My friend James retired from an illustrious broadcasting career a year ago. He spent 40 years in the business. In that time, he’d seen incredible changes….namely in the industry itself.
James is funny, smart, a brilliant writer, a gifted and trusted newsman…he’s a Vietnam veteran, a graduate of Texas Tech and a conservative dresser, as well. He went the Less Nessman route and always wore a tie and crisp button down shirt to work. I seem to remember seeing him in a dark blue Munsingwear pull over once. I swear to God, even that was starched.
There was always an air of propriety about James. He was cool and calm and always collected. He was the one that was able to keep his head while others around him lost theirs—you know the type.
I had a four martini lunch with him the other day. We do that on occasion. He talks about his life after TV and radio and I complain to him about my life still in TV and radio.
He tells me that his friends and family are interested in knowing how he spends his time. He insists that in between drinking coffee, he rarely has trouble finding interesting things to do. He insists his life is full and that he is happy.
He says he runs an amazing amount of errands. More than he ever did while working.
He conveyed one story that was particularly…well, interesting.
The other day he had a number of things to do…he had to make a deposit at the bank, run to the cleaners, drop off a few payments here and there and pick up a watch that was being repaired. He was in his neighborhood jewelry store for less than five minutes—he got his watch, paid for it, then walked out the door.
Once outside, there was one of Houston’s finest writing out a parking ticket. James said to the officer, “Come on man, how about giving a veteran a break?
James said the cop completely ignored him and continued writing the ticket. This infuriated James. He then called the cop a “Nazi.”
This obviously displeased the policeman. James said he glared at him, then wrote another ticket because that car had worn tires and were considered “dangerous”. This infuriated James even more, so he called the cop a “doughnut eating ssshole.”
He finished writing the second ticket and put it on the windshield next to the first.
He looked up at James and smiled and that made James NUTSO, so he decided to add insult to injury by calling the uniformed one, a “shit brained, ham breathed prick.”
With that, the officer wrote a third ticket.
So, I’m listening to this story, not believing my ears. It’s all so completely uncharacteristic for James; for the James I KNOW, anyway. This man has never been a confrontational sort. He was always so reserved. I was looking at a very different person. Something had happened since he hung up his headphones for good.
I was dining with a changed man.
Anyway, James said the back and forth name-calling and the ticket-writing went on for 20-minutes.
But James added that he really didn’t care.
You see, up until that point, he’d left out one very important point while conveying his story.
James took the bus to run his errands that morning.
The car wasn’t his.
So, I asked him the logical question, “Then why did you do that, James? Why did you egg the policeman on?”
He replied, “Because the car he was ticketing had a bumper sticker on it that read, “Hillary in ‘08”.
He raised an eyebrow and looked at me as he took a long sip from his martini. I smiled.
Suddenly, I understood.
Ah, sweet retirement.
I’m counting the days.