Scoutmasters Minute "The Fish Man"
Lorie McGraw (llmcgraw@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Fri, 5 Dec 1997 14:41:17 +0000
Hello to the List:
I just came across this really wonderful piece in the Dilbert Newsletter put
out by Scott Adams. (Subscription info at the end). I thought it would make
a terrific Scoutmaster's Minute (maybe needs to be shortened slightly, you
know your audience)
Enjoy the weekend,
----From The Dilbert Newsletter/Dogbert's New Ruling Class -Volume 18.0,
From: dogbert <dogbert@LISTSERV.UNITEDMEDIA.COM>----
I like to get serious once a year in the
Dilbert Newsletter. Here's a true story.
I was seventeen, working as a bellhop at the
Sugar Maples resort in the Catskill Mountains.
Most of the guests were regulars. Families
had been coming on the same week each summer
for generations. Many of the employees were
regulars too, so we knew a lot of the guests
by sight. Some we knew by name. Others by
The guests arrived on Saturday to stay the
week. The bellhops lined up, ready to carry
bags and earn the standard one-dollar tip.
Sometimes it was fifty cents. If we got
lucky, two dollars. But this week was special.
This was the week the Fish Man was scheduled
We didn't know his real name. According to
legend, the Fish Man made a fortune in some
sort of fish-related business. He was a
self-made man, the story went. But more
importantly, he was a twenty-dollar tipper.
No other tipper was in his league. The Fish
Man stood alone.
There were five bellhops and only one Fish
Man per year. If it was your turn in line,
it was like winning a small lottery.
Tradition dictated that when you returned
from carrying the Fish Man's bags, you
flashed your twenty and laughed above the
groans of your hapless co-workers. The
closing ceremony was half of the fun.
That summer, I got the Fish Man. He was a
big man, bright red hair, easy smile, and
an ample belly. He wore hideous vacation
shirts and shorts. I don't remember much
about his family; they weren't the source
of my tip.
I didn't talk to the Fish Man much -- just
the usual bellhop-to-guest patter. None of
his bags were unusually heavy, so I didn't
use my best bellhop line, "Did you bring
your rock collection?" No matter. The tip
was predetermined. When the Fish Man's
wallet came out, it seemed like slow motion.
It was a field of green. He plucked a twenty
from the pile, smiled, and said, "Thanks."
There was no explanation for the huge overtip.
I glided back to the main office, eager to
complete the ceremony. The bellhops groaned
on cue. I think someone threw something at me.
Soon the money was spent. Twenty dollars
didn't have any real financial impact on me.
But I never forgot the Fish Man. It was a
mystery. The whole point of tipping was lost
at the twenty dollar level. There was
something else going on. It was as if he
was posing a riddle:
"Why did I give you so much money?"
I worked on the riddle for years. Sometimes
I thought I had the answer, but the solution
changed depending on my perspective. As a
teenager, I thought the Fish Man was showing
off. When I became a banker, I thought the
Fish Man was making a wise investment to
improve the service during his stay. When
I worked for the phone company I thought the
Fish Man was feeling guilty for having a
virtual monopoly on money.
Lately, my perspective has changed again,
and so too the answer to the riddle. I am
the same age as the Fish Man now. And I've
had the same luck that he had financially.
I can see myself at seventeen the way he saw
me: naive, full of energy and ambition, no
clue where the trail begins or where it
leads, and no idea how much of my soul I'd
have to pay for the trip.
If he had offered his old-man advice, I
wouldn't have listened to it. But his
twenty-dollar tip was the a message that
couldn't be filtered out by my seventeen
year old brain. It drifted past my hormonal
sentinels and landed like a whisper somewhere
deep in my unconscious. The Fish Man had
already taken the journey that was ahead of
me. Maybe he was just going back to light
I would tell you the solution to the Fish
Man's riddle, but it doesn't work that way.
I'm sure all the bellhops from the Sugar
Maples have found different answers by now.
The one thing I can say for sure is that the
Fish Man got his money's worth from me.
You probably know someone who would benefit
from your advice but won't listen to it.
Maybe this holiday season would be a good
time to save your words of wisdom and just
be the Fish Man. Do something nice for
someone who hasn't done anything to earn it.
In the long run, people find their own advice.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Thanks for making
this a great year for me.
You can sign up for the free Dilbert
Newsletter automatically. Send an e-mail
message using this address and format:
Subject line: newsletter
Message: subscribe Dilbert_News Firstname Lastname
Don't include any other information. Your e-mail
address will be picked up automatically.
You can also subscribe on the Web by visiting
The Dilbert Zone at
Go to the DNRC area to find the signup page.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City