I was waiting in line at a convenience store, six-pack in hand. The guy in front of me was buying cigarettes. He was overweight, wearing a worn T-shirt and faded pants. He was chatting up the clerk, a tattooed, middle-aged woman who looked like she had a few rough miles on her. They were in no hurry.
"Well," I heard the man wheeze, as he finally turned to leave, "that was before Obama screwed everything up." The woman laughed and said, "You're right about that."
The man turned to me, smiled broadly, and said, "Yep, Obama screwed everything up, didn't he?" Not wanting to mix politics with a beer run, I just looked at him blankly.
Back in my car, I had one of those "I wish I'd said ..." moments.
I wish I'd asked him if he had a problem with a health-care system that would allow him to get insurance when his emphysema got worse. I wish I'd asked the clerk if she opposed a $10.50 minimum wage, which would have no doubt increased the size of her paycheck.
Their taxes haven't been raised. Their guns haven't been taken. The economy has come back from the depths of the recession. Why rednecks don't like Obama is a mystery to me. Sort of.
Speaking of mysteries ... how about that Robert Pera? The owner of the Grizzlies created a maelstrom last week by suddenly firing his CEO, Jason Levien, and letting Coach Dave Joerger go off to interview for the Minnesota Timberwolves job. Sports-talk radio hosts were melting down; the town was abuzz with rumors that Pera was "weird." And he well might be. But he's also 37. I had to fire someone at my first editor's job when I was 37. Let me tell you, it's easy to screw it up.
I inherited a copyeditor who was surly and incompetent. After a month, I went to the publisher and complained. "Fire him," he said.
I called "Keith" into my office, made some small talk, then said, "Uh, I think, uh, Keith, we have to make some changes ... ."
Keith said, "Are you firing me?"
"Well, uh, yeah ..." I said. Keith stood up and bolted to the publisher's office, with me right behind him. "Am I being fired?" he yelled.
"Yes," said the publisher, calmly. "Give me your key and clean out your desk. We'll have your last check for you in an hour." Keith meekly pulled his key out of his pocket and returned to his desk.
So I learned how to be a better manager and how to fire someone without screwing it up. Pera can do the same. No reason to panic, Griz fans.
Besides, as we know, one man's screwup is just another man's beer run.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...