Many years ago, our 7 or 8-year-old granddaughter was venting her anger over the loss of her favorite salad bar at a local restaurant. We did our best to explain the issue and somehow placated her. She thought we should tackle the issue head-on. “Let’s,” she said, “form an angry mob and storm the place!”
She reminded me of all the high-profile, controversial stories I’d covered in my more than 40 years as a TV news reporter. I never backed down! I was relentless!! I had to do something!
Gradually, the hot button issues faded away. Gramps was now in retirement. I’d hung up my guns. We’ve often laughed about the “angry mob issue” through the years. When something comes up that bothers us, someone yells, “Let’s round-up an angry mob!” Giggles all around.
I heard the familiar refrain again, today, in the middle of grocery shopping. I started to laugh and stopped quickly. Two very angry people confronted me. I just stared, trying to make sure they were talking to me. They were shouting!
“We need to round-up an angry mob. That’ll get their attention!” I continued to stare as my brain shifted into second gear. They — the angry duo — clearly wanted to do something about the state of our nation. I almost squashed the tomato I was holding.
“I’m retired,” I tried to reason, but they wouldn’t have it. It was just the beginning for me. I was still picking tomatoes a few minutes later when I heard it again.
“This is crap!! We need to do SOMETHING! I’ve had it with this guy!”. It was a store employee I’ve known for several years. We’ve discussed politics, the economy and local environmental issues between my getting tips on what’s good in the supermarket on a particular day. No such tips today. He was angry — and it had nothing to do with the price of tomatoes.
“Nobody wants to get involved! We need to do something, Garry. This country is in big trouble.” I bit my lower lip and nodded in agreement, hoping to appease what I saw coming.
“Garry, you could do a special report. You know people. You have clout. People respect you!!”.
“I’m retired,” I said slowly. Dolefully. He shook his head as if he didn’t hear me, didn’t believe me … or it didn’t matter.
“We need to get people involved. We need people to make things right. We’re running out of time, Garry!!” I bit my lower lip. More people had gathered around. I realized we had a small audience. People were nodding, red-faced, shaking their fists.
I surveyed the crowd. I shook my head solemnly and said it louder. “I’m retired!” They shook their heads in disbelief. I could hear mumbles of anger and confusion. I should have anticipated what would come next.
“We grew up watching you on TV. You always told us what was happening. We’ve told our kids about you …” It was the guilt card, face up. Ouch.
“I’m retired,” I repeated again. They couldn’t accept it. They moved in closer, fingers poking in the air. Of course, I understood. I understand. It’s hard making sense out of what’s going on with the current administration. The real news is called fake. Fake news is being analyzed as if it’s real. There’s no precedent for this in my lifetime. I have no war stories to share about dealing with the type of people who are now in charge. I covered presidents from JFK to Bush Number 1. There was lots of crazy stuff over the years but nothing like what is happening today.
I dodged several more small crowds and made it to the checkout counter. I was feeling pretty good because I had found some fresh fruit Marilyn wanted. Head down, I spread my groceries on the counter, glancing at the young woman bagging the stuff. I thought I was free as soon as everything was tallied and bagged.
Free at last?
No! I felt a hand on my shoulder. An elderly man, maybe 80 or so grinned at me. But it wasn’t a happy grin, but a grin of anger. I’d seen this many times before. I braced myself.
“Garry, why the hell aren’t you out there, telling the public about this guy? Everyone’s angry!! You’ve done it before! You’ve done it with them other bums. We could always trust you!”
“I’m retired.” I said it slowly.
I politely extracted myself from the elderly gent’s strong grip and wheeled the groceries outside. As I loaded everything into the car, I saw a couple of people approaching me. I double-timed the rest, got in the car, put the pedal to the metal and beat it out of the parking lot.
In my head, I could hear my granddaughter.
“Gramps, let’s round-up an angry mob and storm the place”.