Marvin is an eighty-year-old Masonic brother. He is popular, does more than his share to keep the lodge running, and knows Masonic ritual better than anyone else in our lodge. In fact, he knows it so well that I told myself that here was an example of what diligence and intelligence combined with decades of experience could accomplish. Then I learned that Brother Marvin only joined the lodge six years ago.
The Worshipful Master, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden comprise the hierarchy of the lodge. Under normal circumstances, the lower two officers progress to the Master’s position. Brother Marvin served as Senior Warden this year, and will therefore become Master in December. A month ago, he asked me if I would “stand” for election as Junior Warden. I told him that I would only consider it if I didn’t have to wear a tux (the Master dictates how his officers dress). He looked displeased, but said nothing. I didn’t hear anymore about it, and I hoped he had found someone else because I didn’t want the job anyway. This week, on the night of elections, he asked me again if I would take the post. “You already asked me once, and I said I wouldn’t wear a tuxedo.” “I know,” he said, “So, will you stand for the office?”
“No, I’ve decided against it because it would put me in line to be Master in two years, and I don’t want to do that.” Marvin chews gum, and you can gauge how fast his brain is working by how fast his jaws are moving. “Why not?” he demanded as he moved his face close to mine, chomping furiously. Thus challenged, I laid out each of several reservations. Marvin agreed with some, disagreed with some, and then said: “Lowell, when they made me Senior Warden, I told them I wouldn’t accept the Master’s post unless I could get a slate of officers I could trust.” This unexpected mixture of flattery combined with a personal appeal was probably the only way he could have won me over.
Later, I remembered that he has no say about who will become Senior Warden since that post is normally filled by the former Junior Warden. I also realized that most of the other positions were also predetermined. For example, treasurers and secretaries stay put for years, because few are willing to take the jobs. Other posts are occupied by old men who don’t want to move. We have a few younger brothers, but they are too new to become Junior Warden.
I realized that I had been had. Marvin knew he couldn’t browbeat or shame me into accepting the office, but he realized that he might be able to lure me with flattery coupled with an appeal to loyalty. Upon realizing this, I vowed to evermore be on guard against the manipulating bastard. Later, I just smiled, because I knew I had been outwitted fair and square. Marvin hadn’t hidden anything from me. He had simply acknowledged that I am good at the work I do, and that it would be a loss to him and the lodge if I refused to move up.