Chicken Salad

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

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.

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 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 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.”

She filled his container, and her happy chatter never ended.

“Yep, this is world famous chicken salad,” she went on. “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 shouted. “Not THAT macaroni salad, the MAC AND CHEESE!”

“There I go again,” she said. “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 with a breath 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 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 smile. She blushed.

He 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 jaw.

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

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

“Sir?” said a voice behind me. “Sir, can I help you?”

I turned to see an employee staring at me.

“Sorry,” I said. “I got distracted.”

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

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 a raise.

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


  1. Janice Hansen Takashima - February 3, 2019 7:59 am

    Thank you, Sean. With all the emphasis on fear and unkindness in the news these days–particularly in the South– I love to read your stories of gratitude and kindness of real people you see around you there. I hope it is true that we get more of what we pay attention to and that more people will decide to pay more attention to the kind of things that you point out to us.

  2. W. Gary Smith - February 3, 2019 8:13 am

    Amen! I bet the chicken salad was heavenly……

  3. Marilyn Ward Vance - February 3, 2019 10:28 am

    ….and….we are always in too big of a hurry……..

  4. Kelly - February 3, 2019 12:31 pm

    As always, you just never know what is really going on in a strangers life. P.S. the salads sounded delicious!

  5. Champ837 - February 3, 2019 12:33 pm

    Now, there you go. A great, inspiring, fun, short, short story. Nothing about your father or your dogs bowel habits.

    • Mary Williams - February 3, 2019 1:40 pm

      I love the stories about your father and your dogs.

    • Lalalee - February 4, 2019 3:45 am

      Did you miss the part about kindness??????

    • Debbie Shiflett - March 4, 2019 2:29 pm

      And all Sean asks is that we be nice to each other! As the story told, sometimes a statement from a stranger can take away your smile. I hope your day gets better Chsmps837.

  6. Liz Watkins - February 3, 2019 12:46 pm

    Sweet! And what a grumpy old man!!!

  7. Penn Wells - February 3, 2019 12:49 pm


  8. Joyce Mullikin - February 3, 2019 1:19 pm

    What a beautiful world it would be if everyone talked to strangers. I grew up talking to people wherever I went, my mother did too. Most of the time they look at me like I have two heads.
    People are leery of strangers.

  9. Jan - February 3, 2019 1:30 pm

    As my mother always told me … you never know what other people are going through in life so always be nice!

  10. Grace Murdock - February 3, 2019 1:32 pm

    I’m with you, Sean. I want the same.

  11. Connie Havard Ryland - February 3, 2019 1:40 pm

    I don’t understand why people can’t be nice. It doesn’t cost a dime and it makes the whole day better. You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Grumpy old man may have been having a bad too, but there’s no excuse to be a jerk. Ever.

  12. Karen - February 3, 2019 1:54 pm

    I am saying a prayer for that grumpy old man. How very sad and lonely his life must be. Also praying for that young woman and her son to share joy and love every day.
    I love that you ask us to be nice to each other. We need to treat everyone the way we want to be treated. The waitress, the teacher, the nurse, the man who sweeps the grocery store, the guy who lays our tile, the lady in front of us who is picking her kid up from school, the receptionist at the vet, and the man who picks up our garbage – everyone. I once yelled at a young man who was waiting on me at Christmas. I didn’t know what came over me. I went back to apologize, but I couldn’t find him. I decided I needed to speak to a professional about it. He told me I was angry because my father had died suddenly. He told me to write a letter to my dad and tell him all the things I never got to say. He was actually very helpful, and I got over my anger.
    Thank you for your stories, especially the ones about your dogs and Jamie.

  13. Marylin - February 3, 2019 1:55 pm

    Please DON’T stop writing about your Dad, your sweet wife, your Mom and sister, or your dogs. They are what makes you special. Your stories are therapy for you and for your readers. Keep it up please. God bless you.

  14. Anita Ryan - February 3, 2019 3:15 pm

    Wonderful, touching story! Love how you see the inside of people.

  15. Jean - February 3, 2019 4:25 pm

    There is too much ugliness and rudeness in our world. Never hurts to be nice or kind to anybody. I still talk to everybody…anywhere…anytime….whether I know them or not. i bet that guy is a joy to live with. NOT!

  16. Sue Riddle Cronkite - February 3, 2019 5:27 pm

    Wonderful story. You’re great at digging out and showing off the valuable nuggets in real life.

  17. Jackie Darnell - February 3, 2019 6:41 pm

    Some people SEE people, some never do! ’tis a shame. Yep a raise would b nice.

  18. Carol - February 3, 2019 9:06 pm

    Yes. Lord bless her please?
    Love ya!

  19. Debra Baker - February 3, 2019 9:58 pm

    Wow, love your writing!

  20. Leslie - February 3, 2019 10:36 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to be nice! It’s so important in this tired old world. I am so glad my friend introduced me to you through your writing. I hope I get to meet you in person one day to hug your neck and thank you!

  21. Gwen Monroe - February 3, 2019 11:22 pm

    O goodness. I do wish folks would make an effort to be tolerant and nice to others. It does matter. We can make someone’s day or spoil it. It really matters. Thanks Sean

  22. SuzanneB - February 3, 2019 11:41 pm


  23. rantsandravescom - February 4, 2019 12:49 am

    Its not an excuse, but grumpy old man might have been very tired. And coming home from work, had stopped to get something to eat as he lives alone and just wants to sit down and eat. He possibly lives alone.
    However even at that it would have cost him nothing to say, I just want the salad and some Mack and cheese please. It cost nothing to be nice and/or kind.
    Nice used to be a hallmark of the South.
    Thanks for reminding us Sean.

  24. Robert Chiles - February 4, 2019 1:04 am

    Today I struck up a conversation with an old couple at the Bojangles. I was just going to pass them by, but I decided to speak to them because I read your daily posts. I’m glad I did. They have been married 66 years. It made my day to reach out the way you reach out to people.

  25. ponder304 - February 4, 2019 11:29 am

    If I knew which deli, I would drive there just to buy chicken salad and listen with a hearing heart and a big tip!

  26. Janet Mary Lee - February 6, 2019 4:39 pm

    And I love your stories about your Dad and your dogs, too. Don’t stop!! 🙂

  27. Karen Wilder - March 4, 2019 11:21 am

    There you go again…short, sweet and right to the soul of what matters! ❤️❤️❤️

  28. Gloria Rumph - March 4, 2019 12:42 pm

    Sean my daughter lost her l house in the toranado yesterday thankfully no e in her house was injured, she lost everything but her dog and cat and car!luckily she was not there? Why do people have to be mean Sean?

    • Patsy Body - March 4, 2019 2:10 pm

      I’m so sorry about your daughter’s home, but grateful she and her pets are safe. Sending love and prayers for her and all those affected by yesterday’s storms..

  29. Becca - March 4, 2019 1:34 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful reminder of the importance of being kind in this hectic rushed world.

  30. Wade Smith - March 4, 2019 4:11 pm

    Great story keep it up. You never know what people are going through. Bless you

  31. Sissie - April 12, 2019 1:55 pm

    Please check my email and make sure I am on the list. I have not received an e-mail for the last three weeks. I enjoy the column everyday.


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