|2/8/2014 3:06:00 PM|
World, meet John Hammer
I was having coffee at one of our local downtown shops and checking out what Honest Hoosier said in my favorite Montgomery County daily. The day was cold outside but the coffee was hot and plenty of friends were passing by.
A great way to spend a little time.
The door opened and a cold wind blew across the back of my neck. I turned and took in a large hunk of a man. He stood at least 6-6 and tipped the scales on the north side of 300. He had on jeans, big snow boots with fur around the top and one of those fur caps that have flaps that come down over the ears. His face was lined and weathered. I couldn't tell if he was 50 or 70. I could tell that he was someone I wouldn't want to have mad at me.
So it only made sense that he glanced around the room, spotted me, put something between a frown and a grimace on his face and came right over.
"You Timmons?" he asked.
A whole lot of potential answers popped in my head, none of which had me admitting that I was indeed. I nodded less than enthusiastically.
"John's my name," he said, sticking out a hand that looked more like a big, ol' paw. "I'd like to talk to you."
I made a mental note to fire whoever told him where I was, smiled as best I could and shook his hand. Well, at least I put my hand out and watched his paw swallow it.
"My friends call me Hammer," he said, pulling up a chair.
"What can I do for you, Hammer?"
The look told me I ought to stick with John.
"I want to talk about where this city and county are going," he started. "I've worked here all my life. Started out at Donnelley and then switched jobs about 15 years ago because I thought it was a better deal. Since then, I've worked in three different plants here and watched every one of them go out of business or cut back so far that a bunch of us lost our jobs.
"And I don't like it very much."
At this point, it appeared that my best interest was trying to find out what made Hammer . . . uh, John, happy. It made some sense in my mind that keeping my ears open and mouth shut was my best chance of making that happen.
"We've got all these jobs that are being lost," he continued. "But I don't get it. I don't see why we should be losing these jobs. We've got a good place to live. We've got good people who'll give an honest day's labor for an honest day's wage. We've got an interstate. We've got rail. Our airport is alright. Why are we losing jobs?"
Honestly, I didn't have an answer - which was OK. John did.
"I'll tell you what I think. I think we've got too many of the heads of the companies that are here who don't live here. They live in Brownsburg and Indianapolis and Lafayette. That's not how it used to be. And you know why that's important? It's important because it's hard to close a plant or lay people off when you're going to see them dropping the kids off at school and at church on Sunday. These people don't live here and they don't have to see the pain and misery up close.
"And that's not all. Tell me what our economic development people are doing about this? Tell me what our chamber is doing about this? Tell me what the mayor is doing about this? The county? You know, I sure didn't vote for Obama, but I'm starting to like some of what I hear out of the guy. He's at least trying. He says he's going to create jobs and send out stimulus checks. Maybe I don't agree with everything, but he's doing something. I heard the governor last week talk about doing something.
"I'm fine with tough times. What I'm not fine about is not trying and not living where you work.
"It's too easy to ignore the pain and that makes it too easy to not look for answers."
With that he stood up and looked down at me. "I like your paper. I like the idea that you guys have created jobs and given back. I like the idea that your owners live here.
"But what I really want to like is to see you guys ask who's doing something local to fix this mess and save some jobs."
He lumbered away. I sat there.
It's a good question and the Hammer is asking.
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