Friday, July 1, 2016
Who are those people on the placemat?
This column suffered for space. I normally get 650 words; I asked for more and got 900, so I shouldn't complain. Still, I lost Earl Sensenig talking about coming to Bedford from Lancaster to help build the new Mennonite community, and Charles Crumb talking about starting Bits of Time because of his love of antiques, and Rev. Reed quoting Chronicles. And I wasn't able to quite explain why I was doing it, how this country seems so divided, and the problem seems to be that it's easy to demonize each other and hard to try to understand. But I set out to withhold my own opinion and just listen to everyone on the placemat, and to their credit, everyone who picked up the phone spoke with me, candidly and at length. Despite being the dreaded mainstream media, they trusted me. And despite having a very different view of the world than they do, I liked them, and felt like we respected each other. It's a start.
Paper place mats are not a celebrated form of communication, with neither the romance of messages in bottles nor the eager audience for fortune cookies.
In fact, I didn’t glance at the place mat in front of me as we settled in at the Bedford Diner in Bedford, Pennsylvania, on our way home from vacation Monday. But my sharp-eyed wife drew attention to it, pointing out the services offered: Excavation. Well drilling. Hydraulic cylinder repair.
“A lot of industrial,” she said, knowing I like industrial.
A dozen ads, plus one for the diner and a word search. Here, I thought, are people who want to get a message out, who paid RAK Advertising, trying to be heard. I should listen. So I phoned them all.
“Business is tough right now,” said Joe Ryan, 50, who runs Ryan Services, a general contractor. “It is somewhat slow. The natural gas business affected the area. We had the Marcellus (shale formation) right beside us in the Allegheny Mountains. A lot of drilling for natural gas. In ’07, ’08, companies out of Texas moved up, started drilling. They drilled so much, there was such an abundant supply, prices fell and a lot of people lost their jobs. We have work but not as much as we should.”
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