In News of the World by Paulette Jiles, Civil War Veteran Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd makes a living traveling around Texas reading newspapers to people who pay an admission fee of ten cents.
Apparently, news was scarce in the years following the Civil War. I suspect the literacy rate increased Captain Kidd’s market too.
The book is centered around Captain Kidd’s efforts to transport a young girl safely from one part of Texas to another.
We know three things about Texas are beyond dispute:
- To anyone with a connection to Texas, it is the greatest state ever.
- To everyone else, that conclusion is incomprehensible.
- Texas is really big.
So Captain Kidd had to travel a long way through hostile territory in hopes of returning the girl to her family.
But that saga is not what reminded me of News of the World this week.
Captain Kidd’s vocation must have been for the time like a mix between local theater and podcasting. How would anyone have known if he made it all up just to entertain his audience?
I love podcasts. I am especially entertained by the ones focused on business, marketing, and self-help. (The political ones stress me out.)
You learn over time and with a little research that many of the interviewers and guests are not always peddling data-based information. In truth, some are quite skilled at creating new ideas to improve our lives without much supporting research.
They make up for this shortcoming with charisma and good marketing, usually packaging their ideas into a formula and distributing them in courses or books.
Last week I listened to a podcaster interview Nir Eyal, author of a book called “Indistractable.” He claims it will teach us to control our time and attention by understanding the psychology of distraction. According to his website, his book is supported by scientific research and I have no reason to doubt it.
What caught my attention though was his emphasis on the importance of separating from our phones and all the associated alerts for periods of time.
I am with him on the alerts.
But clearly this man does not make a living being accessible to people who get cold calls from government agents, internal investigators, or their professional licensing agencies.
Most certainly, he does not have college-aged children.
My son moved home from college like every other college student in America in March 2020. We decided after a couple weeks that allowing him to stay in a cabin at the coast would be beneficial for everyone.
After George Floyd’s death, he and friends decided to attend a protest. With few options in Carteret County, they drove to Raleigh.
Like any parent of a young “Bernie Bro,” I was happy he cared, concerned he may do something stupid, and hopeful he would turn the advocacy into some positive action, like voting, volunteering, or working.
So before the protest I offered advice:
“Only attend the formal, choreographed, peaceful protest. You will hear good speakers, express yourself, and avoid being associated with any unsanctioned misdeeds.”
Around 11:00 p.m., we got a FaceTime call. You will be surprised to know that he did not take my advice.
He was in a friend’s apartment in downtown Raleigh with a number of comrades — red-faced, agitated by the authoritarian response to the protest, and righteously indignant.
Of course I was relieved to see he was safe and confined only by his friend’s mother’s expensive downtown apartment.
So I offered my second piece of advice:
“Stay there for the night. You are safe from the chaos outside.”
At 4:00 a.m. I heard the phone buzz beside my bed. The dreaded 4:00 a.m. call.
Shockingly, my son had ignored my second piece of advice.
He was half-way back to the coast in his mom’s Honda Accord when he realized it was low on gas. He made it to the gas pump but realized he had another problem.
Son: “Could you transfer a little money to my account for gas?”
Father: “Why don’t you ask your friend for a few dollars?”
Son: “She is asleep in the back and I don’t want to wake her.”
It was 4:00 a.m. and he wasn’t calling from a hospital, jail, or wreck.
I transferred the money.
I am not sure when I transitioned from answering the phone in the middle out of concern for my clients to answering it out of fear for my children.
But I’m unlikely to follow Mr. Eyal’s advice anytime soon.
We are criminal trial lawyers. We represent people accused of criminal offenses and professional misconduct who risk losing everything. We work to get them their best results and back to leading productive lives.
Call if you need us, or if you just want to say hello.
P.S. I listened to another podcast interview of a woman who is selling a book about the benefits of giving yourself a high five each morning, which allegedly solves all sorts of problems. Can’t hurt!