THE ANGRY MOB by GARRY ARMSTRONG

 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”.



Categories: Garry Armstrong, Government, News, Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. I enjoyed this the first time I read it, but more so now!

    Like

  2. I’m impressed that she would do that for a salad bar.
    They don’t seem to understand that when your retired, you are out of the loop and no one listens to you anymore. It’s really up to them to raise cane.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leslie, you’re correct. This occurred quite a few years ago and it’s only gotten worse. It’ll be interesting to see if the angry folks, young, middle-aged and old — vent their displeasure on Election Day. THAT would send a message louder than any newsie with a bully pulpit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was trying to think about what you could say to them. How about “son, I’m afraid it’s in your hands now, not one listens to me now.”
        Leslie

        Liked by 1 person

        • Leslie, a good suggestion. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. “They” expect something more immediate, more impactful from the likes of me. That’s unfortunate.

          Leslie, another name dropping anecdote. Middle 70’s with newbie newsies hanging out with Walter Cronkite on his boat in Edgartown Harbor, Martha’s Vineyard. I believe it was ’76 when we doing lots of Bicentennial stuff. Anyway, “Uncle Walter” opens the bar to us young folks and the stories/lies are flying around, higher than the clouds above us. “Uncle Walter” chips in with “..You, know I can’t even go to the general store for pipe tobacco these days. They think I’m Moses. Let that be a lesson, Ladies and Gentlemen”, We all laughed with/at our hero. He wasn’t laughing with us.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Except these people were all OUR age. It’s not easy to trust the kids.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Garry,
    I enjoyed this piece and it reminded me that there are more ways than one to make a difference. Sometimes an “angry mob” can be very small or even a single voice.
    Keep writing…you make a difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You shouldn’t put your head down, garry, you should be proud. People are still looking up to you, still think you have the power to change things, they expect you to be able to stand up to the clowns…. I KNOW you can’t any longer, but people in the shops STILL KNOW YOU and they respect you for what you did over the long years of reporting….
    I’m glad you got Marilyn’s fruits 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kiki, thank you very much. I’m being just a touch melodramatic. Not much. The Supermarket and other public venues are where folks vent their displeasure over the state of our union. Usually, they’re just bouncing things off each other. When they see someone like me — who used to be in the public arena — their energy, anger and anxiety ramp up a lot. It goes with the territory. It’s like the old, retired town lawman who goes to the general store. You can almost hear the familiar song and see Gary Cooper grimacing. A tired, old script but so damn relevant today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hopefully the angry mobs do carry their torches to the polling booths come November and do something about it besides rant…

    Anyway, what is happening to the environment and all of the programs put in place to protect the world that are being destroyed, to me the scariest thing in the world right now isn’t the possible death of said world, it is your statement, “the real news is called fake. Fake news is being analyzed as if it’s real.” Every day I see people on FaceBook calling for the blood of anyone who has anything to do with what they see as “fake News”, i.e., CNN, NY Times and the Washington Post. And the big problem is, these people are far angrier than the people I know who are angry at T***p (I can’t write his name). Far, far angrier. And most of them own assault rifles…. -That- is scary.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The world is a terrifying place. If we were more “publicly placed,” I’d worry about Trump aiming his personal hatred at us.

      Trump really has his own cult. It’s not a “base.” These are people who don’t merely agree with him. They adore him, praise him, think he has come from God to set the world the way they want it. I don’t think Jim Jones had a more adoring audience. If Trump told his base to drink cyanide, you think they might? I’m not at all sure they wouldn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Trent, as usual, you’re DEAD ON. It’s early afternoon Tuesday and news junkie me is anxious to flip on the telly for the latest on The New Hampshire Primary. But I know I’m gonna be inundated with so much bologna that I may not get any meaningful information. A sign of the times (Huge ‘Tom Selleck sized’ sigh here). I hope New Hampshire gives us something worthwhile. And, yes, tomorrow we’ll be venting about what went awry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think this will be a race down to the finish with no clear winner until the last minute. But as long as there is no major controversy. (I’m trying to stay away from the news until they have some idea)

        Like

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