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-- b i o --
Elizabeth Weaver Engel, besides being a budding writer, is a stealth geek, a manager (but NOT the Pointy-Haired Boss) at a non-profit association, a distance runner, a "rabid" Lindy Hopper, and a connoisseur of fine B-grade movies.  Currently a resident of Washington, DC, Elizabeth grew up outside of Philadelphia and holds a Master's degree in political theory from the University of Virginia.  She fell into working with computers by accident and has since been struggling to pull herself out.  Writing for Mindjack is one of the steps she's taking to do so.

Killer Lilacs And The Reporters Who Love Them
by Elizabeth Weaver Engel

So it's the week before Valentine's Day and I'm watching TV. All the sit-coms are having either cutesy-romantic holiday episodes or sarcastic-bitter holiday episodes. After a surfeit of this mental cotton candy, the evening news magazine show comes on (I won't say which - names are being concealed to protect the guilty). I figure it might have something about the looming crisis in Iraq - the latest Clinton scandal - maybe some clever, cute, or romantic human interest piece for the holiday.

But no! The top story? A flower shop in New Jersey which has been masquerading as a local DC shop! The HORROR! And of course they had that guy with the weird, scary voice doing the teaser. You know the guy: "What you don't know about your toothbrush could kill you - tonight at 10!" Which is point one: local murder and international mayhem are, apparently, no longer enough to hold our interest. We now need a constant diet of: "What you don't know about (insert purportedly harmless object) could rip your face off/maim your dog/eat all your ice cream and put the empty carton back in the freezer/kidnap your grandmother/break up with your significant other/begin a nuclear holocaust!!! Tonight at 11!!!" I call it the Foxification of the news. As if Ken Starr and Sadaam Hussein aren't scary enough, the network powers that be have apparently decided that we need a constant flux of over-hyped stories about the horrific dangers that await us in everyday life. On the other hand, who can blame them? We've apparently become so cautious as a society - or so stupid as individuals - we need to be told not to drink lighter fluid or stick thumbtacks in our eyes.

But back to our story: were people upset with the quality of the flowers? Did the flower shop owner overcharge? Were they delivered late? With a card reading, "John, I'll love you forever" to a guy named Bob? Was it a floral sweatshop, where imprisoned immigrant children were forced to tie bows and arrange freesia for mere pennies an hour? No. The flowers were lovely, the prices were well within the normal range, people got the right flowers with the correct cards, assembled and delivered by reasonably well-paid adults. People were upset because they thought, due to the flower shop's local area code (which bounced to a toll-free 800 number), they were patronizing a local business rather than a national business.

A few points seem relevant: flowers are never really a local business. What kind of naif thinks orchids are widely grown in the DC area in February? Secondly, if it's really that important to you to patronize a local business, get your ass off the sofa, leave your house for two seconds, and physically GO to a local flower shop. In this area, I guarantee there's at least one within a five minute drive of every person's dwelling, if not a five minute walk. The worst part is that apparently, you don't even have to do that much to determine the local or non-local status of a particular florist. Apparently, if there's an address in the phone book by the name of the flower shop, it's local; if not, it's probably not.

So the interviewer is trying to ask this florist hard-hitting questions, and the florist is just not going for it. His basic position was if the price is right and the people are happy with the flowers, what's the big deal? And I would add, if it's really that important to you to have a local florist, get out and find a flower shop and maybe even get to know some of your neighbors and some local business people in the process. And while you're out checking out flower shops, maybe you could stop into the locally owned and operated coffee shop for a cuppa joe and a cookie. Broaden your horizons beyond the local Starbucks-Barnes and Noble-megamall. Broaden your horizons beyond doing all your shopping from the Land's End catalogue by the cold, blue light of the TV. Get out of the house and interact with some actual people. You'll get your flowers from someone who will come to know you and the kind of flowers you like, you'll keep some of your cash in the local economy, and maybe you'll even gain a little sense of community as part of the bargain.

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: