MIKE TAYLOR: I’m just tryin’ to keep the customer satisfied, one word at a time

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 9:58 am on Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mike Taylor

I’m worried about an email I received from a reader the other day. I get a lot of mail, most of it complimentary. It’s complimentary not because I’m the next James Thurber, but because I rarely write about anything of consequence and do my best to avoid controversial topics.

When it comes to reproductive rights, gun control, religion, politics and parenting, I’d just like to state emphatically and for the record that I agree wholly and completely with you.

Well, no, I probably don’t. I have strong opinions about all these things; it’s just that I don’t care whether you agree with me. I’ve never felt the need to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I’m an old hippie with a live and let live philosophy. Different strokes for different folks. All that love-bead, peace-sign, bell-bottom, Volkswagen mini-van, flowers-in-your-hair hooey.

So when it comes to this column, I write for the most part about things that amuse me; things I think are funny and things I hope others also will find amusing. Sometimes I hit my mark, sometimes I don’t. In the long years I’ve been writing, I’ve learned to accept that every word tumbling from my laptop is not Shakespeare. I’m trying to make a buck here, not build a legacy.

Which is why the recent reader letter worries me. For starters, the writer — for legal reasons I’ll call him Elroy, though his real name is Henry — does not have a high opinion of many of my fellow columnists; none of them, in fact. As to my own columnistic prowess, he — for the time being, at least — reserves judgment. (And yes, the word “columnistic” is one I just made up. Please file your complaints with Merriam-Webster.)

But the thing that worries me is Elroy (real name: Henry) finds odious several writers whom I, personally, like a lot. And he dislikes them for the same reasons I do like them.

Like me, several of these columnists write about nothing in particular; just the everyday minutiae that comprise our little lives here on this big planet. Home improvement projects gone horribly awry; diets that leave us 10 pounds heavier; teenage sons and daughters who routinely shave years from our lives … things that, in the words of the Immortal Bard of Stratford on Avon (some guy named Bill), are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

We’re like Facebook, only with better grammar and less profanity.

Elroy (OK, let’s just call him Henry and be done with it) hates columns like these. According to Henry (that guy we were until recently calling Elroy), he dislikes columns about “upper crust” citizens, big butts and other weight-loss concerns, money worries and name-dropping. Over the years, I myself have written essays about all these things along with topics even more mundane.

I have a bad feeling Henry isn’t going to like my column, either, once he reads a few of ’em. (This one, for example.)

But that’s OK. I can live with that. In this age of spoon-fed televised media, where most folks ingest all their information, pabulum-like, through one video screen or another, Henry is still reading a newspaper, dammit, and that makes him all right in my book. If he hates me, at least he’s reading me!

And come to think of it, I’ve hated a few columnists in my life and yet read them every week, just so I could remind myself of why I hated them. (Former Grand Rapids Press writer John Douglas leaps to mind.) But, like Henry (formerly Elroy), I read them anyway, and then complained bitterly to anyone who would listen.

So, go ahead, Henry. Do your worst. Write me anytime to let me know what an idiot I am. I have ex-wives who have called me far worse. I can take it. Hopefully, we’ll have a long and adversarial relationship.

Mike Taylor’s book, “Looking at the Pint Half Full,” is available in eBook format from Amazon.com.

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