Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Everything old is new again

It's October 1800 and they've called a special meeting of the Town Council. The subject--what happened to the Town Crier?

It's October 1800 and they've called a special meeting of the Town Council. The subject--what happened to the Town Crier? Because the Council comprises merchants, a banker, and a farmer, the concern for the missing Crier is mostly expressed by the general store proprietor. "Who is going to be spreading the noon news that I used to sponsor," he asked. "I just got a shipment of China tea from that latest clipper ship arrival and it's going to be clogging up my stockroom if I don't let the housewives know it is here."

The practical farmer answered, "Why not use young Ben who has the newfangled broadside sheet press in his print shop?"

"Takes too long to get quantities of those sheets printed and on a humid day the ink runs so you can't make out my selling prices."

The cooper whose barrels were only made to order asked, "How much were you paying the Crier and why did you stop?"

"Not much, but I was his best customer. It's the economy, what with the recent collapse of the state banking system, new taxes on imported goods, and two years of drought that impacted the harvest reducing bartering options, my business is off by 40%," said the store owner.

"Well don't blame me," said the farmer. "I don't control the weather. Besides the drought is over and this year's crop looks better. So you should see the wives back in your store soon."

"I hear you but I'm just not ready to start up with the Crier again until I have more confidence in the economy."

"You mean you want guarantees that buyers will come back to you before you spend money telling them what you have to sell? Who ever heard of such a thing?" said the miller. "Besides, if you don't get the word out about your new shipment my wife will keep serving me that chamomile tea she makes, which I can’t stand."

The Council Chairman interrupted, "Look, forget the tea; the issue before us is how can we get the Crier back on the road. There's an election coming up and I need to get my message to the voters."

"Don't look at me as the bad guy," said the store owner. "I can't fund him by myself, maybe others need to pitch in."

The cooper said, "Right, and we need to do it now. By the time Ben gets his machine running right it may be too late and you'll be forced to cut your hours and the assortment of merchandise you stock."

The banker, whose contacts were widespread cautioned, "I’ve heard the Crier was seen across the river, trying out for the flatlander's council. Ben can't print enough broad sheets to get news over there. Maybe if we they hire him we can give him a megaphone and he can shout the news over the river to us."

"How about we find a new Crier," opined the farmer. "What's so special about the old one?"

"He knows us, our needs, our wants, and our way of life; he's one of us," answered the miller. "When he spreads the news it's done with integrity."

"What's with the integrity, all we want is the news headlines, you think content matters?" the Council Chairman added, knowing full well that he really didn't want the Crier telling everything he knew.

"I've got a suggestion--why don't you guys kick in? I shouldn't be the only one sponsoring the Crier. How about sharing the burden?" pleaded the store owner.

At this blasphemy a motion was made to adjourn the Council and the members fled the room, clutching their purses.

A few days later passing the General Store one could see, through an open door, the proprietor standing in front of a sign reading--Inventory Reduction Sale--surrounded by unopened boxes of China tea, striving to listen through an ear trumpet to the faint voice of the Town Crier delivering the noon news across the river.

And so it goes.

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