Misplaced Rage.

I had no intention of writing another Vick post for a while, but I got a phone call while at work last night from a viewer (in smaller markets, newsroom employees also serve as off-hours receptionists). The short conversation went something like this:

“News.”
“Hello. I realize you’re probably busy, but I have a question: Is all that stuff they’re saying about the dogs being electrocuted and thrown on the floor true?”
“Excuse me?”
“The football player and the dogs. My son in Los Angeles told me that there was this athlete who absolutely brutalized these poor animals, and I didn’t believe him.”
“Do you mean Michael Vick, ma’am?”
“I’m not sure about his name. When my son told me about it, I just couldn’t believe it, and I told him, ‘I’m going to call the news and see if it’s true.’ Is it? Did he really electrocute, shoot, and kill those dogs?”
“Ma’am, Michael Vick has been indicted on dogfighting charges, and those sorts of things are in the indictment, but I don’t have it in front of me, so I can’t say for sure.”
“God, he did those things? I told my son, ‘If these things are true, I won’t be able to sleep at night.’ I work with dogs, and I can’t believe a person would do such things to animals. What an awful man.”
“He’s only been indicted, ma’am. He hasn’t been tried or convicted.”
“Doesn’t matter. He’s a horrible person. Someone ought to electrocute him, so he knows how it feels.”

(Semi-stunned silence on my part, fumbling around for a response.)

“I’m sure you’re busy. I’ll let you go now. I just wanted to find out if it was true. How awful. Thank you, and I watch you all every night.”
“You’re welcome, ma’am. Thank you for watching. Good night.”

(Photo: AP/Bebeto Matthews)

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14 Responses

  1. that must have been an intresting conversation. Ive had calls similar before and its hard to know what to even say.

  2. In defense of the caller, I too had no idea these sort of things even happened… NFL player or not.
    I hate for people to convict Vick in their minds before the trial, but perhaps this will shed some light on what’s going on in segments of American society.

  3. It was just very disarming to hear a desire for electrocution actually verbalized, on the phone, from an average person, especially over something that, in the large scheme of things, is not particularly important. Yes, how we treat animals does say plenty about us as a society, but, reflecting upon it, I never get calls that angry about the war in Iraq or, to be more local, violent gang members (they want them jailed, but never have I heard death sentiments.)

  4. “He’s only been indicted, ma’am. He hasn’t been tried or convicted.”

    “Doesn’t matter. He’s a horrible person. Someone ought to electrocute him, so he knows how it feels.”

    That part of the exchange pretty much sums things up. She has no idea who the person is, is told he hasn’t been convicted, yet she’s sure he’s a horrible person and should be electrocuted. Hilarious.

    This is why I could never work in customer service. People would get blessed out, as my mom would say:)

  5. How do people even call into the newsroom? How do they have that number published?

    You handled it pretty well though, and at least she didn’t yell “BabaBooey” at the end of the call.

  6. That’s our reality, ain’t it? Sigh. Sh*t is depressing sometimes….

    I commend you on your restraint, sir.

  7. The main station number is published, not the newsroom number; however, if it isn’t 8am-5pm and a weekday, the call is forwarded to the newsroom due to the lack of a receptionist.

    I just sensed from the beginning of the call that there would be no real attempt to change the woman’s mind too much. So, I just let it slide.

  8. For 22 years, I worked with people similar to that lady, and it drove me nuts trying to reason with them. I finally realized it was an impossible task, so I just gave up. Eventually, my standard response to any statement they made was , “OK, whatever…” One of my favorite comedians, Ron White, has the perfect line for people like that: You can’t fix stupid.”.

  9. Who the hell calls the local newsroom for such information? Ever hear of the internet, lady?

  10. Oh, man. That reminds me of a call I got after the Ohio State-Texas game in ’05. I was all, “Um, no I didn’t see it.” Not the best response to that question, apparently.

  11. RUTS – it’s a small city. More people do this than you would think. At this level, local news is very local, and people feel personal enough (especially those older than the computer generation) to call the station itself, since before the days of cable, my station was the only one you could pick up in certain parts of the county via antennae.

    That, and there are still people who don’t have easy access to the internet.

  12. It sounds like you handled that as well as you could have. Unfortunately people with way too much time on their hands put their focus on anything they can. Don’t envy you there, but hey, the silver lining is people like that keep the writers block away.

  13. […] Misplaced Rage [Signal to Noise] […]

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