I was mostly minding my own business when a woman comes up to me in the grocery store and begins laughing.
“Hey, I got a kick out of your column last week. Made me laugh. I enjoy The Columbian.”
She chats me up a bit. I like that.
I smile and say thank you.
• • •
I’m playing Texas Hold ’em, and I gots me pocket 10s and the flop brings another 10. I’m all set up except for that Weiner — wait, he’s still in New York — in seat seven who hangs with me the entire time and catches a straight on the end.
I’m still steamin’ when Jimmy, the guy runnin’ the poker floor, comes over and smiles.
“We’d all turn into marauding animals and Cubs fans.”
He’s quoting from my column on what would happen if we had no societal restraints on us.
“Now that’s a funny line,” he says.
He chats me up on life and newspapers. I like that. I smile and say thank you but still can’t figure out what that testa dura in seat seven was doing in the hand.
• • •
I’m not following The Columbian’s forums as much as I used to. That’s the one spot on our website where we still allow anonymous sign-ins. Every place else, you have to sign in via Facebook, which gives us a better shot at having real names, which brings that societal restraint in play that I was talking about.
Still — sort of like venturing into the Everglades at night — I wander into our forum and hope to come out alive.
There I find a cat named Willbridge, and let’s just say he’s not a big fan of mine. He’s usually all over me like a mist on a Northwest day, but for now he’s just complaining about the Facebook sign-in.
You see, he wants to get in there with the real people — he understands that is where the action will be in the future — but just doesn’t like Facebook.
Still, he makes the plunge. But then our Web Editor Libby Tucker tells him we have to check him out, just to make sure he’s using his real name. He balks.
“Sorry, Libby. I don’t think so. Invasion of my privacy stops right there.”
I decide to chat him up.
“Of course that’s your choice, Will. But as many people here have clearly said, faking a Facebook name can be done. So — sorry — we have to check.”
Then something happens that is even stranger than that mulo who stayed with me in that poker hand.
“OK. Fair enough argument I suppose. Count me in.”
Then he explains why.
“I still REALLY hate it. But my desire to make snarky comments towards you prevails. :)”
He gives me the smiley face at the end. I’ve used that technique myself, but it never really seems to work.
Regardless, I’m always up for a chat — a conversation. Snarky sometimes comes with the job. And at least it feels better if there’s a real name behind the snarkiness.
• • •
All of the above examples hopefully show one thing: Talking is good. And, frankly, we need to do more of it. More of it in the grocery stores and in the poker rooms and on the websites across this great land of ours.
Newspaper websites, frankly, have a golden opportunity to become the center of conversations.
I’m thinking “Community Begins Here” is a pretty good rallying cry for The Columbian.
Everyone is welcome. Well, maybe not everyone. That cervello di uccello in seat seven who beat my set of 10s? Not so much.
Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.