Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fleeting Black Friday Friendships

The spirit of goodwill to your fellow man envelopes the holiday season … until it doesn’t anymore. At least that was the case on a chilly Thursday night / Friday morning as my 14-year-old son, Trent, and I braved the crowds for Black Friday, which is traditionally the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year.

Take the chipper employee outside the Target store as an example. He greeted us warmly on a cold night, promising a safe, fun time. He thanked us for coming and said how important we are to him. Then, without a hint of irony or humor, he added something like this, “Plus, we’ve got the police here and a lot of plastic handcuffs and if you step out of line in the least, we won’t hesitate to throw your butts in jail.”

With the admonition over and a two-hour wait ahead, Trent and I chatted with the older gentlemen in front of us and his presumed granddaughter. The man took such a liking to us that when he went for coffee he returned with a couple of cups for us, too, complete with sugar and cream. I was struck by his generosity

A short time later, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the liquid warmth, Trent and I hit the store with gusto, getting everything on our Black Friday list and then some. We left satisfied … and without plastic handcuffs. I thought of the man who had given us the coffee earlier, wondering aloud what happened to him.

“Oh, he reached for a cart, and I darted by him,” Trent said. “I mean I appreciated the coffee, but …”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Facing the Bridge Dilemma

I’ve become an activist. No, I haven’t joined the Occupy Wall Street movement. Instead, my dissent is directed at the Sherman Minton. In other words, I’m not worried about brokers. I’m worried about broken bridges.

An angry southern Indiana commuter
Having your life disrupted for months will do that to you, particularly when there’s no end in sight and seemingly no one cares about it as much as you do. While the Occupy Wall Street crowd has captured the country’s imagination, those of us concerned about the Sherman Minton bridge toil away in relative obscurity.

As a PR guy, I set out to change this. I figured the Sherman Minton movement needed an iconic image to energize it … a modern-day southern Indiana equivalent of the couple kissing in Times Square on VJ day. With my mission at hand, I grabbed cardboard from an old Coke case, a couple of Sharpies, a digital camera and my adventurous 14-year-old son. I carefully stenciled my message across the cardboard: “Will Work 4 Bridge.” I put on my suit, as if going to work, which isn’t so easy these days. Then we sought out the perfect backdrop, scouting multiple locations. My son shot several pictures of me with my sign, including some at the base of the bridge near the river and others a little closer to the inaction. Like all good counter-culture types, we operated in stealth mode, attracting very little attention.

The fruit if our labor is shown here. I think we’ve done a pretty fair job of capturing the frustration of my family and many fellow Hoosiers. Now, we’ll just have to wait for the celebrities and CNN to join us.