Man on the Street

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Johnny B: Wants FBI investigation.

I’m fascinated with the Kavanaugh case, and have been asking anyone I see what they think about it.

I asked a Dominican friar his opinion while shepherding him to a monastery in North Guilford, CT. I brought it up while playing Pickleball, a game where it’s possible to chitchat and play at the same time. People tolerated me for awhile before reminding me to focus on the game.

I can’t help it. This is what used to be called a talker in newspaper jargon before the advent of social media. A talker is a story that everyone’s discussing and has an opinion about, the prime topic of conversation around the water cooler. It’s something that would be the topic of a man on the street question, if newspapers still did man on the street questions.

No newspapers bother with this feature anymore because everyone is on Facebook and other sites shouting their opinions for the masses. But little has changed about about people in the past 25 years, as I found out today.

I tried to poll friends about their opinion on the Kavanaugh controversy and take their photo for this piece. Only one person, my buddy Johnny B, was willing to oblige. Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to do this as part of my job any more.

Man on the Street was a weekly feature at the small newspapers where I cut my teeth, and like any dreaded assignment, was passed around to different staffers. I don’t know anyone who enjoyed it because it involved approaching strangers, asking them about hot-button topics, and then asking them to take their photo.

On the weeks you were unlucky enough to pull the assignment, you got a question, a 35 mm Pentax manual camera and hit the streets, looking for people who might be willing to share their views and have their photo taken.

I hated this assignment because it required a bit of bravery to approach strangers and ask them their opinion on often controversial issues. I love to interview people, but I don’t much care for approaching strangers and being shut down before I even finish my spiel.

I approached this assignment with dread. I would spend an awful lot of time assessing people and whether they looked approachable and agreeable. I thought of this last weekend when a young girl approached me in the parking lot of CVS and asked me to buy a discount card supporting her field hockey team.

“I already got one at the parade honey,” I said, letting her down as easily as possible. It was true, but I could tell she was disappointed. She had a slight speech impediment, so I’m sure it’s not easy for her to approach strangers. I felt her pain because it’s not easy to have people say no.

I think approaching strangers and asking them to buy things is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Some people don’t mind rejection, but I’m the sensitive type. I don’t like to be told no, and I certainly don’t appreciate being rejected.

I once watched a knife demonstration in Walmart with a bunch of other suckers because I felt sorry for the salesman. He was one helluva huckster, gathering a group of eight people to watch his demo with the promise of a free paring knife. No one bought his knives, but he didn’t seem to mind. He seemed happy enough to have an audience to hear his pitch.

Asking people for their opinion doesn’t cost anything, but most people are reluctant to give you their view and go on the record with it. I’d say I had a 30 percent success rate, meaning 70 percent of the time people told me to take a hike. It was more like a 90 percent rejection rate among my friends today.

For the record, I found men were much more willing to be photographed than women. And men were much more open to being approached by a female reporter wanting to pick their brain and photograph them. Most women would share their feelings, and then run away when the subject of a photo came up. This meant their comments, and the time it took to get them, were a complete waste of time.

Yea, women were terribly vain, much more concerned with their appearance than guys. But maybe it would be easier to get them today in this era of selfies and I-Phones. I could keep snapping photos until we found one that was acceptable, using filters and other editing tools.

A young woman once agreed to answer my question and have her photo taken because she said it looked like I was going to cry if she said no. She was right. I felt about as welcome as those people with clipboards who approach you in malls, or the solar guy in Home Depot.

Though I detested doing the Man on the Street feature, I always enjoyed reading it. For me, it was an informal snapshot of what people were thinking about pressing and not-so-pressing issues. I was dating the Curmudgeon and slipped in a Valentine’s Day question: “Who’s more romantic, men or women?” His reply: Men. A photo of him with the most adorable puppy eyes accompanied his answer. I had him where I wanted him, at least at that point in our relationship. Now, the tables have turned, but that’s another story.

So I’ve been doing my own little man on the street bit over the past few days, asking anybody and everybody for their opinion on Kavanaugh’s nomination. One of my favorite answers has been from my pal Barb, retired teacher, mom, grandma, and a product of the ’60s women’s movement.

“Nominate a woman and this isn’t an issue,” she screamed across the net. Well, she does have point.

When I said that I’m not sure the women’s testimony will matter in the end, Barb raised her eyebrows and lowered her paddle. “I’m not so sure about that,” she said. “You may be surprised.”

I remember watching Anita Hill’s testimony and feeling that Clarence Thomas was not the most qualified person in the country for the U.S. Supreme Court. But it didn’t matter. He was confirmed despite Hill’s claims that he sexually harassed her. I’d hate for women to come forward and state their case just to have their comments ignored. That would be an incredible waste of everyone’s time.

Kavanaugh’s accusers are putting themselves through an awful lot of trouble to tell their stories. And if they’re going to that trouble and the Senate Judiciary Committee is willing to listen, I hope they’ll actually listen and have an open mind. That’s all anyone can really ask of this process.

Of course, I must tell you what my friend Johnny B. thinks because he was the only one brave enough to go on record and have his photo taken.

“I think because it’s such an important decision, it warrants an FBI investigation,” he said.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Man on the Street

  1. I remember “Man on the street”. I would always stop and answer questions when they would come up at the mall and ask me questions. It never bothered me when they did or when they took my picture.

    But here is your problem… I think you have to ask older women in today’s climate because a lone man approaching a younger woman is not going to get a positive response. The woman is going to get the wrong idea. Today’s young people know not to talk to strangers. Unless you have a video camera and crew, you can forget about it. My youngest son is in the film business,(He is now in the director’s guild), and so there are plenty of people willing to be on camera. They just do not talk to strangers without a the crew and equipment. Times are different today. Older people who recall the days when it was common practice are less bothered by your presence. We remember when reporters did this.

    In fact, I was out for a walk the other day in my community (I now live in a 55 and older community since my husband passed away) and so I was taking a stroll and two cops on bikes passed and I said “Hi there officers. Thanks for keeping us safe”. (I’m a retired elementary school teacher and so officer Friendly was always part of the curriculum). They stopped and asked if I would take a selfie with them for their local police website. I of course said sure and told them to make me look ten years younger which had us all laughing in the photo. They informed me it would be on line and in the local paper. That was fun. And I didn’t worry that I wasn’t wearing make-up or dressed to the nines! So I think if you go to an older community you might have better luck.

    My thoughts about Kavanaugh are as follows…. I think he is an arrogant, belligerent, entitled, rude, man. I wouldn’t hire him to teach at my school. Besides teaching for 36 years before I retired, I was head of the School Advisory Committee and was the Union Representative. Therefore, I often sat in with the administration when they were interviewing prospective new staff members. I have to be honest and say that If some angry man (or woman) yelled, refused to answer questions, and responded back with snippy questions (Did You?) I not only wouldn’t hire him to teach, I would report him to the board of education and request he be banned from working in the district. That kind or erratic behavior would make me worry about his judgement in the classroom when dealing with children.

    Who the hell does Kavanaugh think he is? Based on his irrational behavior alone at that interview, he is not worthy of being on the supreme court. Did he assault Ms. Ford? I don’t know. But,based on her testimony, I think he did. She was rational, and her memory was intact. Plus, she knew him and had seen him many times in her social circle. 30 plus years ago women did not talk about sexual assault. Girls were told if a boy came on to them it was their fault. So it was not unusual that she did not tell her mother. Had I been in this situation, I too would have felt a duty to come forward like Ms. Ford. She knew her attacker. She saw him plenty of times and therefore there was no question of his identity. He on the other hand may have no memory of it because he was sloppy drunk and apparently was used to having his way with girls according to reports about those parties and year book comments. And if his behavior in an interview was mean and belligerent, then I can only presume he would be a meaner drunk.

    BUT, based on his interview alone, I would look on the list for the next candidate and just move on. We don’t need a judge with that kind of a temperament problem. Politics aside, there are plenty of other judges on either side of the political arena who would be much better suited for the job. Merritt Garland is my first choice. But any other Republican man or woman would be far better than the arrogant jerk who showed up at that hearing. That’s this woman’s viewpoint. You can use my profile picture if you want to.

    Like

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