Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Job


Instead of being able to walk barefoot in the sand (which I really hate to do), I am half a foot deep in the Big Muddy, oops, I mean the Big Snowy (which I hate even more).

The storm of the year really wasn’t so bad here in White Plains, but it was enough to frighten Virgin America into canceling my flight out west this morning. The earliest I can get to Los Angeles is Sunday. Meantime, my trusted gas snowblower made pretty swift work of the heavy white stuff.

I bought the snowblower last winter after years of shoveling and arguing. The shoveling I did by myself. The arguing I did with Gilda. She wasn’t too keen on my replacing muscle power with engine power. You see, 20 years ago I gave my Toro power snow shovel to my brother and replaced it with a small electric snowblower. Big mistake. It not only lacked power, but the long electric cord also made clearing the snow difficult. I kept getting tangled up trying not to run over the cord. So I got rid of the electric snowblower, prompting Gilda to accuse me of being wasteful. She was right, of course, but I figured that after 20 years of rejecting my entreaties to buy a gas powered blower she would relent without too much risk to the marriage when the forecast called for a big storm last January. She wasn’t happy when she saw it, but after the first time I used it she came to accept its practicality.

Obtaining snow removal equipment 25 years ago this month got me in trouble at work for chastising, in print, a regional home center chain and its local store manager for their arrogance and disregard for customers. Rather than name the retailer involved, a retailer no longer in business, for good reason, but not wanting to repeat the mistake I made a quarter of a century ago, let me quickly relate the circumstances without naming names.

Before The Home Depot came to Westchester, one snowy Saturday afternoon in early February 1985, I picked out a power snow shovel at the home center store but was thwarted in my attempt to pay for it. The manager had let half his cashiers take a break, leaving patrons waiting 10 deep for service at three lines. When we complained, an off-duty Greenburgh policeman serving as a store security guard threatened to arrest us. I promptly dropped the shovel, went to a nearby Caldor and bought a similar model without hassle. I got my revenge through my March editorial. The retailer complained to our management. I ran an apology in May for singling out and criticizing the company for an incident in one store.

History proved my initial analysis to be correct. The chain was without merit, existing only in the absence of real competition. It went out of business shortly after The Home Depot arrived in the NY metro area.

Still, I should have been a little more restrained. We live today in a world of free-wheeling journalism, or what passes for journalism. Gossip TV shows. A radio station that promote its “daily sleeze” report. Blogs that deal in innuendo, slanted news. Cable news shows that are anything but fair and honest.

When you’re held accountable for what you put in print or say, you learn to appreciate the power of the press.