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June 16, 2010

BAYLOR: Still killing: The scourge of L.I.D.S.

NEW ALBANY — Our car had a thermostat issue last week and we found ourselves riding in the cab of a tow truck with a talkative driver who regaled us with street and highway tales as we made a trip to the family mechanic.

As is the case so often when listening to stories about other people's lives rather than spinning sagas about your own, something the driver said stuck with me.

“I'm lucky to have a job that I love,” he offered, “but it isn't always easy to do.”

The driver went on to explain that driving a tow truck generally means meeting people when they're at their lowest. Worried, stressed and sometimes angry about forthcoming repairs to their broken-down vehicles, they're not always satisfied in the sense of our culture's rigid insistence that customers must always be “right” for a job to have been well done.

Nonetheless, my driver described himself as ideally suited for being good at his particular line of work. “Driving a tow truck is perfect for me,” he concluded, “because I'm pretty much of an (expletive deleted).”

We took a taxi home, enjoying an even wittier conversation about the hurricane back in '08 and how it deposited an entire tree atop the hack's (expletive deleted) of a next door neighbor's car. Still later, over multiple progressive pints, I reflected on my career in advocating better beer, and taking a cold, hard look at the mirror, I could see that I'm an (expletive deleted), too. As was the case with our tow truck driver, it doesn't bother me a single bit, and in the end, I'm very well suited for my job as beer-y-vangelist.

• • •

To know me is to know that I feel the same way toward American low-calorie “light” lagers as the devout typically react to the presence of sin, except that the object of my annoyance is easier to define than theirs, and to do so, I need no assistance from arbitrary religious texts. My taste buds rule, and consequently, low-calorie “light” lagers have not been available at our original pub and pizzeria location since 1994.

In spite of a long tradition of offering golden-colored alternatives from near and far, collateral damage can (and does) occur, as was the case recently when I noticed a comment about our pub and pizzeria, as posted at an online dining review site:

“Owner's pompous attitude about domestic beer precludes patronizing this restaurant.”

•••

Granted, opinions are like certain tow truck drivers and selected publicans, and that's fine, except the comment was accompanied by a “zero” rating for the restaurant, skewing the average, and coming from a person who freely admitted that he will not even enter the restaurant, leading to two pertinent questions:

1. How can you “review” something you won't try?

2. We brew beer on site. Can it get any more domestic than that?

After sufficient time to think it over, I responded by private message:

"I can overlook 'pompous,' although I cannot remember our discussion, but if domestic means American, then we have numerous domestic beers in all styles and flavors, brewed by American breweries. Thanks."

Only then did the bizarre truth begin to unfold. I'd struck the nerve of a card-carrying Lightweight, an apparent victim of Light-Induced Deficiency Syndrome. Here's his answer, noting in advance that the exact light low-calorie lager beer he referenced has been artfully concealed so I don't offend the advertising department.

“You cannot remember a verbal discussion we have had on the topic because we have never had any discussion or met in person, however, I have read many negative and demeaning comments over the years you have made on your blog regarding my favorite brew, Mi**er *ite, and other similarly brewed beers. Clearly in my opinion, those comments regarding Mi**er *ite and similar beers are excessively elevated or ornate leading to my use of the word pompous.

“Like you, I enjoy consuming a beer or two, exclusively Mi**er *ite, while I am out in establishments that serve beer. Given the last time, and granted it has been a long time, your accounts fervently did not serve Mi**er *ite or any other American made "Low Calorie/Light" beer. As such I chose not to frequent your businesses.”

I tried again, suggesting that in my case, “pompous” is less accurate a description than “courageous” and “excessively principled,” and asking whether it was not highly petty of him to slag an establishment that he won't even enter owing to a pre-conceived prejudice.

“No, actually Roger you are pompous by definition and certainly have demeaned Mi**er *ite and brews of its ilk many times.

“You certainly may call my opinion petty in that I understand that any opinion I may have on this subject is secondary to yours, which of course makes your opinion on this subject petty to me.

“You are the owner and as such make the decisions regarding brands you carry in your establishment … on the other hand, I am the consumer and as such have every right to 'consume' your product or not and by word of mouth 'advertise' my opinion. You must know that is how it works.”

Yes, I guess so. The consumer's always right. He's never petty or prejudiced, and that's how the vortex bottle works to drain off brain matter quickly and efficiently — just in time to have another.

Actually, I'm relieved. For a minute there, I thought it was about me.

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