Friday, April 09, 2010

9 APR 10: Catchup on My Doorstep

Today is the final day of spring break in Muscogee County schools. Some students will prepare for next week's CRCT exams. A few might head to the Frogtown Hollow Bluegrass Jam downtown. And the truly bored students will try to stir up trouble at Hollywood Connection earlier than ever.

When a young woman knocked on my door one afternoon this week, I thought it was a "spring break" project of some kind. "Take your time, take your time," she said before I even reached the door. Uh-oh - the Columbus woman who makes random phone calls to do Bible studies works in the same way.

The woman I'll call Whitney explained she was involved in a "public speaking contest," hoping to win money to attend college. Who could have expected oratory contests to move out of high school classrooms and American Legion post meetings, and back into the mainstream?

But the "public speaking" Whitney was doing seemed a lot more like a sales pitch. She gained points in the contest by persuading people to purchase books or subscribe to magazines. And she carried a sign saying donations were NOT accepted -- so throwing money at her to run her off wouldn't work, the way it would with 90 percent of the beggars I meet.

Whitney told me all the purchases or subscriptions were one-time payments, with NO monthly plans involved. But I don't need another Bible to add to my stack, and I usually don't get around to finishing the few free magazines on my subscription list now. If I really want to check an article in "Time," I'll reserve time at a public library for it.

But I was more curious about the contest side of this offer. "If this is a public speaking contest," I asked Whitney, "shouldn't I listen to the other contestants - whoever they are - before I decide to buy from you?" This approach explains why deep-down, many conservative Republicans are frustrated by me....

Whitney responded by saying several other young people were scattered around the neighborhood, making similar sales pitches. She referred to one man some distance away by saying, "You can call him Mustard, because he's trying to Catch-Up to me." Trying to sell magazines with lines from a college basketball locker room didn't exactly work for me.

Whitney invited me to listen to a young man who walked by during the conversation, knocking on the door of the next apartment. But she introduced her competitor with a put-down of his native Baltimore. I remember that sort of public speaking "trash talk" from my high school years -- only it was done by fellow debaters, and I was considered weird for not joining them in it.

Whitney said I should buy something from her group because these young people are trying to make money without getting involved in drugs, or "coming to your back door." I think she was referring to criminal activity - not my late next-door neighbor, who pleaded for a loan every month when her lottery picks didn't win.

Whitney's hometown is near the Florida "gold coast" - which she claimed was home to "the Mickey Mouse gang, the Minnie Mouse gang, the Goofy gang. Did you believe that last one?" I had no way of knowing the answer. I'd need cable TV to watch the Disney Channel.

Whitney and her colleague clearly were from outside Columbus. So I asked, "Are you in high school?" They weren't. "So you're taking a year off after graduating, to raise money for college!?"

"I like you," the man said. "You ask a lot of questions." I wonder if he would have liked me, had my next question asked about licensing and city permits.

Whitney's sometimes-overconfident words were a bit entertaining, but I was in no position or interest to buy any books or subscriptions. So she left with no money from me, no points in the contest - and not even an evaluation slip telling Whitney to knock off the put-downs and be as gracious to her colleagues as she's supposed to be to me.

I was admittedly a bit suspicious of all this from the beginning. I recall stories of students traveling around the country selling subscriptions to make a living, while under the watchful eye of a shady supervisor. If they're coming to Columbus from other states during spring and they're not building Habitat for Humanity homes, handle them with care.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you may not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The Georgia Christian Coalition President, whose news release inspired our latest BIG BLOG QUESTION, wants to respond to what we wrote Thursday....

Richard, thanks for the story. Like me, you have the carry the burden of a sense of humor that flies over so many heads..some would say slides under their feet.

The poll question itself provides the answer you'll receive...most will support a 300% tax hike on cigarettes.

The question is would they support a tax to control purchases of products because some group has decided they are unhealthy (the products, not the people). Some argue that anything that tastes good is unhealthy, causes global warming or cooling, depending on the decade, and will kill you. If that's true, explain why there are so many healthy, youth challenged, fat folks at buffets.

You failed to mention my answer to teen smoking - parental discipline. How about confiscating the kid's cell phone until high school graduation if he's found with tobacco breath?

You're right...parents will say.that's too harsh for a kid who is just endangering his health, and breaking the law.

Regarding Land's letter, I believe in using the bully pulpit (pun intended) for moral and social issues. This isn't one.

By the way, isn't it interesting that an organization whose personnel lobby for avoidance of all taxes has no problem encouraging taxes on others. Why not a sales tax on lottery income?

Jerry Luquire

Jerry clearly doesn't like the wording of our question. Perhaps he wants me to ask, "Should Georgia tobacco taxes be increased, even though it will hurt farmers and inspire health Nazis to tax your orange soda sky-high?"

I would have posted a link to Jerry Luquire's complete statement, had it been posted on the Georgia Christian Coalition's web site. But it's nowhere to be found there. In fact, the top "press room" item Thursday night was the naming of a new Georgia Christian Coalition President - and Luquire already has succeeded him.

Jerry Luquire's statement actually mentions two ways to combat teen smoking - not only parental discipline, but "strict local enforcement of laws against tobacco purchase and use by underage teens." That's more likely these days in Columbus, of course. But first, police have to clean up those rogue bridal shops.

While the Georgia Christian Coalition might not consider a tobacco tax a "moral and social issue," other Christian groups disagree. I heard an Adventist minister on radio recently compare smoking to the sin of idolatry - as if some people actually would walk a mile to bow down to a Camel.

How you vote in our question is completely up to you. I'll move on to the Thursday headlines....

+ A welcome day of rain washed away much of the pollen which had accumulated on Columbus cars and driveways. Yet the combined pollen count at The Allergy Center at Brookstone still was above 1,500 - and when the pollen count tops the attendance at Columbus Life minor league basketball games, that's a sad comment on our area.

(ABC News reported Atlanta's pollen count was above 5,000. Scientists figure that by collecting grains of pollen in a white box, then counting each one. Let's hope no University of Georgia pranksters shred Georgia Tech uniforms near that box.)

+ Authorities arrested two people in Shiloh, on charges of running a major marijuana operation worth more than nine million dollars. WXTX described the bust by state and Harris County officers as a "joint investigation" -- which probably prompted minutes of giggling by high school-aged viewers.

+ WTVM showed a music video made by dozens of St. Francis Hospital staff members. They dance and lip-sync to the Black-Eyed Peas hit "I Got a Feeling" - which I suppose is a break from the emergency room nurses saying, "I've Got a Pulse."

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths were mashed by Mississippi 4-2. If the Cottonmouths don't win two playoff games in a row in Biloxi, their season is over - and plenty of Columbus gamblers can tell them how hard it is to sustain a winning streak in Biloxi.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ sports reporter Jeremy Babin: You've been in Columbus HOW MANY months?! And you're still mispronouncing the name of the Cottonmouths head coach? Call him Jerome "BECH'-erd" too many times in his face, and the old "Boom Boom" side of him might come out.

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