2021 12:30 pm

    Yesterday my husband and I were in line to get a Covid 19 shot at a large civic center. It was very well organized and the line moved quickly. Behind us was a lady that absolutely would not stop talking – to anyone who might be close enough to carry on a conversation. We know so much about her because she was telling everyone about her life, not us, just the people behind us. After the first few minutes we thought she would slow down – nope. For the next 45 minutes she talked constantly and loud. Maybe she was lonely and had not seen anyone, maybe she did not realize how loud she was, maybe she was nervous about the shot, but what was amazing to me was that she had that much energy – to talk constantly for over 45 minutes would leave me exhausted. I really kinda envied her energy as I am the type that gets “peopled out” quickly. I doubt that she ever meets a stranger. ❤️

  11. Dianne - March 10, 2021 12:44 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for reminding us that “kindness to others” is free and yet pays many dividends in the end to the giver as well as the receiver of kindness. Bless that young mother and her son.

  12. Te Burt - March 10, 2021 1:11 pm

    Good one, Sean. I wish every curmudgeon could — would — read it!

  13. Leigh Amiot - March 10, 2021 1:15 pm

    Kate, yours was the response I was looking for.
    I sure hope the lady from the deli counter was able to shake off the man’s critique quickly. I imagine she encounters more than one of those a day.

  14. Keloth Anne - March 10, 2021 1:24 pm

    Kindness doesn’t cost a thing and makes a world of difference. What a wonderful story and felt my eyes getting a little watery as I read it—thank you for a morning pick me up🥰🥰

  15. Phil (Brown Marlin) - March 10, 2021 1:35 pm

    That grumpy customer needs to go back in time and visit Mayberry for a few days like the frustrated businessman whose car broke down there in that famous episode.
    I sure hope that happy waitress got her raise. She flat deserves it. Just said a prayer for her and her son.

  16. Jan - March 10, 2021 1:35 pm

    It is so easy to be critical of others without knowing what they are facing each day. I am sometimes guilty of that myself but if I can just stop a moment and reflect it can help me to control those thoughts and prevent me from saying something I will regret. Thank you for another beautiful (and educational) life story!

  17. Janice - March 10, 2021 1:38 pm

    Bless her heart, and God love them both!

  18. Marilyn - March 10, 2021 1:44 pm

    I also agree with Kate’s response. There are two sides to this story. Most of all, TRY to be kind. Since I am not perfect, there have been many times when my patience ran thin. Who knows what another person is going through or dealing with? Just try to treat others as you would like to be treated. Thank you Sean for the reminder. May you ALL have a great day!

  19. Jenny Young - March 10, 2021 1:44 pm

    Oh I love this. What I really love is that you didn’t berate the old man…you just stated that you wished we would all be nicer. We don’t know what the old man was dealing with either & some days it’s so much harder to be nice. But taking our eyes off of our own problems sure does make it easier. Thanks so much for sharing such wonderful stories.

  20. Molly - March 10, 2021 2:13 pm

    We are all going through something. Your beautiful words remind us of that. Thank you for your words to help us stop and think 🤔

  21. Sharon Jones - March 10, 2021 2:25 pm

    You never cease to shoot straight to my heart. I am so thankful for you and your writing!

  22. Bill - March 10, 2021 2:32 pm

    What would I like? Well. It’s simple, really. What I would like is for people to be nice to each other no matter how much it costs. Also, I would like it if someone would give that young woman with the beautiful personality a significant pay raise.

    That cashier has more problems than most of us. You never know the other persons situation. Don’t be to qjuick to judge and have patience..PLEASE.

  23. John in Texas - March 10, 2021 3:02 pm

    Several have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Don’t be hasty in judging someone. Don’t be hasty in judging the elderly man! Who knows? Perhaps he is a caregiver for an elderly wife who is bedridden or is dealing with COVID-19 and he needs to get home to her and feed her some chicken salad and crackers and perhaps she loves Mac and cheese as well.
    Before labeling him a “curmudgeon” maybe we need to consider his situation.

  24. Nela Loflin - March 10, 2021 3:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Today I need a quart of chicken salad and a large dose of the cashier’s kindness.

  25. Anne - March 10, 2021 3:33 pm

    💝 if only there were more love in this world

  26. Linda J Hendrix - March 10, 2021 3:47 pm

    Oh Sean, there you go again exposing real life! When will I learn to have a tissue handy when reading your stories. You always touch my heart strings. Thank you for your gift of writing & conveying reality to us in times of our harsh & cold world.

  27. Linda Moon - March 10, 2021 5:46 pm

    So, how did you know that the man behind the mask was wearing a serious face? Just curious. Running one’s mouth with happy chatter IS a service. I would like to take that young woman and her son to the beach and pack lots of chicken salad and some green-apple Jolly Ranchers for a long day of eating, sunshine, and conversation!

  28. Anthony - March 10, 2021 6:53 pm

    You’re getting your groove back.

  29. Dola - March 10, 2021 7:12 pm

    Thought of you this morning when I received a copy of It’s a Southern Thing and read the article on the funniest words on “The Andy Griffith Show”. Planned to forward it to you but unsure of the correct email address to use.

  30. Ann - March 11, 2021 12:15 am

    ….no one knows what may be going on in an individual life….be kind….thank you Sean

  31. Delanie Trusty - March 11, 2021 2:20 pm

    Wow this was powerful!!!!

  32. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 11, 2021 9:18 pm

    Gee and here I thought maybe I was done crying today. Never!! I will always be touched by how you see people. Really see them. Blessings are seen differently by the beholder. Your writing is a blessing to me and your existence is a blessing to us all.

  33. Dan - March 11, 2021 10:12 pm

    Yeah, but you have the right to remain silent even if you haven’t been arrested.

  34. Joy Dollar - March 11, 2021 11:36 pm

    There you go again, making me cry! But it’s a good cry! Thanks for reminding us all, Sean, to just be kind!

  35. Bernadette Wyckoff - March 12, 2021 4:46 am

    Awesone…no other words needed. Thanks Sean ❣

  36. Thomas M Borchert - March 15, 2021 5:54 pm

    My Mother, who lived to 96, devoured books. Three novels a week. I read business magazines. Never for entertainment. But thanks to my friend Greg S. I am reading your work. Two things I can say about your work. First, you come as close to Sam Clemmins as I’ve ever read. Second, all my life I’ve been told I have a voice that should be on radio. If I ever got so lucky as to do that, I would want to read your stories to anyone who’d listen. Thank you Gregg and thank you Sean.


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