Friday, January 14, 2011

Defusing Bombs

One night last October, I found myself waiting for a dinner order at a restaurant bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming, seated between a two men in their late twenties.  One was a club hockey player from Canada, in route with his team to Colorado for a game, and the other I learned was a person desperate for a new career.

“I lost my job in the gas fields up near Pinedale because Obama was elected,” he declared.  I gently reminded him that the economy collapsed under the previous President and he nodded yes with a sudden epiphany.43_unexploded_sea_bomb

Something about him reminded me of my father.  The entire population of Wyoming is no more than the population of the Durham, North Carolina metro area where I live.

He was surprised that I knew where Pinedale was until I revealed that I had grown up on the other side of the Teton Range about the same distance west as Pinedale is southeast of Jackson Hole.

I could tell, even if he hadn’t explained, that he was one of many young people in that part of the country who had married soon after high school, got a good job and started a family only to have his dreams bombed by the financial industry meltdown that none of us truly grasps.

Life isn’t always “fair” and it is likely President Obama is not only blamed by a lot of people for the meltdown, and ironically, probably won’t receive credit by those same people for the turnaround.

I asked the guy at the bar what brought him all the way down to Cheyenne and he told me “bombs.”  His father-in-law had paid for him to take a training course and be certified to “defuse and dispose of bombs” in numerous places around the world.

He wasn’t going to move but he knew he’d never again be able to enjoy, in the same way, the simple pleasures Pinedale gives a sportsman.  He knew he’d miss his wife and kids every day but he was eager to feel useful again, to see the world and to do something to help people.

I told him, “now you’ll have skills and training in two industries”, but something in his eyes told me that he’d never be going back to the gas fields.  I thought back over our conversation as I walked back to my hotel room across a parking lot filled with vehicles and out-of-state hunters readying to follow me in the morning up over the 9,000+ foot Laramie Pass -- I to visit my grandsons in Salt Lake City and the hunters seeking trophy Elk.

I hope everyone who’s life has been altered by this recession can share in some way that young man’s resilience, his lack of bitterness, his humility and courage to pursue a completely different career and his heartfelt gratitude for assistance.

I just wish he could lend his new skill at defusing bombs to regulators in the Federal government who are tasked with making certain that another meltdown like this doesn’t recur at a time when so many new to Congress seem bent on rolling back and short-funding new safeguards including consumer protections.

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