THE STANDOFF: I was talking the other day to a guy who owns a number of businesses, and the discussion turned to dealing with the public.

THE STANDOFF: I was talking the other day to a guy who owns a number of businesses, and the discussion turned to dealing with the public.


People like to think that owning your own business means you don’t have a boss. But the people I know who own businesses will tell you that everyone who walks through the door is their boss. And taking your business away from them is a very easy way to demonstrate your displeasure, and essentially fire them.


Local newspapers have a way of bringing out the spleen in people – I know, these days I get mad at the editor of our local paper just like everyone else. It’s easy to assume the very worst about those bringing you the news, even for guys who used to bring you the news.


I had my share of letters threatening to take our advertisers away from us because of some editorial someone didn’t like. One letter writer in Illinois called me “the Big Wind from Wyoming” not long after I arrived in town. The most unkind, though, was the guy who wrote a letter inviting me to take a dip in the local sewage lagoon.


Ouch. (I’ve still got that letter, packed away in a box somewhere. I used to tape the most virulent letters to the wall in my bathroom.)


On the phone, one guy was so mad at me that he couldn’t stop saying “BS,” except he used the actual words, not the first letters. Over and over and over he said it. Try as I might, I couldn’t get that guy calmed down.


The best story about dealing with the public, however, comes from this business owner I was talking to the other day. For years he has owned a large shop not far from here that does auto body repair, auto painting, repairing hail damage, and other work. He explained that when a car has too much rust, it becomes very difficult to repair dents. There’s nothing there to work with.


A rather volatile car owner brought in his rusty car, and refused to take no for an answer when told that it was too rusty to repair. The conversation heated up, because the business owner had an equally short fuse.


They were about to come to blows when the car owner warned the business owner that he was currently enrolled in an anger management program.


To which the business owner replied:


“Oh yeah? Well I FLUNKED anger management!”


Blows were avoided, the rusty car was not fixed, and that’s the best dealing with the public story I’ve heard in years.


MINDLESS HARPIES: Try going to a meeting of your local school board, and while they’re trying to conduct business, stand up in the audience and scream at them, and refuse to stop when told to do so.


I’ve been to some contentious school board and city council meetings in my day, but nobody ever came up with the tactic of simply screaming accusations at them to register dismay. Do that, and police officers will be summoned, and you will be arrested for disturbing the peace. The local newspaper will write a story about your crazy behavior, and overnight you will become the talk of the community – not in a good way – and the running joke at every coffee and doughnut shop in town.


Try doing that in a courtroom and you will be shocked at how fast you will be found in contempt of court – a judge can do it in a few short words – and hauled off to jail.


And yet, when it comes to selecting a new justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, the process was interrupted for four straight days earlier this month by mindless, screaming harpies in the audience, who couldn’t even make their message clear enough to understand.


As the hearings went on, the Capitol Police got better and better at collaring the harpies and dragging them out of the room, and they didn’t have to tase anyone.


The screaming harpies created sympathy for the nominee, and disgust for themselves.


As the old warning goes:


“Don’t try this at home.”