During the Christmas season most of us attended parties that included lots of socializing. On some evenings, we may have made it to more than one event, allowing us the opportunity to meet dozens of new people in a single night. The usual atmosphere in these gatherings consists of numerous guests standing almost shoulder to shoulder with their hands wrapped around glasses or bottles as they engage in conversation. It’s a curious human phenomenon that brings us together in those small huddles, conversing about anything from politics to sports to the latest Stock Market report.
One of the parties my wife and I attended was in an upscale section of Dallas at the invitation of a physician we’ve known since Annette worked at U.T. Southwestern. The doctor and his wife, with all their wealth and success, are two of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met. He and I talk politics when we get together and he reads my column regularly on various websites. As it is with most social gatherings, there will always be some who have an excess of wealth and a paucity of humility. These are the types who suffer from a poor self image; hence they must try to elevate themselves by looking down on others. One such person was introduced to me during the evening. “This is Bob Weir, he’s a former newspaper editor and he writes a weekly column” the host said as I clasped hands with the bespectacled man who appeared to be in his mid-forties. His name was George (probably still is) and he was surrounded by about five others who seemed very impressed with him. After making the other introductions, the host moved on to another group.
“Really?” George responded. “Were you with the Dallas Morning News?” he added expectantly. “No, I was with a community newspaper north of here,” I replied. The look of disdain on his face couldn’t have been more pronounced if he had held his nose before continuing. “Oh, so you were an editor for one of those free papers,” he retorted with a derisive grin. “Well, it’s not free to the advertisers,” I responded, trying to recover from the obvious putdown. “I’m very grateful that there are so many businesspeople in the local areas with enough confidence to spend their advertising dollars in their respective communities,” I continued, even as his smirk grew wider. “And you were an editor,” he continued, unwilling to let it go. “Well, what kind of stories do you cover in those small towns? I mean, if anything really important happens, it will probably be in the big papers. Right?” he said, continuing to prove that boorish behavior was his strong point. I could feel my temperature rising as I prepared to verbally dismantle the obnoxious squirt.
However, my wife Annette, who had just joined the huddle in time to hear the last remark from the supercilious twit, was up to the task. “George,” she said, after being introduced to the group, “what type of work do you do?” He expanded his puny chest and replied: “I own a Cadillac dealership in Plano.” “Really?” Annette replied with feigned interest. “That’s a GM car, isn’t it? How are you dealing with the financial problems facing the auto industry?” “Oh, well it’s not really affecting my business. I have some good salespeople working for me and I haven’t experienced any problems,” he retorted, beginning to look a little less confident. But Annette was on a roll. “That’s good,” she continued. “But weren’t you guys on the ropes until you got that bailout money from the taxpayers so you could survive for the next few years?” The bozo’s face was beginning to match his crimson tie and a few beads of sweat could be seen sprouting on his forehead. He muttered something about the government “loan” being a temporary adjustment for the industry to recoup in the economic downturn.
Since Annette had laid the groundwork, I decided to take it from there. “Yunno, George, there’s a corollary between the auto industry and the newspaper business,” I said. “Just as the larger car companies are losing out to the smaller imports, the larger newspapers are beginning to lose ground to the community papers. Most people can get the news on TV or the Internet these days, but local events are still found in local papers. People who are interested in their communities want to know what’s going on in areas that directly affect them.” By this time, George must have needed a refill because he made a beeline for the bar.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.