It was a rainy day and I had a strong thirst for a cup of coffee. I pulled into the coffee shop parking lot and parked next to a familiar vehicle–Eb Griper’s old Studebaker pick-up.
Inside the coffee shop I scouted the booths for my irascible old buddy and, sure enough, he was sitting by himself in a booth near the back of the café. Eb sits by himself a lot.
“Got room for a coffee-holic?” I asked when I reached Eb’s booth.
Eb did not lift his eyes from the newspaper he was reading. “Sit down… if you have to,” he mumbled.
“Thank you, Eb,” I said. “I think I will.”
“So what’s news in the paper today?” I asked.
“Nothing’s new,” Eb retorted. “Same ol’ crap. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. A bunch of greedy crooks in Congress. A worthless president. People going nuts on the street.”
“That good?” I asked mockingly.
“I suppose a pointy-headed dufus like you thinks everything is okay in the world.”
“Eb,” I responded, “I used to be a Pollyanna…”
“A polly what?”
“A Pollyanna. You know, someone who thinks everything and everyone is just fine.”
“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”
“However,” I continued, “I can’t disagree with your assessment.”
“Don’t tell me you agree with me,” Eb snapped. “Maybe I’m wrong.”
“No, you’re right, Eb; I’m getting fed up with the status quo, too.”
Eb looked me in the eye. “So what are you going to do about it?” he demanded.
A bit surprised by Eb’s directness, I replied, “I’ve decided to take some steps to remove myself from the confusion. First of all, I refuse to pay attention to the political television commercials. I don’t want to hear how bad the other candidate is, I want to know what the candidate will do to fix the mess.”
“I’m with you,” Eb said.
“Secondly, I will not listen to any of the robocalls made to my phone.”
“Check,” Eb said. “I make Hilda answer the phone.”
“Thirdly, I refuse to participate in those surveys they do on the phone. Most of them are slanted to pull you into the sponsoring candidate’s camp.”
“You know, you’re not quite as stupid as I thought you were,” Eb said with a grin.
“This means,” I continued, “that we have to do more homework to determine who we will vote for.”
“Of course,” I said, “You can’t let someone else do your thinking for you. That’s how we got into this mess.”
“What do you mean?”
“The talking heads on radio and TV – liberal and conservative – are part of the problem,” I said. “Instead of using their own thinkers, too many people hang onto every word of their favorite radio or TV talk show host and vote accordingly. Think for yourself, Eb. Don’t be a Dittohead.”
“But how do I know who’s right… I mean correct?”
“Remember Ronald Reagan?”
“Remember him?” Eb asked. “He was one of our greatest presidents.”
“Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify.’ In the news business we always said, ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’”
Eb stared at me for a second and then asked, “What does that mean?”
“It means don’t believe everything you read or hear about a candidate or what a candidate says,” I explained. “Get both sides of a story. Read columnists you disagree with and listen to people you disagree with. Watch and listen to public radio and TV. In many cases public broadcasting is more balanced than network news programs. Read the political fact-finding column in the newspaper.”
“That sounds like a lot of work,” Eb whined.
“Do you agree with everything Hilda says?” I asked.
“Of course not,” Eb snapped. “I have a mind of my own.”
“Then use it for making political decisions, too.”
Eb gave me a weary stare. “You know,” he said, “I liked you better when I didn’t like you.”