Hey, you know what I just heard?

If you hang around the airport long enough you’ll hear all sorts of interesting news. For example, just last week a local stopped into my office to ask about the new seaplane base being built on Lake Hartridge. The lake sits across 21st Street NW, which borders the airport on the eastern side. This individual explained in great detail how the seaplane base was going to be expansive, with ramps and an electric gate that would allow seaplanes to taxi up out of the lake, across the street, and onto the airport grounds.

It was a fascinating story.

This morning I got a call from a local resident who asked me to tell him why Polk State College was moving its Aerospace Science degree program and all their flight training to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. Lakeland is 14 miles west of Winter Haven, where the program is currently based.

That call intrigued me. Perhaps especially so because I recently read on the Internet that I had been fired from my position at Polk State College, although the reason for the firing was unclear.

To be honest with you, I found all these tidbits of news to be fascinating and profoundly entertaining. Because you see, there is no massive seaplane base with electric gates being built on Lake Hartridge. Polk State College hasn’t announced any plans to pull up stakes and move their aerospace science programs lock, stock, and barrel to the western side of the county. And to the best of my knowledge I have not been fired from my position at Polk State College — although in fairness, that’s probably because I have never been employed by that fine institution of higher learning. Not in any capacity. Surely, somebody over there would like to fire me anyway. So I’ll give half-credit on that one.

These are all rumors. But they are rumors that actually do float around, fill people’s heads with false information, and like all rumors, expand and become more heinous over time. With each telling the situation gets worse, the individuals named become more onerous, and the ugliness becomes unbelievably stupid and avoidable – if only “they” would listen to reason and use their common sense.

Isn’t it interesting that nobody ever seems to know who “they” is, but the teller is confident every other aspect of the story is entirely true anyway. Hmmm.

The phenomenon is a familiar one. It’s like a game I learned at camp one summer as a child. It’s called telegraph. The idea is for a large group of people to sit in a circle. The first person whispers to the second a simple sentence. Something like, “I want to eat lunch,” would work fine. The second person then whispers the same message to the next person in the circle, and off the telegraphed message goes to make one circuit around the room.

If everyone communicates the message clearly and accurately, the last person in the circle should be able to report the message as, “I want to eat lunch.” But that’s not what happens. The somebody changes the message slightly to say, “I’m hungry.” That message is muddled again when somebody further along says, “I want a sandwich.” Two transmissions later that becomes, “I ate a Cuban [sandwich].” So by the time the last person gets the message, “I want to eat lunch,” has become, “Fidel Castro killed and ate that kid’s Uncle Morrie.”

The more people involved, the more convoluted and bizarre the mangled message becomes.

Fortunately, I have teenage daughters, so I’m familiar with the rumor mill. And I spent some time in local politics, so I know how common it is for adults to take an impression, mold it into a supposition, then translate that errant thought into an angry outburst, which ultimately leads to a secret back-room deal – of course. All of this is what causes an otherwise decent person to stand up at a podium during a public meeting to demand the resignation of someone employed in the public sector who honestly has no idea what the man banging his shoe on the table is talking about. It happens all the time, because we’re people and we’re weird. That’s just the way we are.

Then again, we don’t have to be that way. We could step back, take in the bigger picture, and possibly ask a question or two of people who are actually knowledgeable about the topic of discussion rather than immediately jumping to conclusions based on hearsay. I can tell you from personal experience, decisions and opinions based on solid information tend to be a whole lot more worthwhile than the ones we make based on second hand information overheard while in line at the coffee shop.

As for my situation here, I’ve decided to play along rather than fight the tide. That seaplane base going in on the eastern side of the airport – it’s a ruse. It’s really a security gate and guard shack that’s intended to keep the people on the south side of the airport from getting to the north side.

Polk State? I heard they’re moving their whole operation to a wheat field in Nebraska thanks to a sweetheart of a tax deal hammered out by Bob Kerry.

And about me getting fired, I can only say this. You have to be careful when you mix alcohol, co-eds, and long holiday weekends. Man, the stories I could tell…


  1. Doyle Frost says

    Mr. Beckett, thank you for a good article. It sounds as if you learned a lot during your stint with politicians. As to rumors, too bad more people don’t have your skill at listening to, and finding the truth of the matter, for the entire story before jumping to conclusions.

  2. Randee Laskewitz says

    I’d like to share this with some of my Face Book “friends” who are consistently putting rumors out that are biased to their liking. Thanks for the great article.

  3. says

    “Then again, we don’t have to be that way. We could step back, take in the bigger picture, and possibly ask a question or two of people who are actually knowledgeable about the topic of discussion rather than immediately jumping to conclusions based on hearsay.”

    Wouldn’t that be refreshing; however, people with agendas are counting on the rumor mill to spread and support their sometime truly twisted views.

  4. says

    Brilliant article Jamie..Keep up the good work!
    Humm sounds like some things i deal with as a missionary / Pilot LOL
    That goes into the religious arena and stories that spread ……..Amazing !!!

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