No, this isn’t about Super Bowl “grunt” players “duking it out” in the football trenches. I’m referencing Glen Campbell, who is crooning around the country on his well-earned “farewell tour” to cap off a career spanning 50+ years.The Alzheimer victim is singing our old favorites, including “Wichita Lineman,” one of lyricist Jimmy Webb’s best songs. Every time I hear it, thoughts turn to my dear old dad. He, too, was a “lineman”—literally—but that’s where comparison to the vaunted vocalist ends.They worked for two different utilities—Glen sang of main road telephone lines. My dad was a “do everything” guy for a small natural gas company serving rural clientele in Brown County, Texas. He was a “lineman” who walked gas pipelines, mostly in the country and often in pastures. His customers loved him, though. Before he and natural gas came along, they were sentenced to fireplace-and-woodstove days….*****Dad earned what now would be considered a half-notch above minimum wage. Not a guitarist or passable vocalist, he was better suited for humming. And that’s what he did as he walked the gas lines, many of which were above ground in the 1940s.He’d take along a bottle of soapy water and an old toothbrush, his ears cocked to detect hissing sounds and his nose at “full sniff,” ever alert for escaping gas. Often he’d take me along on short treks. I remember his slathering soap suds on pipe connections to detect leaks—“just to play it safe,” as he put it. Sometimes he’d send me back to the truck for “such and such” wrench. Occasionally I returned with the correct tool; usually I didn’t.Later, as a newspaper reporter in college and in higher education media relations during the first half of my professional career, I considered myself a “lineman,” too. I made a tad more money than Dad, but fell several million dollars short of Campbell. Dad’s “play it safe” admonition still rings in my memory, even though he died two decades ago. I seek a continuation of the high roads he always sought.…*****Dad read newspapers, as he said, “kivver to kivver.” Even in his final days, he’d comment on the news. Upon finishing, he’d reflect on the pressing issues, commenting on what he’d do, “just to play it safe.”Today, he’d wonder why so many high roads are untaken, particularly on matters of monumental importance. A current example is the proposed Keystone pipeline, the multi-billion dollar project stretching from Canada to Texas—the one recently delayed by President Obama. Dad might say something like, “There’s more to this than meets the eye. On the ‘tuther end,’ the president may eventually be viewed as the ultimate ‘Keystone Kop’ or ‘Keystone Cop-out.’” And Dad would pray that high roads be taken….*****Speaking of linemen (and “linewomen”), I sympathize greatly with Carnival Cruise Lines media relations people who are busy calming media waters in an industry whose safety record is remarkable, despite ABC-TV’s “hatchet job” that suggests otherwise.The network account was as one-sided as any I’ve ever seen.ABC didn’t “take the high road,” airing what might be expected from disgruntled former cruise line employees. Surely the inclusion of comments from “gruntled” employees would have added balance….*****Cruise “linepersons,” so much in “tread-water mode” fielding media inquiries, must ignore ongoing Internet social media lampoons aimed at the ill-fated, clueless ship captain who was NOT cut from “just-to-be-safe” cloth.“Tweets” I’ve heard—some second, third or even “umpteenth hand”—drag details of the tragic event into the alleys of questionable taste. One claims the captain to be “an avid rock hound who can hardly wait for the club’s next meeting to tell about the big one he found.” Another said that at his initial hearing, there wasn’t a “wet eye in the place.” Then there was the “boat for sale” on some Internet site: “’As is’ on coast of Italy. Clearly a ‘fixer-upper,’ buyer assumes cost of shipping/handling.”…*****The world cries for people up and down the line who’ll “walk it and talk it.” That line is COMMON SENSE, and it doesn’t even require soapy water or toothbrush.Really, we can all be “linepersons,” not just for the county, but across our beloved country. There’s a clarion call for volunteers on the main roads, side roads, country roads and brambly lanes. If we take the task seriously, countless lifelines will be thrown to millions of folks now hung out to dry….*****
Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Email: email@example.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.