Quite a High Honor, If You Can Afford It

The Queen's Honors List just came out, and it's the envy of all of us who cherish titles. Once you get knighted in England, you are guaranteed a table at any halfway decent restaurant in London and served a tray of hot tea and biscuits during intermission at the theater.

I mention this only because, while the United States bestows more honors on its citizens, none has the class of the queen of England tapping you on the shoulder with a sword.

Rather than royal titles, America bestows honors such as man of the year on its citizens. A man of the year award is always given at a dinner costing $1,000 a plate. The only other reason for holding the dinner is to raise money for charity. Woman of the year banquets are occasionally held, but they don't sell as many tables as men.

Once the man of the year is selected and the committee decides that it can get enough people to turn out for the evening, the call is made to the lucky recipient, telling him that the country wishes to pay homage to his civic and charitable work.

The one rub is if the person is not available that night, he can't be man of the year. Everyone knows that you can't have a man of the year dinner without a man. So the committee says that it's sorry, but it will have to find another man of the year--one who will show up.

The man of the year dinners are very touching.

This is because the man being honored is counted on to buy 10 tables for his family. The other tables are sold to people who do business with him and are afraid not to buy in case they lose the account.

Once everything is in place, the special guests of honor march across the dais to their seats. This honor costs $25,000, which is cheap, because the rest of the gathering gets to see you while you are eating.

The ceremony finally begins. The honoree's golfing partner, his tax attorney and grandson speak glowingly about him, while at the other end of the ballroom the chairman is counting the take.

The man of the year gets up to thank everyone in the room, including his brother who couldn't be there because he was at a Celtics game.

That's the difference between how America awards its citizens and how Queen Elizabeth awards hers. Some Americans believe that her majesty does a much better job because when the British are knighted, they never have to buy tables.

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